THE second North East Grand Prix of the season at Jarrow’s Monkton Stadium fittingly hosted 800 metre races with the winner of the A event receiving the Jimmy Hedley Trophy. And Jimmy would be full of praise for the way the exciting two-lap contest unfolded in front of an enthusiastic crowd of parents and coaches who, for the first time in over a year, roared on the eight athletes.
From the gun it was Hartlepool AC’s Scott Temple who shot to the front, determined to make it a brisk, true-run race. Approaching the 200m point the Teessider held a slight lead being tracked by two other teenagers Josh Blevins (Gateshead) and Birtley’s Chris Perkins with defending champion Alistair Douglass (Morpeth) shadowing the leading trio. At the bell, reached in 57 seconds, Josh eased into the lead with Chris, Alistair and North Shields Poly’s Zak Old all edging past the early pace-setter. The placings remained the same until, with 200m to go, Chris burst to the front making Alistair having to run wide round the final bend which gave Chris first run for the line which he took full advantage down the home straight to come home around six metres clear to record a new life-time best of 1min 54.88secs, a time which sees him sit proudly at number three in the season’s under-17 rankings.
On hand to present the trophy to the winner was Jimmy Hedley’s daughter Dianne who commented afterwards: “What a great race, I think my Dad would have been proud especially with so many young athletes in the race.’’ Despite his best efforts Alistair had to be content with the runners-up spot (1:56.10) on this occasion while Josh, in third place and Zac, who was fourth, crossed the line in 1:56.82 and 1:57.39 respectively. Scott, meanwhile, finished in fifth place but was rewarded with a new pb of 1:58.91, only the second time he has dipped under two minutes.
Once the excitement had died down there were another eight two-lap encounters to enjoy and, here again, many produced new pbs.
The quickest under-13 girl on view was also a Hartlepool athlete, Neve Watson, whose time of 2:36.24 is not only a new pb but it squeezes her into the Po10 top 20. William Jardine (Durham City) continued his impressive start to the season by recording another pb of 2:21.46 which moves him to ninth in the under-13 boys age group.
In the under-15 section Elswick’s Poppy Old recorded 2:17.87 while Sam Martin (Durham City) clocked 2:10.24 both athletes setting new pbs placing them 15th and 16th in their respective rankings.
Chester-le-Street’s Lucy Scothern was also in pb form recording 2:13.00 which places her seventh in the latest listings. Another Chester athlete, Freya Clarkson, also set a new pb of 2:17.85 contesting the under-20 age group.
Before the 800m races got underway, the opening event on the programme was the 80m hurdles for under-17 women and it was a triumph for Blaydon’s May McDonald who set a new pb of 12.12s, a time which slots her 13th in the rankings. Millie Train (Blyth`) and Anna Fitzpatrick (North Shields Poly), in second and third, also set new pbs of 12.67s and 12.69s respectively.
It was the turn of the sprinters next to face the starter with 11 200m races to be decided. Southern visitor Matthew Harris (Guildford and Godalming) was quickest on view winning the final race in a season’s best of 22.68s, just outside his best-ever of 22.49s. The judges had to be on their toes to decide the minor placings with Durham University student William Ritchie-Moulin getting the verdict for second place (22.73s) over Sunderland’s Jordan Beavers who recorded 22.79s.
Jarrow and Hebburn’s Nicola Caygill was the leading woman, also with a season’s best of 25.61s while Gateshead’s Philippa Ellis was quickest under-20 with 25.87s. The best under-20 men’s performance was recorded by Chester-le-Street’s Luke Russell with a time of 23.26s.
At under-17 level Melody Brooks (North Shields Poly) set a new pb of 25.99s to move to 16th in Po10 rankings while Dylan Love led home five Gateshead club-mates in his race to claim bragging rights with a 23.17s clocking. Hannah Wilson (Blyth) and Rhys Brunton (North Shields Poly) with new pbs of 26.97s and 24.97s respectively were the leading under-15s while there were also new pbs at under-13 level for Chester-le-Street’s Owen Barron (26.64s) and April McAuley-Zechner (Phoenix Flyers) who recorded 29.31s. Owen is now ranked eighth while April slots into the top 20.
Four 3,000 metres races were the final track events on the programme and the A race was a fitting finale to a slick programme enjoyed by those who were still in the stadium. Talented Gateshead teenager David Race took up the running from the gun and led the 13-strong field for the first four circuits. Closely tracking him were Sam Hancox (Morpeth), Luca Minale (Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets), English National Cross-Country champion Calum Johnson (Gateshead) as Carl Smith (Tyne Bridge) led the chasing pack. Just after half-way David was released from his leading duties as Calum, who was having his first track race since 2012, eased to the front and started to pull away from his main rivals. Luca also managed to overtake David but the gap to the leader was ever-widening and at the finish the cross-county, triathlon athlete came home with a comfortable advantage to record a pb of 8:16.91. Luca, also with a pb of 8:24.79, held off the strong finish of David whose new pb of 8:25.54 moves him to seventh in the Po10 rankings. Meanwhile, behind the leading trio Carl paced himself nicely to come through and claim fourth place in 8:27.61. Such was the high quality of the event nine of the athletes posted pbs with the remaining setting season bests.
At the other end of the age group Durham City’s Charlotte Dillon consolidated her position at the top of the under-15 girls 3,000m with another excellent pb of 10:04.57. In the boys’ section Darlington’s Harry Lyons also set a new pb of 9:37.73, a time which places him seventh in the Po10 listings.
At under-17 level there were pbs for Morpeth’s Bertie Marr (9:09.91) and Birtley’s Katie Francis (10:23.32) while Emily Chung (Chester-le-Street) showed a good return to form to post a season’s best of 10:22.57 in the under-20 age group. Houghton’s Eva Hardie ran a new pb of 10:03.47 to be the leading lady on the night.
In a rearranged field event programme, Blyth’s Abigail Huntly cleared 1:25m to win the under-13 high jump which is the seventh best in the country; Jarrow and Hebburn’s Grace Arthur cleared 1:50m to lead the under-15s while Anna Fitzpatrick (North Shields Poly) had a best of 1:55m to head the under-17 competition.
An exciting under-17/20 high jump resulted in a victory for Blyth’s Koffi Avornyo (u-17) with a clearance of 1:79m while Thomas Patterson (u-20, Jarrow and Hebburn) set a new pb of 1:71m.
In the throws Talia Thompson (Gateshead) won both the under-17 shot and javelin contests with 11:01m and 22:37m respectively while Darcy Lines (u-13, Chester-le-Street) produced a pb distance of 7:31m to move to ninth in the UK rankings.
Other shot put performances included Calum Chambers (u-13, Birtley) 7:28m; Leila Thompson (u-15, Gateshead) 9:99m; Fynn Errington (u-17, Gateshead) 9:83m; Ashley Watson (u-20, Hartlepool) 8:25m and Jacqueline Etherington (sen, NE Vets) 7:54m.
In the javelin, there was a new pb of 8:54m for Birtley’s Noah Williamson at under-13 level while Gateshead trio Skye Marshall, Phoebe Hall and Cameron Marshall all headed their particular age group with throws of 22:67m, 30:94m and 38:82m.
Finally, special mention must be made of Darlington Harriers stalwart Ian Barnes as he set a new M85 age group record for the 3k at Monkton stadium tonight, finishing in 16:34.42. Great running from Ian, well done!
I’m sure all competitors would like to say a huge thank you all the officials and volunteers who were at their best to see that the meeting kept to a tight schedule and now look forward to the next NEGP set for the same venue on June 2 when the Stan Long Mile will be decided.
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.