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.
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.