THE North Eastern Counties Track and Field Championships returned to Middlesbrough Sports Village for a second time with entries up 10 per cent on the previous year.
This increased participation helped produce eight new championship best performances, one championship equalling performance as well as a guest athlete taking advantage of being allowed to compete by blowing away the senior women's javelin figures.
However, the two-day athletics fixture wasn't all about the record breakers as many who took part were rewarded with new pbs in their chosen events.
While the region's well established clubs were naturally to the fore once again there were numerous podium places for the less glamorous outfits not normally known for track and field prowess.
Gateshead Harriers led the charge showing a return to the glory days and, with around 100 athletes making the trip down the A19, were rewarded with 83 of them mounting the podium, 49 of which received gold medals, 25 picked up a silver medal and 19 received a bronze award.
At the other end of the spectrum Derwentside AC, who had a small sprinkling of athletes, were celebrating big time especially when Isla Fenwick topped the podium on no fewer than three occasions after victories in the under-13 200m, 800m and long jump setting new pbs along the way.
Not to be outdone Liam Townson added to Derwentside's medal tally by picking up a silver in the under-15 high jump.
Billingham Marsh House meanwhile, saw Max Butler finish in second place in the under-15 boys 800m while Rowan Teasdale did likewise in the under-15 1,500m.
Now, back to the record breakers. There was only one senior record to fall and that was in the women's shot put contest which saw Gateshead's Sophie Littlemore not only winning her fifth title in a row- she also has four indoor gold medals to her name - but more importantly erasing the 1977 record of 13:83m set by Cathy Hartnell (Sale Harriers) with a best effort of 13:89m.
Since linking up with the Tyneside outfit back in 2015 Sophie has been a loyal servant for the club and a prolific supporter of the county championships.
Last year Bobbie Griffiths set a new championship record of 37:69m in the under-20 women's javelin competition. However, she delivered a superb 38:88m effort this time round showing that the upward spiral continues. Bobbie, who has a lifetime best of 42:27, is currently ranked seventh in the UK listings.
There were three new championship records set in the under-17 men's section, two on the track and one in the field and also three in the women's age group, two in the field and one on the track.
English Schools' champion Dan Joyce set new 800m figures of 1:55.42 last year but went event better this time round with a new record of 1:53.71, a time which equates to third place in the current UK rankings.
In the 3,000m Wallsend's Sam Charlton broke the record last year with a time of 8:45.93 before going on to claim the National, Inter Counties and English Schools' Cross-Country titles. However, his figures were quickly erased as Middlesbrough Mandale's Archie Lowe produced a blistering performance of 8:39.80 which moves him into sixth position in the Po10 rankings.
While both Dan's and Archie's performances were more than creditable it was the under-17 discus, the final event on the opening day, that had the sprinkling of spectators left in the stadium spellbound.
North Shields Poly's James Wordsworth set about chasing Morpeth's Ruaridh Lang's two-year record of 45:65m and he did it magnificently by producing a new life-time best of 49:75m, a distance which slots him into second place in this year's UK rankings.
The under-17 women's 300m record had stood since 1991 but, in the final event of the championship it was bettered by Durham City's Tia Anderson (pictured above, photo credit ROSS PICHLER).
Teesside's Alison Curbishley, who went on to achieve numerous international honours, ran 40.15s over a quarter-of-a-century ago but Tia managed to dip under that recording a superb new pb of 40.10s which sees her move up into seventh place in the UK listings Another international's record also fell by the wayside in the under-17 pole vault. In 2007 Gateshead's Sally Scott, who went on to claim Commonwealth bronze in Hampden Park, Glasgow in 2014, cleared 3:30m but that height was bettered by Birtley's Molly Elliott who soared over 3:50m, a height slightly down on her pb but nevertheless consolidates third place in this years rankings.
The final record to fall came in the under-17 women's hammer competition which saw Morpeth's Jessica Gardiner throw a huge new pb of 46:17m which erased Middlesbrough Mandale's Saada Juma 2018 figures of 44:46m from the record books.
Gateshead's Lucy Giles came agonisingly close to adding her name to the record breakers. However the under-17 athlete, despite having a superior pb, could only equal the current record of 12:07m.
