AROUND the time Calum Johnson was crossing the line after ploughing through the mud to claim the National Cross-Country title fellow Gateshead athlete Joy Eze was also celebrating after winning the under-17 60 metres contest at the English Indoor Championships in the warmth of the English Institute of Sport Arena in Sheffield.
Joy, the reigning Scottish and Northern 60m champion, had something to prove after being disqualified in the same final last year and she showed that she had no intention of that happening again. Joy glided through her heat as the fastest qualifier (7.69secs) but had to survive two false starts by her rivals to win a nervy semi-final in commanding style (7.59secs).
Racing against the top-five ranked performers in the UK in the final, including the UK and European leading performer, Joy produced a superb performance to maintain her 100% indoor record and in doing so lifting her first National Indoor title in a new personal best of 7.51secs.
Joy, of course, wasn’t the only athlete from the region to finish top of the podium with no less than another three claiming victory over the two-day championships.
Despite the lack of indoor facilities in the North East two of the region’s middle distance runners left the Yorkshire venue with gold medals round their necks. Houghton’s Henry Johnson, who mixes running on the boards with outings over the country, won a slow, tactical under-17 men’s 1500 metres in 3min 57.94s to add to his runners-up silver medal from the Northern Championships held the previous month at the same venue.
The under-17 women’s 1500 metres was also a straight final and it proved benefical to Chester-le-Street’s Lucy Scothern who was having her first indoor outing in three years. Once again it was a tactical affair but Lucy managed to win comfortably by over a second in 4:50.86, a time well outside her pb of 4:35.87.
The final athlete from the region to top the podium was Gateshead’s Jack Halpin, the current Northern and North Eastern Counties champion. Jack left it late to take control of a hotly-contested shot put event. Behind his season’s best efforts, Jack kept all his supporters on tenter-hooks until the fifth round, where he re-established his dominance, heaving the shot beyond 15 metres to take the lead. He then settled everyone’s nerves in the final round when he powered ahead of the early leader with a put of 15.74m to consolidate his gold medal winning performance and improve on his silver medal from last year.
While it’s always nice to report on athletes from the region claiming national titles it’s great to see so many gaining experience at the highest level away from home.
In the under-15 girls 60mHannah Buckton (Gateshead) in her first year in the age group rubbed shoulders with the best in the UK and performed well running 8.42secs in her heat while in the same age group the North Eastern and Northern Champion, Joel Brown King also of Gateshead, looked at home at this level finishing second in his heat in 7.48secs but couldn’t quite repeat that performance in the semi-finals in clocking 7.62secs.
In the under-17 women’s 60m Darcey Garbutt, a Scottish and Northern finalist, flew to a new personal best in the heats clocking 7.90secs. This proved her best of the day as she went out of the competition in a very high-quality semi-final. Darcey also lined up in the 200m and was rewarded with a time of 26.28secs while North Shields Poly’s Stella Perrett clocked 26.32secs in her heat of the 200m. Ashley Watson (Hartlepool Youth) gained much valuable experience when recording 8.32secs in the heats.
Matthew Lumb, the Scottish and North Eastern under-17 60m qualified comfortably from the heats after recording 7.24secs. Unfortunately the Gateshead athlete picked up a hamstring injury in the semi-final which resulted in him missing out on a place in the final.
In the under-20 women’s 60m Gateshead’s newest recruit, North Eastern champion, Rachel Bennet, achieved a new lifetime best of 7.6 secs in qualifying for the final where she achieved a very creditable fifth place. North Shields Poly also had two under-20s in the 60m with Lucy Errington and Jessica Lively going out in the heats despite clocking 8.26secs and 8.24secs respectively.
Gateshead had four athletes contesting hurdle events with Hannah Buckton lining up in the under-15 girls race where she reached the semi-final after recording 9.82secs.
In the under-17 men’s championship Arron Lillistone, the North East champion and record holder, locked horns with the country’s best hurdlers and can be delighted with his efforts. He battled hard to run near his personal best of 8.36secs in making it through to the semi-final where a 8.40 secs performance ensured a final appearance. Aaron rose to the challenge and finished in sixth place
In the women’s under-17 event Philippa Ellis, the North East Champion, unfortunately bowed out of the heats after catching the first flight after an excellent start. Her Indoor campaign continues with the Multi-events National Championships in March. However, both Amy Lott (Morpeth) and Darlington’s Charlotte Rutter both made the final, Amy just missing out on a podium spot finishing in fifth place in 8.86secs after posting a pb of 8.80secs in the heats while Charlotte crossed the line in eighth position recording 8.93secs, a fraction slower than her new pb of 8.85secs she ran in the semi-final. Tynedale’s Kate Smith just failed to join them after finishing fourth place in the semi-final in 8.90secs.
