Oliver James’ pulsating performance in the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League at Herrington Country Park on Saturday was thought to be the first time a runner from the slow pack had won the race and also clocked the fastest time.
The 23-year-old Sunderland Harrier was having his first league run since competing at Wallington Hall in 2013.
This allowed him to start from the slow pack from which he received a five minute head start from the fast pack, from which the fastest times of the day normally come from
But the Tunstall athlete, who is studying at McNeese State University in America in Lake Charles, Louisiana, defied logic with his front running performance where he led throughout the gruelling 10k mud-bound course.
Only Jarrow and Hebburn runner Graeme Taylor briefly attempted to go with James as he got into his stride to complete the three daunting laps of the hilly course.
After that he was on his own and the lapped runners gave him something to aim for as he made his way through Fox Cover woods and the long drags up the steep inclines.
At the finish, which he reached in 34 minutes 30 seconds, James had a long wait before the rest of the near 500 strong field began to close in, headed by Taylor, who finished 94 seconds behind.
His time (36.04) was still the fifth fastest time overall.
It was fast pack man Lewis Timmins, of Morpeth Harriers, who claimed the second fastest time in finishing 11th (35.44).
This undoubtedly was James’s best cross country performance, but it came at the end of his Christmas holiday and now he is back in America where he will be competing for his university.
His clubmates now have to wait until his next visit home, in the summer, to see him back in action.
With James leading Sunderland Harriers home, they have now moved up to third in the First Division after their resounding team victory at Herrington Country Park.
But with only two fixtures remaining at Thornley on Saturday, February 10, and Alnwick on March 1, they look too far adrift of the first two to be contenders for the title.
Leaders Morpeth Harriers have seven points and Tyne Bridge Harriers are on nine points, with Sunderland on 15 points.
Houghton Harriers’ bid for promotion from the Third Division has seen them drop from first place to third after finishing sixth in their league competition.
Sunderland Harriers are promotion contenders in the Second Division of the women’s league after finishing second to league leaders Heaton Harriers.
The Newcastle club have seven points, Sunderland are on 12 points and Elswick are breathing down the Wearsiders neck with 14 points....