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.
AFTER following in Morpeth's footsteps for the past four years Sunderland Harriers eventually toppled the Northumbrians thanks to an all-round team effort to claim the Signals Six-Stage Road Relay Championship.
The event eventually went ahead after long-term negotiations with Sunderland City Council and, while less than half of the teams turned out which faced the starter last year, it didn't take anything away from the Sunderland Harriers' sextet. At the first changeover it was Houghton (Cameron Allan) leading thanks to the second fastest overall time of the day of 10min 47sec. Birtley (Adrian Bailes) were in second place just ahead of Sunderland (Michael Wilson) with Ali Bailey (Gateshead) in fourth place followed by Tyne Bridge (Tom Charlton). Defending champions Morpeth were back in sixth spot after Rowan Bennett's 11:11 stint.
Things changed dramatically on stage two with Morpeth moving quickly through the field to take up pole position thanks to former Sunderland man Joe Armstrong's effort of 10:43 which proved to be the fastest of the day. Sunderland also had a forward jump with Liam Taylor moving the Wearsiders into second place, 10 seconds adrift of the Northumbrians. Morpeth (Tom Innes) still had the upper hand at the half-way point though Sunderland (Michael Barker) had cut the deficit by three seconds. Morpeth's advantage widened further on leg four thanks to Ross Floyd who added another 11 seconds of daylight over the chasing Andrew Powell (Sunderland).
Sunderland moved into the lead for the first time on leg five thanks to an impressive 11:27 by Craig Gunn which left Morpeth (Jordan Scott) 11 seconds in arrears before handing over to Kieran Hedley to contest the glory leg. The assumption around the changeover area was that Hedley's younger legs would reel in Sunderland's Steve Rankin. And that certainly looked a possibility after the pair completed the first of their two circuits round Hetton Country Park. However, it was the Sunderland man who proved the stronger on the second circuit and managed to pull away from his rivals to bring his team home 21 seconds ahead.
While Morpeth may not have been at full strength those that turned out were in determined mood to hang onto the trophy but the all-round team effort by Sunderland proved to be worthy champions on the day.
The battle for the bronze medals could not have been tighter with Tyne Bridge (John Hurse) setting off on the final stage in third place followed by Houghton (Will Bellamy) and Gateshead (Stephen Asquith). However, it was Bellamy who proved the quickest of the trio to bring Houghton home in third place.
LEADING RESULTS: 1 Sunderland 1:08.10; 2 Morpeth 1:08.31; 3 Houghton 1:10.20; 4 Gateshead 1:10.43; 5 Tyne Bridge 1:11.19; 6 Darlington 1:12.11. FASTEST LEGS: 1 J Armstrong (Morp) 10:43; 2 C Allan (Hough) 10:47; 3 A Bailes (Birt) 10:55; 4 M Wilson (Sund) 10:56; 5 T Charlton (TyneBr) 10:57; 6 A Bailey (Gates) 10:59.
MASTERS - MEN 40-50 - SIX STAGE RELAY
This event was held in conjunction with the seniors and once again it was Sunderland Harriers who topped the podium which wasn't surprising as the three fastest athletes on show were all members of the winning team. Chris Jackson immediately had the Wearsiders in pole position on the opening stage with a time of 11min 57sec. From then on they were never headed with Kevin Jeffress adding to their advantage with the fastest time of the day of 11:50 on stage two .Steve McMahon (12:01), Martin Blenkinsop (13:10), Graeme Pullan (13:27) and Steven Gordon (13:07) completed the gold medal winning sextet.
Morpeth once again had to settle for second place with Lee Bennett their quickest (12:25). Jarrow and Hebburn were next to cross the line with Nick Atkinson their best on the day clocking 13:06.
LEADING RESULTS: 1 Sunderland 1:15.32; 2 Morpeth 1:18.27; 3 Jarrow and Hebburn 1:22.09; 4 Sunderland B 1:24.28; 5 Crook 1:28.06; 6 Blyth 1:28.25. FASTEST LEGS: 1 K Jeffress (Sund) 11:50; 2 C Jackson (Sund) 11:57; 3 S McMahon (Sund) 12:01; 4 C Chapman (Crook) 12:02; 5 L Bennett (Morp) 12:25; 6 T Lewis (Morp) 12:36.