In the senior women's javelin competition Trafford's Kaylie Van Loo was allowed to compete as a guest and produced a best throw of 44:66m which would have been a new record if she had North East qualifications. However, West Suffolk's Sarah Dunkley's 2008 figures of 42:27m still stands.
Despite the increased turnout there were still a number of events which attracted just one or two competitors which, while the championships were a success, they could be much better if more and more would turn their attention to track and field competition during the summer months.
A special pat on the back goes to all competitors and spectators together with the volunteer technical officials who gave their time over two long days. Also thanks to Start Fitness for their generous support and to Meeting Manager Keith Willshire who worked tirelessly before and during, making sure the championships ran smoothly.
IT WASN'T just the cross-country specialists who did the North East proud at the weekend with two individual gold medals, one silver and one bronze to show for their efforts but the indoor enthusiasts did even better picking up two gold medals, one silver and two bronze at the England Athletics Under-15/17/20 Indoor Championships at the EIS Arena, Sheffield.
And, but for an unfortunate disqualification, the medal haul in South Yorkshire could well have been even better.
Houghton's Henry Johnson by-passed the cross-country at Harwood House in favour of tackling the under-17 1500 metres on the boards and it proved a winning move as he stormed home to claim the gold medal in a UK top-ranking time of 3min 58.57sec. Middlesbrough Mandale's Daniel Payne also lined up and finished just outside the medals in fourth place in a time of 4:17.77.
Gateshead;s Jazmine Moss also tops the UK rankings after a winning pb performance in the under-20 women's 200 metres. After winning her heat in 24.95s and semi-final (24.52) Jazmine rose to the occasion in the final with a superb victory in 24.06s.
Fellow Gateshead athlete Jack Halpin went into the under-17 shot put competition topping the UK rankings but he was surprisingly upstaged on this occasion and pushed into second place by Chris Dyrmishi with the Rugby and Northampton athlete winning the contest by a matter of just four centimetres! Jack, who has a pb of 15:66 metres this season, produced a best-on-the-day 14:55m with Chris topping the podium with 14:59m. North Shields Poly's James Wordsworth was also slightly down on his best in finishing in fourth place with 13:86m.
The region was well represented in the final of the under-17 women's 60 metres with Gateshead duo Joy Eze and Megan Costello and Middlesbrough's Afoma Ofor going through from a series of heats and semi-finals. However, it was only Megan who managed to bring home a medal after producing a lifetime best of 7:78s to claim an excellent third place. While it was celebrations all round for Megan it was a bitter disappointment for her team-mate who came out of the blocks a fraction early and was immediately disqualified. Afoma, meanwhile, finished in seventh place in 7.95s after recording a pb of 7.87s in the semi-final. Such is the strength of the age group North Shields Poly had two girls making it through to the semi-finals. Jessica Lively recorded 8:10s in the heats and 8:12s in the semis while team-mate Lucy Errington clocked a pb of 8:10s in the heats before missing out on a place in final with a 8:17s recording in the semi-final. On the second day of the championships, Megan lined up in the 200m and just missed out on a place in the final after recording a season's best of 25.97s in the semi-final.
The final medalist to make it onto the podium was the newly-crowned North East under-17 pole vault champion Molly Elliott. Seven days before heading for Sheffield Molly thrilled the spectators at the county championships at Gateshead where she set a new record of 3:60m. However, she went even higher by adding another five centimetres to that height to take a magnificent bronze medal.
There were numerous other excellent performances from those who made the trip which reflects the hard work the athletes put in together with their coaches.
In the under-17 women's 60 metres hurdles four NE athletes were amongst the strong entry which required five heats. All of the quartet made it through to the semi-finals with Gateshead's Phillippa Ellis the fastest (8.91s) which just missed a place in the final line-up. Darlington's Charlotte Rutter recorded 9.09s after running marginally quicker in the heats (9.07s). Tynedale's Kate Smith ran 9.24s in the semi-final after recording 9.04s in the heats and it was similar story for Morpeth's Amy Lott who ran 9.22s in the heats and 9.25s in the semi final.
Gateshead;s Darcy Garbutt contested both the under-15 girls 60m and 200m and though she didn't make the final of either she recorded indoor pbs of 7.94s and 26.66s respectively. Jarrow and Hebburn's Nicola Caygill made it through to the semi-final of the under-20 60m where she ran 7.91s after running slightly quicker in the heats (7.89s) while sister Rachel missed out on a place in semi-final despite recording a pb of 8.14s in the heats.
