A ding-dong battle between Sunderland Harriers and Sunderland Strollers in the Royal Signals North East Road Relay Championships Over-35 four-stage Road Relay for the silver medals was a highlight at Hetton Lyons Country Park on Saturday.
The Strollers had Olympian Alyson Dixon in their ranks, and she can be relied upon to turn the relay around to the benefit of the Strollers with one of her scintillating legs.
And so it proved when the 39-year-old got down to business after taking over on the second leg from clubmate Ashleigh Bennett (14min 21sec).
At that point, Sunderland Harriers were six seconds ahead of the Strollers after Vicky Haswell had recorded 14.15 on the opening leg.
Dixon was now on her way around the two circuits of the park, a distance of 2.2miles, and at the finish she sprinted home to equal her time of last year (11.53). That performance was 20 seconds outside her stage record.
Sunderland’s Alice Smith clocked the second fastest overall time behind Dixon (13.00) to keep the Harriers in touch with their rivals.
Jan Deighton was next off for Strollers and she came home in 14.39 to hand over to Rachel Ball, who went into the final leg with a 73-second lead on her rivals.
But a superb leg from Nicola Woodward (13.56) saw her pass the tiring ultra distance runner on the second circuit to snatch the silver medals, ending 14 seconds ahead of the Strollers and behind winners Gateshead.
The Sunderland senior women’s team finished a creditable seventh behind winners Jarrow and Hebburn in their relay, courtesy of Eve Quinn (14.08), Amy Callaghan (14.36), Lauren Flaxen (15.43) and Sarah Knight (14.07).
Hosts Houghton Harriers finished 10th through Eva Hardie (13.45), Lara Greggs (15.11), Lily Hardie (15.33) and Lyndsey Page (16.56).
Sunderland Harriers won the Over-40 Men’s Veterans championship by a street.
They finished the six-stage relay in 74.05 to finish 1min 39sec ahead of second club Morpeth, with Elvet Striders third (77.07).
The star men for the Sunderland team were Ian Dixon (11.37) and Robert Walker (11.43), the second and third fastest overall behind Morpeth’s John Butters (11.26).
The Sunderland team also featured Tim Field (12.26), Michael Thompson (12.20), Martin Blenkinsopp (13.00) and Steven Gordon (12.59).
Sunderland Harriers’ senior men’s team recruited two Under-20s and an Under-17 into their team and did well to finish sixth behind winners Morpeth.
Andy Powell got the team off to a marvellous start with his best ever relay performance, clocking the second fastest time of the day (10.48), only behind New Marske’s Dominic Shaw (10.39).
He is the first Sunderland Harrier since Weynay Ghebresilasie (10.23 in 2013) to dip under 11minutes.
Following Powell’s significant run, Kevin Jeffress (11.25) maintained that position on leg two before Steve McMahon dropped to fourth (11.49).
Then it was the start of the youngsters, with Sean Mackie lifting the team to third (11.57), Chris Bell holding onto that position on the penultimate leg (12.23) before the anchorman, Under-17 Robert Dunlop, came back sixth (12.54).
Sunderland Strollers finished 14th thanks to Mark Anderson (11.55), Callum Thom (12.12), Christopher Dwyer (12.35), Andrew Forbes (12.17), Raymond Christie (12.26) and Luke McCormack (13.01).
The Strollers’ Over-50 team took the bronze medals in their event, thanks to Ritchie Gerry (13.25), Ken Maynard (13.52), William Bowman (13.59) and Paul Dunlop (14.09).