The opening fixture of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League got off to a flying start at Wrekenton on Saturday.
Record fields in both the senior men’s (666 runners) and women’s fields (500) showed the sport is in a healthy position.
Sunderland Harriers, winners of the senior men’s competition 25 times with their last win coming in 2016, got their league campaign off to a good start in finishing third in the First Division.
The Wearsiders, the only club who have not been outside the First Division, were mostly relying on their slow pack and medium pack runners in the six-to- count six miles handicap race.
And it was slow pack man Stephen Potts that led the way after travelling to the venue on his bike. He was handily placed throughout the three lap race in being inside the first 10. But he mistakenly went out for a fourth lap when he should have entered the home straight.
The roof tilers brief excursion cost him some positions and he eventually finished 11th (35.44).
Through dropping a few places it could have made a difference to Sunderland’s team position in finishing third instead of a possible second. Morpeth were just five points ahead as runners up with Blaydon winning, two points ahead of Morpeth and seven in front of Sunderland.
Second counter for Sunderland was Steve Rankin who was first home from the medium pack in 14th (33.29). Craig Gunn was next in 16th (33.33), followed by Andy Powell 25th (33.59), fast pack man Kevin Jeffress got through to79th with the club’s fastest time (33.20) running from the fast pack. Slow packer Over 50 Darren Fletcher ran out of his skin to close the scoring in 82nd (38.25).
The fastest time on the course was claimed by the winner Sam Charlton of Wallsend Harriers who ran from the slow pack. The richly talented Under-20 who won the North Eastern, Northern, Inter Counties and English Schools’ cross country championships last winter, was having his first race since May after injury ruined his summer season.
Sunderland Harriers women who were demoted to the Second Division last season got off to a good start in their bid to return to the top flight.
They were led home by slow packer Gemma Frost in fifth (25. 56), then came Jennifer Tomlin in 48th (29.18), medium packer Nicole Hufton finished 69th (28.36) and Judith Thirlwell closed the scoring in 140th (29.56).
Morpeth’s Jane Hodgson, running from the medium pack was the fastest on the course with 24.23.