Oliver Lewis, the North Eastern under-20 champion, acquitted himself well achieving a season’s best of 8.90sec in a quality heat. He will now turn his attention to the Scottish Championships next month.
Former Morpeth athlete Andrew Knight, now based in the south finished runner-up in the under-20 men’s shot put, his best effort being 17:66 metres.
ONCE again records fell like nine-pins at the annual North Eastern Counties AA Indoor Championships held at Gateshead College Academy of Sport which incorporated the Cumbria and NE Masters AA Championships.
The two-day competition opened with field events on the first day followed by the track programme on day two with a good number of coaches, family and friends in attendance giving competitors huge support.
Competition was keen throughout the day and it was newly-crowned Scottish Indoor Pentathlon champion Emily Bond who helped lighten up proceedings, the North Shields Poly athlete going on to set two new championship best performances.
It was in the long jump that the youngster really excelled where, not only did she erase the old figures of 4:53m set in 2006 by Jessica Read (Gateshead) but Emily, who sat at the top of the UK under-13 rankings, extended her advantage by adding another eight centimetres to her portfolio with a superb 4:86m. Such was the high standard of the event Blyth’s Hannah Wilson also bettered the old figures to claim the silver medal with a new pb of 4:64m.
Emily was back onto the top of the podium a second time when she cleared 1:46m to win the high jump and while not a new pb it was good enough to erase the old figures of 1:40m set by Jarrow and Hebburn pair Emma Johnson and Amelia Bateman and Charlotte Patterson of Middlesbrough and Cleveland. Blyth Running Club had five competitors in the event with Millie Wilkinson, Hannah Wilson and Abigail Huntly all clearing 1:36m in the fight for the minor medals with Millie taking silver and Hannah & Abigail joint bronze on the count back system.
In the same age group Alnwick’s Leila Thompson was also in record-breaking form in the shot put competition. Leila went into the contest ranked number three in the country but she improved into second place after setting a new pb and championship best of 9:47m which bettered Middlesbrough’s Grace McDonald’s 2017 figures by 38 centimetres!
The fourth championship-best of the day came in the under-20 women’s long jump when Tynedale’s Louise Smith set a new pb of 5:35m which eclipsed Middlesbrough’s Falonne Mukendi’s 2014 figures of 5:25m. Gateshead’s Philippa Ellis equalled the old record to claim the silver medal.
As well as the record-breakers there were a number of close shaves. in the under-17 men’s long jump Blyth’s Alfie Ward came within four centimetres of equalling Middlesbrough’s Jack Crosby’s 2011 figures of 6:45m while Gateshead’s Jack Halpin, who heads the British under-17 shot put rankings, was five centimetres shy of Morpeth’s Andrew Knight’s 2018 distance of 15:33m.
Of course, it wasn’t only the record breakers who enjoyed the occasion for many of those competing produced lifetime bests.
Among the Masters who set new records were Julie Gittens (Leeds City) in the triple jump; Daniel Upton ((Richmond and Zetland) in the shot put; and a first for Jesmond Joggers’ Paul Waddell in the long jump.
If the opening day was a good one then the second session was even better with six new championship best performances showing, despite the lack of top-flight facilities, that club coaches in the region are making the best of a bad job in getting their charges to perform at a high level.
The programme went like clockwork thanks to Championship secretary Keith Willshire and his team of dedicated volunteer technical officials and it wasn’t long before the announcer stated that the first record of the day had been achieved. However, it didn’t come as a real surprise to the spectators lined four deep on the Academy of Sport’s balcony for, in the third event of the day, the under-13 girls heats of the 60m hurdles, it was declared that Emily Bond, yes, that North Shields Poly athlete, had broken the 2017 record of 9.93s set by Basingstoke’s Iona Irvine in recording 9.36s, a time which sees her not only proudly heading the UK rankings this year but consolidates her at the top of the UK overall listings since statistics were brought in. That was Emily’s third new championship best performances of the weekend and it came as no surprise after receiving her medal that she said of the three the hurdles record gave her most pleasure.
