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.
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.