ALYSON DIXON made her presence felt in her debut appearance for Sunderland Strollers in the Durham Cathedral Cross Country Relays at the Racecourse yesterday.
The former Chester-le-Street athlete stormed through the women’s field on the last lap, elevating the team from 13th position to clinch the bronze medals for the Ashbrooke club.
Times are yet to be finalised but the unofficial clocking for Dixon’s superb run was 9min. 06sec, the fastest time of the day.
The Strollers had Vicki Booth on the first leg (10.53) followed by Ashleigh Thorpe (11.07) before Dixon gave chase to catch-up with the front runners over the 3000m course on the banks of the Wear.
The international marathon runner had Durham’s cross country international Rosie Smith (9.07) and Morpeth’s middle distance star Ashley Gibson (9.08), behind her in the fastest times pecking order.
But Smith, along with Chloe Price and Aiveen Fox, won the relay in 28.48 from Birtley (29.21) and the Strollers in third (31.06). Sunderland Harriers finished 14th (33.14) with Michelle Avery the fastest on 10.22, assisted by Helen Higgins and Ingrid Hope.
Sunderland Harriers’ hopes of getting among the medals in the senior men’s relay, over the same distance as the women, were dashed, despite Olympian Weynay Ghebresilasie’s inclusion in the team.
The exuberant 18-year-old Eritrean charged round the two-lap course in the day’s fastest time of 7.50 – but the distance to the race leaders was just too much to overcome.
But alarm bells sounded just after Ghebresilasie’s start, when his coaching advisor, former international marathon runner Glenn Forster, jumped out in front of him, shouting for him to slow down.
Forster said: “I have never seen anybody start a cross country race as fast as that before. He was sprinting like a 400m runner.
“No wonder he slowed over the last lap.”
The evidence was there for all to see, as he passed half way, running like a train, in 3.47 before slowing over the final circuit with a tortuous 4.03 effort, slipping from fourth to a final fifth position.
Sunderland started well with Oliver James finishing in fourth with a spirited 8.09 before Craig Isherwood recorded 8.41 on the second leg. Nathan Reed clocked 8.23 on the first leg for the B team.
Morpeth won the race in 24.22 from Durham City (24.26) with Dan Garbutt on 7.52, James Askew (8.36) and Dan Jenkin (7.58). Morpeth B were third (24.32), Gateshead fourth (24.35) and Sunderland fifth (24.40).
Other runners to break eight minutes were Dan Garbutt (7.52), Calum Johnson (Gates) 7.53, Dan Jenkin 7.58 and Richard Morrell (Morpeth) 7.58.
Sunderland Harriers over-45 team finished fourth overall to win their category and the North East title. The team was Tim Field (9.04), John Dobson (9.15) and Paul Merrison (9.20).
The club’s over-35 team were second in their class with Ian Dixon (9.27), Steve Graham (9.29) and Paul Redman (10.24).