View From Both Sides
Dominic Ellis' Blog
It’s been a while since I’ve since I’ve had time to write a blog with my A-level exams, but now I’m back! I’ve spent my first exam free weekend officiating. Saturday started bright and early at the final NOTAN quadkids at Whitley bay. This year has been the first year I’ve helped at these meetings and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them. The standard if competition was as high as ever with some close finishes on the track and records being broke on the field. Sunday was an even earlier start as I had been appointed to the Northern Inter County Championships in Hull, just to add a little more pressure I was on report for my upgrade from a level 2 official to level 3. I arrived at the stadium fueled by McDonald's (that well known athlete food) to receive my duty sheet and briefing. I started my day on the judges stand for the hurdles before moving around to various umpiring positions so I could be assessed in all the main duties.
One of the best things about being an official is the camaraderie among the team, even at meetings like the inter counties where there's officials from all over the North. I am also pleased to report that I have now passed my assessment and am now one step closer to my level 3. This weekend was only the start for me as I’ve now got a masters meeting later followed by a schools meeting on Tuesday before I pack my bags to travel to English Schools on Thursday with the Northumberland team.
A summary of my weekend in numbers;
My weekend of athletics begun on Sunday with the first NEYDL meetings, for league 2 South which was down at Darlington. As an under 17 athlete I really enjoyed my first season back competing for Houghton competing at the league meetings and now still enjoy them helping the club with their officiating duties. From an officials perspective the league has its positives and negatives. The main positive for me is we get to work with different people. But league meetings are also where the shortage of officials is really highlighted. Unfortunately we don't have enough parents, coaches and spectators giving something back to the sport and becoming an official for their club.
On a more positive note the sun was out for a change which set the event up for a great start the hurdles were few and far between which gave the track officials a chance to do the most important thing at a meeting: collect their lunch! The next event on the track was the 800m, I was asked to watch the break-line. I went across before the first 800m race to set up the marker cones, and had a trickle of the more inexperienced middle-distance runners asking where the break line was; obviously I was more than happy to explain! With nearly a full collection of white flags I returned to the judges stand for the sprint events. These were closely followed by the second longer distance event of the day the 1500m, or for the track judges; lunch time. As the afternoon progressed we moved on to 200m. I was asked to judge the last 3 only so proceeded to the very top of the judges stand. There was a slight cross wind on the track but on the top of the stand the wind was a lot stronger. This led to the final event of the day the relays. For the first time since I’ve been track judging we hand enough volunteers to have 2 people on each changeover. I was placed on change over 2 so took the walk down with the parent that was pared with me. This was my final chance of the day to wave a flag, and after a couple more red flags the day was done.
On to bank holiday Monday, no lie in fo me as I was helping NOTAN at their quadkids. These type of events are designed to be a nice relaxing introduction to competition. Though judging the 50m can be entertaining to say the least, and having upto 20 in a race over the 600m was also a moment where I had to be focused on the job in hand. Nevertheless it was a relaxing morning with what I believe was a record entry which is encouraging for the future.
The first of the six North East Grand Prix meetings would be the first individual competition in the North East on the track and still early in the season for those on the field. There were a range of events on offer from sprints, to throws, jumps, middle distance and for those who really wanted a challenge the NECAA 10,000m championships which was the first event. Personally I don't know what makes people want to run that far on a track 25 laps is a long way when you're running round in circles, but credit to the 14 men and 4 women for turning out. From the track judge's perspective 10K’s can be challenging taking the running order for each of the 25 laps when there’s athletes of different paces all running simultaneously. But it's nothing we couldn’t handle. There was lots of changing positions through the race but the first two ran nearly hand in hand until the last 50m. Just a small change of distance from 10k to 75m for the U13 boys and & U15 girls hurdles I was out on lanes watching for trailing legs coming over the barrier.
