Olympiam Alyson Dixon inspires Sunderland Strollers to bronze medals in Royal Signals Road Relay

The start of the seniors men's race in the Royal Signals Road Relay. Pictures by Hudson Stoker
The start of the seniors men's race in the Royal Signals Road Relay. Pictures by Hudson Stoker
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Alyson Dixon steered Sunderland Strollers Over-35 veterans to the bronze medals in the Royal Signals Road Relay and North East Championships at Hetton Lyons Country Park on Saturday.

Just back from four weeks’ high altitude training in Iten, Kenya, the 38-year-old lifted the Strollers from fifth to first place on the second leg to send her team on their way for a place in the frame.

Sunderland Harrier Tim Field

Sunderland Harrier Tim Field

She was 20 seconds slower that last year when she broke the veterans’ course record with 11min 33sec, but the windy conditions were not conducive for fast times.

Her time of 11.53 was the fastest woman’s time overall, beating the time set by Penshaw Hill Race winner Emma Holt (12.18), a member of the winning Morpeth senior team.

The rest of the Strollers four-stage team was Gillian Ritchie (14.42), Vanessa Bennett (15.43) and Over-60 Lyne Valentine (15.56).

Sunderland Harriers veterans were fifth with Nicola Woodward (13.59), Colleen Compson (14.49), Vikki Cotton (16.14) and Judith Thirlwell (15.20).

Sunderland Strollers' Alyson Dixon

Sunderland Strollers' Alyson Dixon

With Morpeth, Jarrow, and Gosforth lifting the medals in the senior women’s race, Sunderland Harriers finished 11th with Michelle Avery (14.26), Alice Smith (13.34), Lauren Flaxen (15.29) and Eve Quinn (14.26).

The Over-50 veteran men were included in this race and Sunderland Harriers came away with the bronze medals.

They led on the first leg through in-form Tim Field (12.34) before an under-par Paul Collins slipped to second (13.32) and Paul Redman dropped a further place on the penultimate leg (13.25).

Paul Merrison was too far adrift of North Shields and Morpeth to make any inroads, coming home in 13.04 for third place.

Guy Bracken (North Shields) had an outstanding run for a 53-year-old, recording a time (11.19) which beat some of the times recorded among some of the medallists in the senior teams.

Sunderland Strollers ran well for fourth Over-50 team, with Ritchie Gerry (14.09), William Bowman (14.01), Paul Dunlop (14.05) and Gavin Sword (13.50).

In the Senior Men’s and Veteran Men’s Over-40 Six-Stage Road Relay, Sunderland Harriers never managed to get in the frame during the race, sixth being their highest position.

That is where they started, with Barry Maskell, the only Harrier to dip below 11 minutes, having a good run to finish sixth on the first leg (10.58).

The rest of the team was Kevin Calvert (11.37), Michael Barker (11.39), Kevin Jeffress (11.20), Nathan Reed (11.34) and Steve McMahon (11.21).

Morpeth retained their title. They also had 18-year-old Northern Junior Cross Country champion, Scott Beattie, recording the fastest time of the day (10.29), beating Gateshead’s Chris Parr by nine seconds.

The Sunderland B team finished 11th in a field of 70 with Jason Waite (12.14), Steven Duffy (12.04), Sean Mackie (12.15), Craig Harriman (12.27), Jake Janson (11.50) and Jack Tallentire (11.39).

Finally, Sunderland came good in the Veteran Men’s Relay where they struck gold and also had Ian Dixon clocking the fastest time of the day by an Over-40.

It was on the opening leg that Dixon shot round the course in 11.32 to send Steve Gordon on his way, losing one place with his run of 13.05.

After this, they moved into first place, a position they would never relinquish to the finish.

Michael Thompson, with his solid performance of 11.59 on leg three, handed over Steve Graham (13.14) before new team member Martin Blenkinsopp (13.09) passed over to anchorman Steve Potts (12.18) who came home 20 seconds ahead of North Shields.