In the middle distance events, Durham City's Cameron Thomas finished ninth in the final of the under-20 men's 1500m posting a new pb of 4:09.82 while Middlesbrough duo Sam Tyers (1:56.26) and Josh Allen (2:09.16) failed in their bid for a place on the podium.
Other field event placings of note included a fourth-place finish for Morpeth's Andrew Knight in the under-20 shot put (15:89m); Gateshead's new England junior international Amelia Bateman cleared 1:70m for fifth place in the under-20 women's high jump while team-mate Lucy Giles finished sixth in the under-17 women's shot put (12:05m)
COMPETITORS were soaring to new heights at the North Eastern Counties Indoor Championships at Gateshead College Academy for Sport.
That certainly was the case for pole vaulters Molly Elliott and Isabelle Potier Godinho and high jumper Amelia Bateman, who were a trio of athletes who set new Championship Best Performances on an excellent days competition which kept the enthusiastic audience entertained throughout the opening day of the championships which saw field eventers take over the riverside venue..
On the day there were six new records set with shot putters Sophie Littlemore and Grace McDonald and long jumper Joshua Chrisp adding their performances to the record book.
The pole vault competition commenced at 10am and didn't finish until 1pm as the bar kept rising as the athletes responded to the huge support from the college's balcony. And it was Molly who claimed the title of being best vaulter of the day despite competing in the under-17 age group while Isabelle lined up in the older under-20 category.
The Birtley athlete went into the competition after a confident-boost performance in Sweden late last month where she improved her pb to 3:52 metres so the target to better the old championship 2007 figures of 3:50m set by Gateshead's Sally Scott, who later went on to win Commonwealth Games bronze at Hampden Park in 2014, was certainly within her reach.
And that target was certainly achieved for not only did she go on to break the record but, in adding another 10 cenitmetres to Scott's record, she consolidated second place in the UK rankings in a big way. Despite the long competition Molly was quickly back in action this time on the long jump runway where she came out on top once again with a winning jump of 5:36m. Isabelle Potier Godinho (Gateshead), a training partner of Molly under the guidance of Chris Boundy, also had to vault higher than ever before in an attempt to erase the 2015 under-20 women's figures of 3:00m set by Kim Weatherburn (South Shields). And it was another delighted vaulter who topped the podium after a clearance of 3:10m which, not only was a new pb but also added 10 centimetres to the existing record.
Proudly wearing her newly-acquired England vest after representing her country in a junior international in Hustopece, Czech Republic, where she set a new indoor pb of 1:72m, Amelia Bateman set her sights on Emma Morris (South Shields) championship record of 1:70m. And the Gateshead athlete duly obliged as, in the true Sergey Bubka tradition, added one centimetre to Morris's figures.
Earlier this month Joshua Crisp lifted the North of England under-13 long jump gold medal after setting a new pb of 4:75m. and he continued that run of excellent form by soaring out to a record-breaking distance of 5:06m, a distance which sees him heading the UK rankings and the only boy to in the country to better the five metre mark. The Blyth athlete's new NE record erases the 2010 4:77m figures of Markhim Lonsdale who is now one of the countries leading 800 metres athletes.
It was now the turn of shot putters Sophie Littlemore (Gateshead) and Grace McDonald of Middlesbrough AC (Mandale) to take centre stage in the shot put circle.
Sophie, competing in the senior category, was out to regain her title having missed out on the championships last year as it clashed with the British Championships.
And it was a smiling athlete who topped the podium after claiming the gold medal by adding over a metre to her old figures with a put of 13:65m which was just four centimetres shy of her life-time best. Sophie's victory is her fifth NE Indoor title which adds to her collection of four outdoor gold medals.
Meanwhile, in the under-15 girls shot put competition, Middlesbrough's Grace McDonald produced a best effort of 11:03m to better the 2003 figures of 10:85m set by Birtley's Katy Wilson.
Grace has a pb of 11:48m and is currently ranked sixth in the UK.