Following on from the hurdles heats came the finals and while Emily couldn’t quite repeat her performance from the heats she still recorded a winning time of 9.56s. However, there were another two hurdles records to fall in an amazing morning. In the under-13 boys event victory went to Blyth’s Luke Pichler in 10.26s a time which dipped under the 2018 record of Giffnock North’s Daniel Martin of 10.41s. Luke’s time, which was a new pb, slots him into fourth place in the current UK listings.
The next hurdles record to fall came in the under-17 men’s event which saw Gateshead’s Aaron Lillistone record 8.41s, a time which dipped under his club’s Jason Nicholson’s 2015 figures of 8.43s. Jason, of course went on to gain numerous junior international honours so perhaps Aaron could well follow in his footsteps footsteps.
After the hurdle events – the barriers quickly set aside by the officials – it was the turn of the speed merchants to take centre stage and many of finals the had spectators on their toes such was the high standard.
Anyone connected with the Blyth Running Club could never have dreamt in a million years that they would have four of the six finalists lining up in the under-13 girls final and the backroom team were aptly rewarded when three of those swept the board for a clean sweep of medals. Victory went to Millie Wilkinson, the Northern champion, in 8.23s, a time which dipped under the figures of 8.30s set in 2015 by Gateshead’s Charlotte Richardson. Hannah Wilson claimed the runner-up award with a new pb of 8.32s with Maya Turner completing the one-two-three in 8.40s. Millie’s new pb moves her up into fourth place in this year’s Po10 rankings.
While it is rare for one club to trawl in all three medals in a championship competition, it happened again when it was the turn of Gateshead supporters to celebrate after their under-20 women claimed all three podium places. Victory went to new recruit Rachel Bennett in 7.74s, a time which not only is a new pb but also bettered Rachel Highfield’s (Gateshead) 2013 figures of 7.78s. Such was the high standard of the event, Megan Costello, who finished runner-up, equalled the old record while third-placed Erin Louise Anderson was just outside in 8.72s. Rachel’s latest success adds to the gold medals she received after winning the under-17 and under-15 championships!
The final record to fall on a truly remarkable day came in the under-13 boys 60m which saw victory go to Gateshead’s Matthew Inman in a time of 8.24s, a time which scraped four-hundredths-of-a-second off Middlesbrough Mandale’s Hedley Wordsworth’s 2014 record of 8.28s. Matthew’s winning time was inside his previous best of 8.41s which he recorded when finishing in third place in the recent Northern Indoor Championships in Sheffield.
While it’s not all about breaking records for many setting a new pb gives as much pleasure and for one athlete that certainly was the case. It’s not often one has penned a few words on a sprinter from Sunderland Harriers which, over the years, has been noted for its endurance running feats. However, in the under-20 men’s 60m a new name came to the fore when Jordan Beavers crossed the line in first place in a new life-time best of 7.09s, which, after just a couple of years in the sport, is a superb achievement which shows what can be achieved with hard work and dedication and faith in your coach.
Fastest sprinter on view was Gateshead’s Scott Hall who posted 6.96s in the senior men’s 60m heats. However, the Tynesider was a bit keen as he lined-up in the final and set off too quickly and was subsequently disqualified much to the disappointment of the spectators.
There were many other winners on the day, unfortunately too many to mention, but hopefully many of those will not only be champions but go onto much greater things.
*Thanks go to everyone who had an input, however large or small, in making the North East Indoor Championships a success once again. Appreciation also to the many spectators who came along and supported the event.
AFTER deliberating for nearly three hours, the county selectors have named strong squads for the UK CAU Inter-Counties Cross-Country Championships on Saturday, March 4 which return to Pretswold Hall, Loughborough once again.
Twelve months ago the North East had two individual champions in Wallsend’s Sam Charlton and Darlington’s India Pentland and both will don a county vest once again albeit in an older age group.
As well as celebrating two gold medallists the region also had a silver medallist- Rory Leonard (Morpeth) – and a bronze medallist in Middlesbrough Mandale’s Josh Cowperthwaite.
However, while it’s not all about making it onto the podium, it will be great experience for many who will be making their county debut.
Team managers’ Stewy Bell and Lynn Cooper are cautiously optimistic on how their charges will perform on the big stage though many of the senior athletes have experienced the Inter-Counties on numerous occasions.
