NEW RECRUIT Ryan Stephenson helped Morpeth Harriers win the Royal Signals North-East Road Relay Championships at Hetton after Eritrean asylum seeker and top Sunderland runner Weynay Ghebresilasie was left with too much ground to make up on the sixth and final leg.
Stephenson, who has joined the Northumbrians from Gateshead - the club he helped win the silver medals in the event last year - shot his team into the lead on the second 2.2-mile leg after opening runner Jonny Nesbitt finished back in ninth place.
Morpeth strengthened their advantage as the race progressed and when Ghebresilasie took over on the final leg he found himself in third place, 2 mins 6 seconds behind the leaders.
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The 18-year-old former soldier, who carried the Eritrean flag at the London Olympics, put in a supreme effort, overtaking the second-placed Gateshead runner and managed to reduce the Morpeth lead by 35 seconds with the fastest time of the day for the two circuits in Hetton Lyons Country Park.
Ghebresilasie, who had also come out tops in his three previous appearances for his adopted club, clocked 10 mins 23 secs - 14 seconds slower than the course record set by New Marske Harrier, Ricky Stevenson.
Stevenson, making his first competitive appearance of the year, helped last year's winners take the bronze medals and was only two seconds slower than Ghebreselasie, also on the anchor leg.
Jarrow and Hebburn were the surprise winners of the women's four-stage relay, beating Durham City by 55 seconds. Great Britain marathon international and course record holder Alyson Dixon clocked the fastest time, 11 mins 43 secs - 12 seconds slower than last year - lifting her new club, Sunderland Strollers from 17th to 11th, while Durham cross country international Rosie Smith, ran the second fastest time, 12 mins 13 secs.
Results - Senior Men (6x2.2m): 1 Morpeth 65mins 32 secs (J Nesbitt 11.20 (9), R Stephenson 10.43 (1), L Timmins 10.55 (1), I Hudspith 10.48 (1), M Nicholson 10.48 (1), G Taylor 11.00 (1); 2 Sunderland 67.03 (O James 11.01 (4), C Isherwood 11.27 (4), M Barker 11.44 (4), N Reed 11.22 (4), M Moor 11.06 (3), W Ghebresilasie 10.23 (2); 3 New Marske 67.36 (R Best 10.31, A Pearson 12.18 (7), A Piggford 11.33 (5), C Pascoe 11.24 (5), S O'Grady 11.25 (5), R Stevenson 10.25 (3). Fastest times: 1 W Ghebresilasie 10.23; 2 R Stevenson 10.25; 3 R Best 10.31.
Over-40 Men (6x2.2m): 1 North Shields Polytechnic 72.01; 2 Tyne Bridge 72.25; 3 Morpeth 72.42. Fastest time: G Bracken (NSP) 11.02. Over-50 Men (4x2.2m): 1 Durham City 50.23; 2 Sunderland 50.42; 3 North Shields Poly 53.15. Fastest time: B Rushworth (Sunderland) 11.49.
Senior Women (4x2.2m): 1 Jarrow & Hebburn 52.53 (A McGuirk 13.43, E Leslie 13.25, A Hibbs 13.01, A Snook 12.44); 2 Durham City 53.48; 3 Birtley 54.30. Fastest times: A Dixon (Sunderland Strollers) 11.43; 2 R Smith 12.13; 3 D Hodgkinson (Wallsen) 12.38. Over-35 Women (4x2.2m): 1 Elswick 59.37; 2 Jarrow & Hebburn 61.09; 3 Sunderland Strollers 61.28. Fastest time: A Dargie (Elswick) 61.28.