While it is always nice to report on the record breakers there were many other notable performances over the two days despite the shortage of senior competitors. There was a good competition though in the senior men's shot put where former Gateshead man Craig Sturrock came out on top pushing Morpeth's recently-crowned Scottish Indoor champion Craig Charlton into second place.
Craig admitted he's lost count of the number of times he has lifted both the indoor and outdoor titles but was a happy man to win with a distance of 15:28m in his first competition of the year.
Other senior men winners were: Pawel Grzaslewicz (Darlington) who won the high jump with a 1:80m clearance; Jarrow and Hebburn's James Andrew claimed the long Jump title (6:22m) while another former Gateshead athlete, Scott Hall, had the spectators behind him as he claimed the triple jump gold medal with a distance of 15:45m.
In the senior women's section, Birtley's Rebecca Pottinger won the high jump (1:55m); Clare McGrath (Low Fell) put a mark in the sand at 3:08m to win the long jump and Kara Gibbs (Jarrow and Hebburn) cleared 2:55m to win the pole vault.
Under-20 men champions were Middlesbrough Mandale's Steven Wheater who just failed to claim the championship record of 1:98m but won the gold medal with a clearance of 1:95m; Gateshead's Joe Halpin won gold in the long jump (6:73m) and silver in the high jump (1:75m); Tynedale's Ellis Leonard won the triple jump (11:96m) and former Chester-le-Street athlete David Todd won the shot put contest with a best of 13:92m In the under-20 women's section there was an exciting long jump competition with victory going to Gateshead's Emma Scarborough with a best of 5:06m which was just three centimetres further than Tynedale's Louise Smith who claimed the silver medal. Blaydon's Rebecca Thorpe won the triple jump (11:06m) while Kate Carmichael claimed the gold medal in the shot with a put of 9:82m.
There was a double victory for Ethan Stephenson in the under-17 men's section, the Morpeth athlete topping the podium in both the high jump (1:75m) and the triple jump (12:37m) while Curtis Bingham (Jarrow and Hebburn) won the pole vault with a 2:70m clearance and Jack Halpin (Gateshead) won the shot with 14:68m. In the same age group, Jarrow and Hebburn's Tom Paterson won the long jump (5:64m) and finished runner-up in both the high jump (1:60m) and triple jump (11:30m).
The under-17 women's age group saw victories for Blyth's Ellie Morris in the high jump (1:61m); Gateshead's Lucy Giles in the shot put (11:60m) and North Shields Poly's Lucy Errington in the triple jump with a best of 10:49m.
In the under-15 boys section Scott Temple (Hartlepool YAC) won both the long jump and triple jump in 4:60m and 9:20m respectively while Jarrow and Hebburn's Andrew Caygill won the pole vault (1:50) and Gateshead's Vinny Baker claimed the shot put gold medal with a put of 11:62m.
North Shields Poly's Anna Fitzpatrick and Gateshead's Darcy Garbutt were in fine form in the under-15 girls section winning the high jump and long jump contests in 1:53m and 4:80m respectively. In the under-13 boys age group Tynedale's Oliver Hunter claimed victory in the high jump and shot put contests with figures of 1:42m and 7:35m respectively while Wallsend's Luke Pilcher received three silver medals after finishing runner-up in the high jump (1:27m), long jump (4:47m) and the shot put (6:84m).
IT WAS always going to be a tough act to follow for the sprinters and hurdlers after six new championship best performances were set on the opening day of the championships.
And so it proved despite many athletes going extremely close to re-writing the record books.
There was one record however to celebrate and that came in the under-17 women's 60m hurdles which didn't come as too much of a surprise as all five finalists ran quicker than ever before.
Victory went to Gateshead's Philippa Ellis in her favoured event after finishing in silver medal position in the shot put and long jump competitions the previous day.
Philippa's winning time of 8.78s moves her up into seventh place in the UK rankings while Darlington's Charlotte Rutter, who finished runner-up in 9.05s and was also busy 24 hours earlier by finishing second in the high jump and third in the long jump, is now ranked 16th.
The bronze medal went to Morpeth's Amy Lott who recorded 9.08s and is now also ranked inside the top 20. The under-17 women's category was the strongest representation of the championships with four heats being required for the 60m with athletes progressing to the semi-final and final. Despite having to face the starter on three occasions it didn't stop all of the medalists posting new pbs.