Bell, a NE representative many times, had this to say after the teams were finalised: ‘’It’s a great honour to represent your county in, what I believe is the major cross-country championships of the year. While we have a strong senior men’s squad with Carl Avery and Calum Johnson, the NE and Northern champions respectively, leading the way it’s to the younger age groups who I think have the best chance of success.’’
Women’s team manager Cooper was equally excited about the prospect of seeing the region’s top youngsters perform against the best athletes in the country. ‘Enjoying the experience is vitally important which, of course, could be the stepping stone for greater things in the future,’’ said Lynn. ‘’We have some very talented young athletes in the North East and lining up in the Inter-Counties is invaluable if they want to go on and achieve greater things.’’
The senior women’s team has a good chance of also making it onto the podium with seasoned international Kate Avery (Shildon) currently heading the UK Cross Challenge and she will be joined in the team by NE champion Sonia Samuels (Sale) and former Elswick athlete Philippa Williams who now competes for Sheffield AC and will be making her NE senior debut.
*Would-be spectators are more than welcome to make the trip and support the teams. There is an overnight stay leaving Newcastle at 5pm on Friday while a second coach sets of from Newcastle on Saturday morning at 6.30am. Both coaches have pick-up points on the A1 corridor. The price of travel is £10. Anyone interested please get in touch with either Stewy Bell or Lynn Cooper.
HOW THE NORTH EASTERN COUNTIES WILL LINE UP
SENIOR WOMEN (10,000m): Sonia Samuels (Sale), Philippa Stone (Midd/Mand), Catirina McDonald (Morp), Kate Avery (Shild), Philippa Williams (Sheff), Danielle Smythe (Heat), Georgia Campbell (J&H), Amy Fuller (Elsw) and Hannah Plaschkes (Darl).
JUNIOR WOMEN (6,000m): Chloe Wellings and Amy Baker (both Gates), Eva Hardie (Hough), Laura Havis (Midd/Mand), India Pentland (Darl), Eve Sothern (Birt), Abigail Anderson (Birt) and Eve Quinn (Sund).
UNDER-17 WOMEN (5,000m): Emily Chong (Ch-le-St), Ines Curran (Gates), Tess Graham (Birt), Anna Pigford and Amy Leonard (both Hough), Holly Peck (Morp), Cecelia Reid (Blay) and Kate Salthouse (Tyned).
UNDER-15 GIRLS (4,000m): Katie Francis (Birt), Elle van der Mere and Holly Waugh (both NSP), Millie Breese (Alnw), Lucy Scothern (Ch-le-St), Erin Keeler-Clarke (Hough), Abigail Leiper (Morp) and Marissa Boon (Darl).
UNDER-13 GIRLS (3,000m): Zara Jones (Darl), Sophie Quinn (BillMHse), Eden Creasey (Midd/Mand), Charlotte Dillon (DurC), Poppy Old and Poppy Wilde (both Elsw), Annabel Milburn (Gate) and Annie Hutchinson (Gosf).
SENIOR MEN (10,000m): Carl Avery and Alex Brown (both Morp), Calum Johnson (Gate), Jack Willis and Greg Jayasurya (both M&C), Carl Smith (TyneBr), Cameron Allan (Hough), David Green (NSP) and Kieran Walker (Midd/Mand).
JUNIOR MEN (8,000m): Charlie McMillan (Gate), Sam Charlton (Walls), Daniel Dixon, Daniel Melling and Ross Charlton (all Morp), Josh Cowperthwaite, Jake Creasey and Daniel Currie (all Mid/Mand).
UNDER-17 MEN (6,000m): Archie Lowe (Midd/Mand), Henry Johnson and Will Bellamy (Both Hough), Rowan Bennett and Dylan Gooding (both Morp), Ethan McGlen and Charlie Daley (both Gate) and John Russell (Darl).
UNDER-15 BOYS (4,000m): Chris Perkins (Birt), Josh Blevins, Oliver Douglas and Zak Old (all NSP), Joe Dixon and Ryan Davies (both Morp), Will Collinson (Blay) and Tom Slane (BhillBnds).
UNDER-13 BOYS (3,000m): Alex Bowyer and Harry Lyons (both Darl), Theo Dragio and MatthewDas (both Gate), Zac Brannon (NSP), Matthew Downs (NewMsk), Ethan Marron (Midd/Mand) and Oliver Tomlinson (Morp).
Bill McGuirk is the North East's top athletics correspondent. NECAA Chairman and official, Bill can be found at all local athletics events supporting the sport he loves.