Calum Johnson became the first North East runner to win the English National Cross Country Championship since former Chester-le-Street athlete, Michael Openshaw, competing for Birchfield, won at Durham in 2001.

Gateshead Harrier Johnson, one of triplets and a tri-athlete, surprised many with his emphatic win at Nottingham on Saturday.

He went into the race after only finishing 39th in the recent Armagh 5k, but was confident his time of 14.14 suggested he was in good shape.

North East Victory In English National Championships.

The Northern champion dominated the race and went on to win by 23 seconds in recording 43.36 for the challenging 12k course at Wollaton Park.

He said: “I had beaten the lads who were behind me in the Northern Championship so I knew I had a good chance of winning the race.’’

In second and third place were Joe Steward of East Cheshire (43.59 and Linton Taylor of Leeds  (44.13).

Johnson also had the satisfaction of defeating Morpeth Harrier Carl Avery, the man who beat him for the North East title at Alnwick in December. Avery finished fifth in 44.33.

The only other North East medallist was Birtley’s Northern Champion, Chris Perkins, who won the bronze individual medal in the Under-15 Boys race.

Houghton Harriers had good performances from Cameron Allan and Will Bellamy.

Under-20 Allan, third in the Northern Championship at Bedale in January, ran a strong race and improved on his position throughout the 10k event.

He finished with a flourish gaining another place in the home straight to take seventh position (37.48).

Allan said: “It was a hard race in what were really tough conditions, so I am happy with my performance.’’

His next race will be in the UK Inter Counties Championships at Loughborough on Saturday, March 7, where he competes for the North East senior team.

Middlesbrough’s Josh Cowperthwaite finished fifth (37.06) in the 10k race won by Southampton’s Zakariya Mahamed (36.27).

Will Bellamy, 16, finished 25th in the Under-17s race and Samuel Gibson was 85th.

Middlesbrough’s Archie Lowe was 12th and North Shields Rowan Bennett was 16th.

Houghton Harriers senior team were delighted to finish third North East team behind Morpeth and Sunderland Harriers. The team in 82nd with positions were: Jonny Evans 373, Lee Dover 398, Alex Docherty 569, David Gribben 1243, Shaun McGrath 1293 and David Gibson 1446.

Sunderland Harriers finished 67th with 4627pts. The runners were: Steve Rankin 228, Chris Jackson 422, Paul Redman 829, Graeme Pullan 882, Darren Fletcher 930, and Dale Wilkinson 1336.

Heaton Harriers finished 85th, Tyne Bridge 86th, Wallsend 89th, Blyth 95th and North Shields 96th.

Middlesbrough’s Philippa Stone was first women from the North East in 43rd in the race won by Dane Anna Moller.