ONCE more the region's youngsters were out in force in the Junior Great North Run. Literally hundreds and hundreds lined up in wave after wave contesting a 4k course on both banks of the Tyne.
The older, under-17, competitors had the added incentive of chasing the Stan Long Trophies which the Great Run Company put up each year in honour of Stan Long one of the best-known endurance coaches the North East has produced. And Stan would be all smiles and extremely proud when both the boys and girls cups were presented to Gateshead athletes by members of his family. The boys award went to the ever-improving David Race while English Championship 3,000m silver medallist, Ines Curran, romped home to claim the girls prize.
In the Junior GNR last year David finished 17th in 14min 56secs but this time round he improved to a staggering 12:47 to finish 14 seconds clear of Merseysider Jake Dickinson. Durham City's Adam Ord was making his Junior GNR debut and he made it all worthwhile by finishing in third place in 13:02.
Ines, meanwhile, was topping the podium for the third time having won in 2017 (14:41) and 2018 (14:15) and this year improved a further three seconds to 14:12. Joining Ines on the podium in the under-17 category were Chester-le-Street's Emily Chong who finished runner-up in 15:13 and Anna Pigford (Houghton) who completed the one-two-three in 15:32. That was an excellent result considering the event is now attracting competitors from the length and breadth of the country.
In the under-15 category English Schools' 1500 metres champion Josh Blevins (North Shields Poly) went one better than last year (13:19) to race home unchallenged to claim a superb victory in 12:54. Gosforth's Ethan Bond joined Josh on the podium to receive the silver medal after recording 13:23.
Birtley's Katie Francis also led the field home to claim top spot in her contest winning in 14:51 which was over a minute improvement on the previous year when she finished in ninth place. North Shields Poly's Holly Waugh received the third-place award finishing with a time of 15:17.
There were second place finishes for both Elswick's Sam Allison and Katy Otterson (North Shields Poly) in their particular events with Sam recording 14:18 and Katy 16:05 while Gosforth's Hannah Wightman finished in third place in her contest in 15:43.
While there were many award winners to celebrate on a day which started at 8am and concluded well after 5pm there were numerous other outstanding runs which augurs well for the future for endurance running in the North East.
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.