TOP North-East veteran Brian Rushworth was only five seconds off his sixth gold medal as he battled against injury to finish second over-50 in the British Masters Cross Country Championships at Herrington Park, Sunderland.
The Wearside college lecturer, who won two over-40 and three over-35 championships after joining the veteran ranks ten years ago, had been struggling to throw off hamstring and knee problems which allowed him only two previous competitive outings in nine months.
But he had a ding-dong battle with Bingley's John Convery before the Yorkshireman forged away on the last lap of the 8K to win by 20 metres and avenge his defeat by Rushworth in the 2009 over-45 championships.
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Two other North-East athletes won silver medals - Low Fell's Jon Archer (over-35s) and Tyne Bridge Harrier Steve Cairns (over-45s), while North Shields Polytechnic's Ian Twaddle was third in the over-40 section.
Elswick Harrier Alison Dargie was fifth in the over-35 race, while Jarrow's Elaime Leslie was second over-45 as clubmate Heather Robinson took the over-50s bronze medal.
*Durham's Lydia Turner was the region's top finisher, taking fifth place in the intermediate girls' race, at the English Schools Cross Country Championships at Catton Hall, Derby.
Durham, however, could only place seventh in the six-to-count team race in a disappointing day for the three North-East counties. Gateshead Harrier Kate Waugh, who won a bronze medal in the previous weekend's Inter-Counties Championships, was seventh in the junior girls' event, but her county, Northumberland, could only finish 39th team.
In the three boys events Northumberland's James Cripwell was the North-East's top finisher, coming home 16th in the inter boys' race, but his county failed to finish a complete team.
Selected team results (six to count) - Junior Boys: 1 Kent 278; 18 Durham 748; 24 Northumberland 898; 40 Cleveland 1378. Inter Boys: 1 Sussex 129; 18 Durham 731; incomplete Northumberland & Cleveland. Senior Boys: 1 Surrey 74; 24 Northumberland 924; 26 Durham 1018; 39 Cleveland 1342.
Junior Girls: 1 Kent 177; 18 Durham 769; 34 Cleveland 1132; 39 Northumberland 1220. Inter Girls: 1 Essex 130; 7 Durham 469; 15 Northumberland 660; 36 Cleveland 1228. Senior Girls: 1 Sussex 284; 16 Durham 678; 25 Northumberland 988; incomplete Cleveland.