THE North East athletics family has been hit a double whammy with the news that long-serving officials John Keefe and Hudson Stoker passed away last weekend.
It’s a huge blow to everyone who knew the two superb servants who graced the field of athletics in a special style by going about their business in a quiet but exceptional way and with their passing the sport will be a lonely place without them.
The Harrier League in particular is hugely grateful and appreciative for the tireless work the pair put in over many years which, in a sense, helped make the NEHL the envy of other cross-country leagues throughout the country.
John started life as an athlete with his home-town club Jarrow Cycling and Athletics Club having notable successes giving the club a strong standing in the region. A move into the admin side with the likes of Tommy Power, Jimmy Hedley, Bob Charlton and Eric Huskisson after a name change to Jarrow and Hebburn Athletics Club, saw the South Tyneside outfit prosper even further especially when they had athletes of the calibre of Steve Cram and the largely unheralded David Sharpe, proud athletes who competed on the World stage in the famous gold with blue sash vest.
If his work at the club wasn’t enough – he filled all the major positions at one time or another – John took on the role as Harrier League secretary at a time when the organisation was struggling for funds. But he had the answer. He asked for volunteers on race days to go round with a bucket persuading competitors and their supporters to dig deep for the cause and it worked a treat so much so the league is now in a much healthier state now as the collecting bucket is no longer and in the archives of history!
Jonathan Gilroy presenting John Keefe with the Jarvis Award at Jarrow & Hebburn's 80th Anniversary
After passing over the league secretary position John continued to be a regular at Jarrow & Hebburn and local fixtures despite some atrocious weather working as an official at the finish line, a role he also enjoyed in warmer climes at track meetings throughout the region.
Hudson, meanwhile, was, in comparison to John, a relatively late starter to the local athletics scene after linking up with the Northumbrians in 1986. However, he quickly made his mark after working alongside great friend George Patterson as members of Morpeth Harriers.
A gentle gentleman, Hudson proved an asset to the Northumberland outfit where he took on many tasks without question, a fact quickly recognised by the hierarchy which resulted in him being installed as a life-member.
Away from his club duties Hudson found a new niche when he took up announcing duties like a duck to water. While local events were the bread and butter, especially with the mic in one hand and his beloved camera around his neck ready for action before proclaiming in that immaculate voice of his: ‘Slow pack you have five minutes to the start’ at a HL fixture. His calm delivery quickly got him recognised where he was installed at Northern Athletics’ events as well as English Road Relay Championships.
RIP John and Hudson, our thoughts and prayers are with all your family and friends at this sad time.
*For further tributes to John and Hudson check the relative club websites
George & Hudson at the 2019 Northern's XC Champs
IT MAY not have been what we have been accustomed to but the weekend’s track and field action at Middlesbrough and Morpeth was a huge step forward since athletics was suspended from the offset of the season.
However, what came through loud and clear from the fixtures at both ends of the North East Counties region was that club coaches and their athletes certainly hadn’t let boredom set in during the past six months or so for numerous new personal bests were the order of the day at both venues.
On Teesside 33 new pbs were set while the Northumberland King Edward VI School track witnessed an incredible 82 life-time best performances – a truly amazing statistic which saw the majority of competitors, many of whom were having their first competitive outdoor action of the year, going home happy.
With such a high number of spectacular offerings on show it would be impossible to highlight them all but a number certainly caught the eye despite their being no spectators in attendance due to current Government guidance.
However, with the hope of not upsetting anyone, here is a short round-up of events from both stadia where windy conditions prevailed.
Fastest sprinter on view at Middlesbrough Sports Village was Gateshead’s Scott Hall who posted a 100m time of 10.90s with Kingston-upon-Hull visitor, David Morgan-Harrison (u-20), pushing him all the way to line in 10.97s. The Humberside athlete, with Hall an absentee, went on to win the 200m later in the day. Fastest female over 200m was home-based Charlotte Kelsey (u-17) who recorded a superb 24.64s, a time which moves her up to fifth place in the current Po10 rankings for 2020.
Since lockdown has eased, Houghton’s Henry Johnson (u-20 ) has excelled over two laps having dipped under 1:50 for the first time. However, the teenager dropped down in distance to contest the 400m and proceeded to produce an excellent sub-50 seconds for only the second time where he recorded a new pb of 49.34s. Johnson’s Houghton team-mate Will Bellamy (u-20) triumphed in the two-lap event after his superb run recently at Stretford, to win in 1:53.07 while Steve McMahon (Sunderland) posted 2:07.66 competing in the over-40 category.
