Sunderland Harriers gunning for Royal Signals North East Road Relay Championships medals

Sunderland Harriers' Kevin Calvert.
Sunderland Harriers' Kevin Calvert.

Sunderland Harriers go into the Royal Signals North East Road Relay Championships at Hetton Lyons Country Park on Saturday with stronger teams than last year.

They will bid to improve on their results of 2016 where they won two sets of medals with third place in the Senior Men’s Relay and second spot in the Over-50 men’s event.

The Wearsiders, 12-times winners of the Senior Men’s Six-Stage Relay, have 14 teams entered in the five events on the programme in the popular event hosted by Houghton Harriers.

Senior men’s team manager Albert James is in buoyant mood as he prepares to select his six-man team, who he believes will improve on their result of last year.

James said: “We have a couple of new additions to the squad in Barry Maskell and Kevin Calvert and they should make a big difference to the overall strength of the team.

“I’m hopeful that we can improve on our performance of last year and come away with brighter medals.”

James will select the rest of the team from Nathan Reed, Michael Barker, Kevin Jeffress, Steve McMahon and Ian Ritchie.

They need to have at least a couple of the team going under the 11-minute barrier for the 2.2 mile course to put themselves in contention for a place in the frame. There are three senior teams entered.

Sunderland’s last win came in 2007 at Lobley Hill where they led from start to finish to beat Morpeth by nearly two minutes.

The team that day was Gavin Massingham (10.00), Jack Martin (10.25), Brian Rushworth (10.24), Tim Field (10.42), Patrick Martin (10.07) and Tom Doughty (10.42).

In the Over-40 Veterans’ Relay, run in conjunction with the senior men’s relay on the tight Hetton course of just over two miles, the Wearsiders have another medal winning chance.

They can select from Ian Dixon, Micky Thompson, Steve Potts, Steve Graham, Steve Gordon, Dave Lash and Alan Knebel.

The Over-50s have Tim Field, Paul Merrison, Brian Bewick and Tony Thompson to call upon for their medal hopes.

Alyson Dixon, who bids for World Championship marathon selection at the London Marathon in April, was in record-breaking form last year at Hetton.

Just back from four weeks high altitude training in Iten, Kenya, the 37-year-old smashed the veteran women’s Over-35 course record in helping her club, Sunderland Strollers, to second place in the four-stage relay.

Running the first leg, she stormed round the two lap course of approximately 2.22 miles in 11.33 to shatter the previous best.

Dixon, in a measure of her performance, beat Morpeth’s Laura Weightman, the Commonwealth silver and European 1500m bronze medallist to the fastest overall women’s time.

On Saturday, Dixon will again be looking to her relay leg as another insight into her form as her preparations continue towards London.

The Strollers team that finished second behind North Shields was Dixon, Ashleigh Bennett (14.18), Clare Baharie (15.20) and Victoria Booth (15.24).

The Sunderland Harriers women’s team who finished sixth last year will be selected from Michelle Avery, Alice Smith, Sarah O’Mahoney, 15-year-old Eve Quinn and Lauren Flaxen.

The Over-35 veterans’ medal hopeful team will look like this, Nicola Woodword, Colleen Compson, Vicky Younger and Judith Thirlwell.

The timetable is: 12noon – Women and Over-50 Men’s Four Stage Relay. 1.15pm – Senior Men and Over-40 Veterans’ Six-Stage Relay.

Signals course records: Senior men: Morpeth 65.24 – 2015, leg Ricky Stevenson (New Marske) 10.09 – 2012. Veterans 40: Sunderland Harriers 71.12 – 2010, leg Guy Bracken (NSP) 11.02 – 2013. Veterans 50: NSP 49.44 – 2016, leg Guy Bracken (Nth Shields)) 11.09 – 2015. Women: Chester-le-Street 49.12 – 2010, leg Laura Weightman (Morpeth) 11.22 – 2014. Veterans: NSP 55:06 – 2016, leg Alyson Dixon 11:33 – 2016.

Sunderland Harrier Michael Wilson finished second in the heat of the British Championship indoor 800m heat at Sheffield, recording 1.54.29.

Clubmates Jason Waite, on holiday in Dubai, finished 52nd in the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in 1.20.28.

Clubmate Jenna Wilkinson, a maths teacher in Dubai, was 25th woman in 1.35.17.

In the Valentines 10km at Newcastle’s Town Moor, Sunderland Harrier Sean Smith was second Over-40 in 20th (39.04), Karl Robinson was 59th (42.35) and David White was first Over-65 in 48.01.

Sunderland Stroller Luke McCormack finished 34th (40.19) and Lynne Brewster was first Over-50 woman in 49th (39.03).

Peterlee Road Runner Gary Bailey was fourth Over-40 in 46th (41.20).