Victory went to Gateshead's Megan Costello in 7.80s - the record stands at 7.75s - with Middlesbrough Mandale's Afomo Ofor finishing second in 7.88s and Blyth's Heather Macdonald completing the one-two-three in 8.07s.
Gateshead were exceptionally strong in the under-17 men's 60m where five of the six finalists lined up from the Tyneside club. It was no surprise when Gateshead made a clean-sweep of the medals with, once again, the athletes all setting new life-time bests.
Victory went to Lewis Cant (7.19s), Josh McKeown finished runner-up in 7.24s with Daniel Lennie crossing the line in third place in 7.32s. Matthew Lawson, also of Gateshead, finished a close-up fourth in 7.33s.
In the 60m hurdles Blaydon's Aaron Lillistone topped the podium with a winning time of 8.96s.
Quickest athlete on view overall was Jarrow and Hebburn's Josh Errington who won the under-20 men's 60m in 7.03s which equalled his pb and was just three-hundredths-of-a-second away from the championship record.
Gateshead duo Kyle Walton and Gregory Abib Bukasa filled the minor placings in 7.13s and 7.27s respectively.
In the under-20 60m hurdles, victory went to Gateshead's Oliver Lewis in a new pb of 8.92s though he was upstaged by Daniel Njai who was competing in the Masters Championship and ran 8.78s.
The under-20 women's section saw wins for Stella Rene Perrett (North Shields Poly) in the 60m with a time of 8.03s and for Middlesbrough Mandale's Amy Carter in the 60m hurdles in a time of 9.33s.
Despite having five of the six finalists in the under-15 boys 60m Gateshead couldn't quite match the performance of their under-17 team-mates and had to settle for just the gold and silver medals. Blyth's Stewart Bestford, having his first-ever championship race indoors, managed to spoil the party by finishing in third place in 7.82s behind Joel Brown-King (7.70s) and Ulrich Lawson (7.77s).
Blaydon's Joseph Clark was also having his first indoor race and he came out victorious in the 60m hurdles with a winning time of 10.37s.
There were new pbs for the medalists in the under-15 girls 60m with Gateshead's Darcey Garbutt lifting the title in 7.95s to move into the top 10 in the UK rankings.
Middlesbrough's Martha Wyatt received the silver medal (8.12s) with Cody Hall (Shildon) capping a fine performance in third place in 8.20s.
In the 60m hurdles Darcey just failed to make it a winning double as she finished runner-up (9.77s) behind New Marske's Ebony Chrystal-Murtha who recorded 9.62s. Darcey's Gateshead team-mate Eve Harrison finished in third place in 10.17s.
It was pbs all round in the under-13 boys 60m though gold medallist Finlay Maynard (Middlesbrough) was having his first-ever outing indoors. The Teessider came out on top with a winning time of 8.56s with Wallsend's Reuben Moss finishing in second place in 8.64s and Blyth's Alex Walker completing the one-two-three in 8.99s. The 60m hurdles was won by Bailey Peacock in 12.58s.
Just three-hundredths-of-a-second separated the medallists in the under-13 girls 60m. All three girls were rewarded with new pbs with victory going to Gateshead's Cecile Nelson in 8.64s. Maya Turner of Blyth finished second in 8.66s with North Shields Poly's Madie Barbour third in 8.67s.
Blyth's Hannah Wilson recorded a pb of 10.16s to win the 60m hurdles as Hannah Lott (Morpeth) finished second (10.23s) with Blaydon's Grace Kyle completing the medallists in 10.65s.
There were only three senior men and three senior women contesting their respective 60m race. Julian Osei-Bonsu won the men's championship in 7.31s with Gateshead team-mate Justin Cooper second in 7.58s and North Shields Poly's James Mole third in 7.90s.
The women's event was won by Laura Mole (North Shields Poly) in 8.33s with Katie Tavers (Gateshead) finishing second in 8.39s and Emily Stewart (Gateshead) receiving the bronze award in recording 9.27s.
Thanks go to all the athletes who took part without them we wouldn't have a championships while spectators played a huge part in making the two-day meeting a success by cheering on every competitor.
Also a huge thanks to the organisers and officials on the day who made sure everything ran smoothly and to time. We now look forward to the NE Indoor Pentathlon at the same venue on Sunday, March 17.