Alyson Dixon Signals start of competitive year with Hetton Lyons Country Park Championships

Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon.
Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon.

Commonwealth Games-bound Alyson Dixon, just back after four weeks training at altitude in Kenya, will have her first race of the year at Hetton on Saturday.

She is included in the Sunderland Strollers team for the Royal Signals Road Relay and North East Championship at Hetton Lyons Country Park.

This will be Dixon’s first race of the year and a favourite for judging her form after a spell of altitude training at the London Marathon training base at Iten.

Last year she steered Sunderland Strollers Over-35 veterans’ to the bronze medals. She had lifted the Ashbrooke club from fifth to first on the second leg to send her team on their way for a place in the frame.

She was 20 seconds slower than the previous year when she broke the veterans’ course record with a time of 11.33.

After the Signals Relay, the Olympian will contest The Vitality Big Half Marathon in London on March 4, where she will face an elite field including Lily Partridge, Louise Damen, Charlotte Purdue, Sonia Samuels and Tracy Barlow, among others.

Depending on how that goes, she will then make a decision on whether to take in the World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia on Saturday, March 24, before the Commonwealth Games Marathon on Sunday, April 15.

Sunderland Harriers hope to field five women’s teams for the Hetton Relay. Team manager Eddie Maddison said: “I am still waiting on the availability of Vicky Haswell and Bev Martin after they sustained injuries.

“I hope to have five full teams, the senior first team would be: Eve Quinn, Amy Callaghan, Hannah Wight and Sarah Knight. The veterans’ Over-35s could be Nikki Woodward, Alice Smith, Linda Mudford and Vicky Haswell.”

The Sunderland men’s team will see Kevin Jeffress, Andy Powell, Ian Ritchie, Steve McMahon, Sean Mackie and Chris Bell, in action.

The Over-50 veteran men last year came away with the bronze medals. They were Tim Field (12.34), Paul Collins (13.32), Paul Redman (13.25) and Paul Merrison 13.04. They will hope to field the same team on Saturday.

Sunderland came good in the veteran men’s relay in 2017 where they struck gold and also had Ian Dixon clocking the fastest time of the day by an Over-40 (11.32).

Steve Gordon continued the run with a 13.05 stint, then came Michael Thompson (11.59), Steve Graham (13.14), Martin Blenkinsopp (13.09) and Steve Potts (12.18). There could be one or two changes to this team.

Signals Course Records: Senior Men: Morpeth 65.24 (2015), Leg: Ricky Stevenson (New Marske) 10.09 (2012). Men’s Veteran Over-40: Sunderland Harriers 71.12 (2010), Leg: Guy Bracken (North Shields Poly) 11.02 (2013). Men’s Veteran Over-50s: North Shields Poly 49.44 (2016), Leg: Guy Bracken (North Shields Poly) 11.09 (2015).

Senior Women: Chester-le-Street 49.12 (2010), Leg: Laura Weightman (Morpeth) 11.22 (2014),

Veteran Women: North Shields Poly 55.06 (2016), Leg: Alyson Dixon (Sunderland Strollers) 11.33 (2016).

Sunderland Harrier pole vaulter Declan Murray has broken the long-standing club pole vault record (3.58m) that has stood since 1957 to Alan Cowie.

The Under-20s athlete has beaten that mark three times in recent weeks. He cleared 3.63 at Sport City, Manchester on January 27, and a week later he climbed over 3.66 at the same venue before setting his new mark of 3.70 at the Gateshead Open Series last week.

Sunderland Harriers’ overseas athletes have also been in record breaking form in America and the Middle East.

Michael Wilson, studying at New Mexico State University, smashed his own indoor 800m record from last year (1.53.05) when he clocked 1.49.69 in finishing sixth in the Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Collegiate Invitational meeting in Albuquerque USA.

Clubmate Jess Fox, of McNeese State University, beat her own indoor club one mile record (5.16.32) when finishing fourth (5.14.64) over the distance in the Samford Open Indoor in Alabama.

Dubai-based Jenna Wikinson improved her half marathon best from 94.51 to 94.13 when finishing 31st woman in the RAK Half Marathon.

On Saturday and Sunday, the North East Indoor Championships are staged at Gateshead.