Among the field events Leeds City duo Mark Johnson (v55) and Colin Hayton (v60) were best pole vaulters on view clearing 3:92m and 2:70m respectively; former Morpeth athlete Craig Charlton, now competing for Woodford Green, set a new pb of 17:08m in the shot put, a distance which sees him move to fourth in the 2020 Po10 listings while Emily Stewart (Gateshead) set a new pb of 9:79m and Alnwick’s Talia Thompson was just three centimetres short of her best (10:93m) in her under-17 section.
Twenty-fours after the Middlesbrough fixture action moved further North to Morpeth with a number of athletes lining up for a second time. On the track there were 13 races at both 100m and 800m with Hall among those in the sprint after competing in Teesside. This time however, despite running quicker (10.84s) he had to give way to Leeds City’s European Junior Championship representative Joe Ferguson who got the verdict in 10.65s. Gateshead’s Josh McKeown (u-20) lined up in the same race and posed a pb of 11.15s while Matthew Lumb (u-17) was the quickest in his event with a huge new pb of 11.17s, a time which places him inside the top 10 in the country. The quickest under-15 athlete on the day was Joel Brown-King (Gateshead) with a new pb of 11.17s which moves him up to fifth in the current UK rankings. Nicola Caygill (Jarrow and Hebburn) was fastest woman on view (12.10s). Gateshead’s Joy Eze was quickest under-17 with 12.24s after posting a wind-assisted 12.11s the previous day. The Tyneside club were also celebrating after Amelia Sherlock recorded a new pb of 12.87s as the fastest under-15.
Despite the suspension of competition Gateshead’s David Race (u-17) has come on leaps and bounds this season under the guidance of John Stephenson and he showed a good turn of foot once more to post the fastest 800m time of the day of 1:55.23. Rotherham’s Zak Ferguson celebrated the trip north to set a new pb of 2:04.42 at under-15 which moves him to fifth in the Po10 listings. Back competing in a Morpeth vest Nisha Desai was the fastest female in action posting 2:14.59 while Millie Breese (Alnwick) was quickest under-17 with 2:26.62 and Elswick’s Poppy Old was quickest under-15 with 2:23.47.
In the long jump Gateshead’s junior international Lucy Turner, another who had competed in Middlesbrough, put a mark in the sand with a season’s best of 5:56m while Blaydon’s Liam Reveley led the field with a leap of 6:40m to finish ahead of Jarrow and Hebburn’s Thomas Paterson (under-17) who set a new pb of 5:95m. Gateshead’s Lily Cassidy also a set a new pb of 4:77m to top the under-17 section.
North Shields Poly’s James Wordsworth moved to sixth place in the under-20 shot put rankings with a superb new pb of 15:29m while Sophie Littlemore (Gateshead) took the honours in the senior women’s section with a put of 13:32m. There were also shot put pbs for Thomas Mann (Gateshead, u-15) 11:74m; Ryan Cook (Birtley, u-15) 10:85m; Eve Robson (Middlesbrough, u-20) 10:72; Grace Arthur (Jarrow and Hebburn, u15) 9:23m; Rebecca Harrison (Jarrow and Hebburn, u-15) 7:63m and Ellie O’Halloran (Jarrow and Hebburn, u-20) 7:20m.
Border Harrier Damon King (u-17) produced a huge pb of 48:14m in the hammer competition which slots him at fifth in the UK rankings. Birtley’s Fynn Errington won the under-15 section with a new pb of 25:82m while Middlesbrough’s Grace Mcdonald was the pick of the under-17 women with a throw of 48:70m and the best of the under-15 girls’ contestants was Gateshead’s Lexie Ellis with a pb effort of 39:85m which consolidates second place in this season’s rankings.
NECAA are pleased to announce their second Track & Field competition of 2020, with the competition again being at King Edward School Track, Morpeth on Sunday September 6th.
More events have been added to the timetable and these will be;
Track; 200M, 300/400M, and 1500M
Field; Long Jump, Triple Jump, Shot Put, Discus and Javelin
We will also allow entries from All Age groups from U13’s upwards
Entries close on Sunday 30th August and further details here: www.necaa.info
THE region’s multi-eventers were in action both here in the region and in Sheffield which saw some extremely fine competition with performances of the highest calibre. The North Eastern Counties Pentathlon Championships took place at Gateshead College indoor facilities while Sheffield hosted the English Age Group Pentathlon.
TWO weeks after claiming the Scottish under-15 Indoor Pentathlon title Gateshead’s Georgia Mabbott did likewise when she travelled to Sheffield for the English equivalent. While Georgia had a comfortable victory in Glasgow by over 100 points after totalling 3,176, the competition however was much closer in Yorkshire where she came out on top by just ONE point after accumulating one point less than she did when winning the Scottish gold medal. In Sheffield the victory wasn’t confirmed until the last of the five phases though the Tynesider did manage two new pbs during the day-long competition which just gave her the edge over Alice Wilson of Team Bath with Sophie Lisk (Cardiff Archers) claiming the bonze award just 19 points adrift of the runner-up.
