Sunderland Harriers go into the 113th North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships with their biggest ever entry in the Senior Men’s and Women’s events at Wrekenton on Saturday.
A total of 24 men and 13 women are included in the respective fields of 501 men and 316 women.
Both teams stand a realistic chance of appearing in the medals, if they manage to get their full teams out.
The women won their first ever medals last year at Redcar when the team of Alice Smith, Vicky Haswell, Nikki Woodward and Vikki Cotton, claimed the bronze medals.
The men’s team, who have won the championships 14 times, with their last win going back to 2008, should be at full strength.
They welcome back Andy Powell and Nathan Reed and they will be joined by other possible team counters in Kevin Jeffress, Ian Dixon, Craig Gunn, Paul Blakey, Robert Walker and Steve McMahon.
Last year’s senior men’s champion and former Sunderland Harrier Jack Martin will not be defending his title.
He is concentrating on focusing on training for the London Marathon. His brother Patrick, the 2015 champion, will also be missing from the championship.
Morpeth Harriers will be the clear favourites for the team championships and their runner Carl Avery bids to improve on his third place over the past two years.
The Sunderland women’s team is strengthened by the inclusion of Jenna Wilkinson and Jessica Fox, but Haswell and Cotton will be missing.
Smith, who finished eighth last year, ran a marathon last Saturday and this could be still in her legs come Saturday. She finished fourth woman in the Nottingham Christmas Marathon (3.14.02)...