Local rivals Sunderland Harriers and Houghton Harriers fought out a tremendous battle for the silver medals in the Royal Signals North East Road Relay Championships at Hetton Lyons Country Park on Saturday.
It came down to the wire after Sunderland Harrier Michael Wilson launched a scintillating sprint finish to grab second place by the thickness of his vest.
He had hauled in 17-year-old Houghton Harrier Will Bellamy after all appeared lost just yards from the finish.
The race was so close, it took the race referee some time before Wilson, a 3.43 1500m runner and a best for 800m of 1.48, was given the decision.
Wilson said: “I left it a bit late, I was about two seconds down coming into the home straight with about 120 yards to go. I was going flat out and I just made it. It couldn’t have been any closer.’”
Bellamy, the England Athletics Under-17 1500m champion, set off on the final leg three seconds ahead of Wilson, slightly increasing his lead going into the second lap of the 2.22m course.
But Wilson edged ever closer and went on to clock the second fastest time of the day (10.43) with Bellamy the third quickest on 10.46.
But the fastest time accolade went to Bellamy’s clubmate, Henry Johnson, another richly talented youngster and the England Athletics Indoor Under-17 1500m champion, who blasted out a time of 10.34 on the opening leg.
His performance saw him lead the field by 21 seconds ahead of second placed Sunderland Harrier Liam Taylor, who ran well for his 10.55 circuit for the fourth quickest time of the day.
It was on the second leg that the young Morpeth team took control and although none of the team broke the benchmark of 11 minutes their consistent running saw them go onto win the event by one minute (1.06.48) from Sunderland.
The rest of the Sunderland team was Craig Gunn (11.30), Michael Barker (11.52), Steve Rankin (11.12) and Nathan Reed (11.46).
Houghton’s times were: Lee Dover (11.45), Johnny Evans (11.29) Sam Gibson (11.39) and Chris Coulson (11.45).
The Sunderland B team were the first secondary team to finish in 11th and they were Sean Mackie (11.38), Michael Edwards (12.15) Michael Laws (12.22), Ian Ritchie (12.21) Kris Cantle (13.03) and Mark Smith (12.28).
Sunderland also finished second Over-40 team behind Tyne Bridge with Steve MacMahon (12.29), Richard Borrowdale (13.01), Paul Blakey (12.08), Dave Lash (13.52), Steve Gordon (13.19) and Graham Pullan (13.29).
There was also medals for Sunderland in the Over-50 men’s relay who finished third and fourth behind North Shields and Elswick. The A team was Tim Field (13.10), Michael Thompson, the fastest runner overall (12.34), Darren Fletcher (14.18), Martin Blenkinsop (13.31).
The B team was Darren Dodd (13.38), Ed Sweeney (13.53), Paul Redman (13.37), Alan Knebel (14.12).
Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon had her first race of the year in preparation for the Tokyo Marathon on March 1. The 41-year-old ran the third leg for the Strollers Over-35s and steered them to the bronze medals after recording the best time of the day (12.06). The second quickest was Chloe Wellings of Gateshead Harriers (12.25). The rest of the Strollers team was Dawn Elliott (15.39) Lyne Valentine (16.11) and Rachel Ball (15.12).
Houghton finished fifth senior women’s team with Anna Pigford (13.26), Nicole Phillips (15.52), Amy Leonard (14.23) and Eva Hardy (13.45).
Sunderland Harriers took seventh through Amy Callaghan (13.45), Grace Mackie (14.38), Jen Tomlin (15.09) and Eve Quinn (14.48).