NUMBERS were slightly down on previous years but the standard of competition was excellent which resulted in two new championship best performances and one meeting record.
Sixteen competitors were in action in the under-13 girls contest and once again Emily Bond was in outstanding form where she not only set a new championship record but also scored 60 points more than the two-year figures of Southport Waterloo’s Amber Hughes. The North Shields athlete, who was recently crowned Scottish champion, set out her stall from the first event and was never headed thereafter. Emily recorded the fastest 60m hurdles time (9.37s) before setting a new pb of 7:98m in the shot put phase, a distance which was second best behind Hannah Wilson, the Blyth athlete eventually finishing runner-up at the end of the day behind Emily. Next up was the high jump which saw Emily increase her advantage after a clearance of 1:49m. The momentum was maintained in the long jump, the penultimate phase of the competition where a mark in the sand at 4:74m saw her add further daylight ahead of her rivals. The 60m was the final event of the day and while Emily sprinted to a pb of 8.47s it was only the fourth fastest overall with Millie Wilkinson (Blyth), who eventually finished in bronze medal position, recording a superb 8.16s. The championship medallists: Gold: Emily Bond (North Shields Poly) 3,041pts; Silver: Hannah Wilson (Blyth Running Club) 2,787pts; Bronze: Millie Wilkinson (Blyth Running Club) 2,549pts.
The second new championship best came in the under-13 boys event which saw Blyth’s Luke Pichler add a huge 231 points to the old 2013 figures of Gateshead’s Oliver Herring. Luke led the way from the first phase and, like Emily was never headed after that. He was quickest over the hurdles; best in the high jump, despite a couple of run ins with the uprights, long jump, shot put and 60m. Luke totalled 1,808 pts with Dante Evans (New Marske) finishing in silver medal position on 1,47pts. City of York’s William Hickling accumulated 1,234pts for third place while Chester-le-Street’s Owen Barron claimed the county bronze award with 1,201pts.
The under-15 girls’ championship was won by New Marske’s Molly Thrower setting three new pbs along the way. The Teessider opened with a pb (9.53s) in the 60m hurdles and followed that with a pb in the high Jump (1:49m) and finally in the 60m (8.53s). Molly totalled 2,991pts with City of York pair Emily Maude and Rosie Hickling finishing in second ad third place with 2,921pts and 2,716pts respectively. Ella Jones (Chester-le-Street), in fourth place received the county silver medal with Emma Sedgwick (Middlesbrough Mandale) completing the podium places.
Ashley Watson (Hartlepool Youth) claimed victory in the under-17 women’s event after accumulating 3,222pts. Asley won by just under 200 points which wasn’t surprising as she set new figures in four of the five phases. Ashley opened with a 60m hurdles pb of 9.06s; followed that with a high jump life-time best of 1:46m; she did likewise in the long jump (4:91m). Unfortunately, Ashley missed out on a shot put pb with 8.35m but was back in pb mode in the final 60m phase where she recorded 8.19s. Alena Dixon, of Bury AC, finished in second place with 3,025pts with Quisha Graham (North Shields Poly) finishing third and second in the county championship with 2,836pts. Jarrow and Hebburn’s Lexi Brown, who finished in fourth spot (2,808pts), received the country bronze medal.
In the under-20 men’s contest victory went to Blaydon’s Sam Gorman after totalling 3,186pts. Wakefield’s James Simms finished runner-up (2,864pts) while Regan Langley (Doncaster) claimed third place with 2,161pts.
The senior men’s event was an all visitor affair with victory going to Hallamshire’s Thomas Hughes (3,086pts); Doncaster’s Nathan Langley finished runner-up with 2,960pts and Dartford’s Matt Rushden completed the one-two-three.
In the under-17 men’s competition Leeds City’s Morgan Williams came out on top finishing with 3,037pts with Jarrow and Hebburn’s Thomas Paterson claiming the county title in second place after accumulating 2,901pts. Amber Valley’s Ben Pitts finished in third place (2,492pts) with Hartlepool Youth’s Scott Temple fourth with 1,595pts.
The under-20 women’s championship was won by Gateshead’s Philippa Ellis with a total of 3,325pts. City of York’s Leah Attack finished in second place with 2,125pts.
Stockport’s Cory Beechall claimed victory in the under-15 boys competition while Katie Robinson (City of Sheffield) scored 3,285pts to defeat City of York’s Rebecca Lister (3,078pts) to win the senior women’s contest.
*Thanks go to championship secretary Keith Wilshire and the technical officials for making it another highly-successful championship. And to all the supporters who encouraged all the athletes throughout the day.
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.