After the hurdles and 100m races out on lanes I was back on the stand for the 150m and absolutely freezing, when I arrived at the stadium the sun was shining now I was wearing two jumpers- that's just how it is though. Stepping back up in distance the penultimate event on the track was 1500m another distance I don't envy athletes for running. But I had was slightly more concerned about the 300m which I was running. I changed from the white polo to the tracksuit and went to warm up during the later 1500m races. I was called to the start line and was told I was in heat 3 and lining up with athletes I knew were faster but I liked the challenge and I was focused on my race not the person in the next lane not the person at the front, my race. This would be the first time I’ve used blocks so was slightly apprehensive I’d fall out and face plant the track. I was called onto the track and set my blocks had a ran out and I felt comfortable, but typically I knocked my front block pad out just before I was called to my marks. I put it back but it was obvious it wasn't in the same place, it was too late to change it now; I had to just go with it. Considering my made up block positioning my start felt good I flew down the back straight and into the bend, I hit the home straight and had no kick left I was fighting to keep in contention for a minor place.
The last 50m nearly killed me I literally had nothing left I fought my way over the finish line and thought I was going over. I just managed to stay upright, but knew I couldn't have given any more. I was aiming for a sub 40 seconds, I got timed at 40.0, a new PB and a good run, couldn't have asked for any more!
The spring track relays was the first outdoor meeting of the season for most and for some their very first outing in team relays. My initial intention was just to compete and support, but when the meeting organisers said they wanted some extra help on the day, as always I’m more than happy to oblige. So I arrived at the track at Churchill for around 9:30 and the track was desolate, it's possibly the quietest I’ve ever seen a track just 2 hours before the first event, the field officials were setting up for their events, the clubhouse was all quiet.
As 11:30 neared the stadium became busier, with athletes warming up and practising their changeovers, team managers frantically trying to finalise their teams, and parents looking on trying to take it all in. The track was buzzing with excitement, anticipation and adrenaline in its purest form. I’d been asked to go into the track judge’s team who would be umpiring the changeovers and compiling the finishing order. After I had reported to the track referee I was put onto changeover 2 so made my way around for the first race. The cycle had begun; constant flows of athletes making their way round from the start to their changeover getting their briefing on changeovers then the white flags being raised closely followed by the race starting. The cycle repeated itself for an hour with the track being a rush of older athletes (myself included) taking the chance to warm up between races. I had been relieved by another track judge just in time to have one of the quickest costume changes in athletics to pull my vest and spikes in to race in the seniors men's 4x100m, the only catch was our senior men's team was made up of two women but we weren't in it to win just have a laugh and a run out. We still held our own and finished 3rd in our heat, which we were quietly pleased with. But I had no chance to reflect on our race as I was straight back to the judge’s stand, compiling the finishing order and collecting the reports when the dreaded red flag has been waived. After the 4X100m had been completed we moved on the 4X400m the one I’d been looking forward to all week again we held our own with the ever growing wind on the bottom bend. I changed clothes for the 4th time and was doing changeover 2, putting athletes out onto the track. I then moved over the break line for the start of the 4X200m which is one of my favourite duties. I only waved the red flag once (which is quite good for me). It was then time for the last run out for the mixed team in the black and gold, after being asked “since when did you become a sprinter?” for the second time by our track steward I met my team and lined up. It was the first time I felt totally comfortable sprinting over a shorter distance. Again I was straight back into my white polo for the final clothing change. After briefing the 3rd leg runners for the U13G 4X800m with no shoes the track judges were all focused, we all knew what we needed to do and got on with it as we always do. Although my legs are absolutely killing now I’ve finished, I thoroughly enjoyed the relays both as an athlete and official.
I’m Dominic Ellis, I’m 17 and a proud member of Houghton Harriers. I have been involved in athletics for 6 years, though, I had a spell of not competing until I moved to Houghton 2 years ago. My athletics involvement comprises of being a competing athlete, UKA Technical official and an athletics leader. I’ve settled on being a mediocre 400m runner and a discus thrower, after trying every event except for hurdles and pole vault. I became an official just over a year ago, and have absolutely loved it. I am now a level 2 track judge and the youngest official in the North East region. Over the past year I have been given some excellent opportunities such as English Schools and the British Indoor Team Trials. I have also have been helping out with our Under 11 group at Houghton for around 18 months once a week, which is never dull. I’m now sharing my experiences in athletics for all to see