FORMER Great Britain international Brian Rushworth returned after injury to continue his unbeaten run in the North-East Veterans Cross Country Championships at Hebburn.

The 49-year-old Sunderland Harrier, who won a record ten North-East senior men's cross country championships before joining the veteran ranks in 2003, again proved to be too strong and fast for his younger rivals to clinch his ninth title after missing last year's event, beating Wallsend's Brian Hetherington by an emphatic 42 seconds.

Former North-East Harrier League champion Claire Simpson, who has left Chester-le-Street to rejoin her original club Jarrow and Hebburn, won the women's over-35 title, beating Tynedale over-40 Fran Little by nearly a minute.

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Men: 1 B Rushworth (Sunderland M45) 32.17; 2 B Hetherington (Wallsend M45) 32.59; 3 K McPherson (Tyne Bridge M40) 33.08. M35 B Kelly (Low Fell) 34.23; M50 R Hand (Durham City) 34.02; M55 S Marshall (Durham City) 36.12; M60 R Murray (Tyne Bridge) 42.03. Teams - 35-44 Tyne Bridge; 55-64 Low Fell.

Women: 1 C Simpson (Jarrow & Hebburn W35) 24.59; 2 F Little (Tynedale W40) 25.54; 3 E Leslie (J&H) 26.16. W50 I Hope (Sunderland) 27.18; W55 P White (South Shields) 34.50; W60 J Kilgour (Heaton) 34.24; W70 C Lee (Elswick) 35.23. Teams: 1 Blyth; 2 Tynedale; 3 North Shields Polytechnic. M65 P Bentley (Morpeth) 28.09; M70 W Ryder (Morpeth) 28.46; M75 RE Checkley (Heaton) 40.05. Team (65-74): South Shields.

n The North-East's young athletes had a disappointing time at the English Schools Cross Country Championships, returning empty-handed from Ilton, Somerset.

Northumberland's Calum Johnson was the region's highest-placed individual, finishing ninth in the senior boys' race, just ahead of Durham champion Cameron Boyek, who led his team to tenth place. Cleveland's Northern junior champion Mark Shaw was forced to miss the race with a chest infection.

Another Northumberland runner, Phillipa Chambers, was the top placed girl, finishing 17th in the junior event, while Durham's North-East champion, Lydia Turner, was 18th in the intermediate race. Surrey's Emelia Gorecka, the English National and Inter Counties champion won the senior girls' race.