SENIOR WOMEN FOUR-STAGE CHAMPIONSHIP
Morpeth may have had to settle for second best in the men's championship but they made up for it by winning an exciting women's four-stage contest though they left it until the final leg before moving into first place.
Gateshead led at the first changeover thanks to Chloe Wellings' 12min 55secs stint. Morpeth (Catriona MacDonald) were second and Houghton (Eva Hardie) were next. Wallsend (Sam Brooks) were back in 10th position but by the end of the second stage they were leading thanks to Danielle Hodgkinson's fastest time of the day of 11:49. Wallsend had a lead of 20 seconds over Gateshead (Beth Curran) with Elswick back in third place a further five seconds adrift. Things changed dramatically on the penultimate stage with Gateshead moving into the lead (Jane Giles) as Wallsend's Julie Williams hung on to second place ahead of Elswick (Susannah Fielding), Houghton (Nicolle Phillips) and Morpeth (Sarah Lawson). At that point Morpeth were over two minutes adrift of the leaders. However, a timely run by Rachel Falloon on the glory leg not only made up the deficit but she brought the team home in gold medal position with the day's second fastest time of the day of 12:45. So, it was a superb triumph with Morpeth winning by the narrow margin of just five seconds as Anna Pigford brought the young Houghton quartet home in second place. Elswick (Amy Hepinstall) finished in third place, Gateshead (Lisa Atkinson) were fourth, Tyne Bridge (Rachel Gill) fourth and Wallsend (Kerry Spencer) sixth.
LEADING RESULTS: 1 Morpeth 56:51; 2 Houghton 56;56; 3 Elswick 58:05; 4 Gateshead 58:45; 5 Tyne Bridge 59:20; 6 Wallsend 59:39. FASTEST LEGS: 1 D Hodgkinson (Walls) 11:49; 2 R Falloon (Morp) 12:45; 3 C Wellings (Gates) 12:55; 4 C MacDonald (Morp) 13:01; 5 E Hardie (Hough) 13:18; 6 A Fuller (Elsw) 14:02
VETERAN WOMEN - 35+ - FOUR-STAGE RELAY
Jarrow and Hebburn (Alexis Dodd) led on the opening stage thanks to the fastest time of the day (13:45). North Shields Poly (Carla Maley) were in second place and Elswick (Catherine Lowes) in third spot. The Poly moved into the lead on stage two thanks to Becky Coleman with evergreen Heather Robinson keeping Jarrow and Hebburn in contention in second place as Hannah Marshall consolidated third place for Elswick. Alison Dixon and Michelle Thomson extended the Poly's lead to the finish where they had three minutes in hand over Jarrow and Hebburn whose quartet was completed by Masha Jobling and Vicki Thompson who took time off from ther golf exploits to complete the quartet.
Elswick, with Amy Brown and Felicity Smith completing their team, finished in third place.
LEADING RESULTS: 1 North Shields Poly 59:39; 2 Jarrow and Hebburn 1:02.46; 3 Elswick 1:03.47; 4 Crook 1:04.29; 5 Sunderland 1:04.56; 6 South Shields 1:05.06. FASTEST LEGS: 1 A Dodd (J&H) 13:45; 2 C Maley (NSP) 14:10; 3 C Lowes (Elsw) 14:17; 4= F Dembele (SthSh) and B Coleman (NSP) 14:35; 6 C Teasdale (Crook) 14:43.
MASTERS - 50+ - FOUR-STAGE RELAY
Greg Penn had North Shields Poly in the lead at the first changeover finishing ahead of Tim Field (Sunderland). However, the Wearsiders were quickly in pole position on stage two thanks to the fastest time of the day (12:06) by Michael Thompson. Sunderland, with Paul Merrison and Darren Fletcher completing their line-up, were never headed after that as North Shields Poly built on Greg Penn's good start to finish in silver medal position thanks to Gary Robson, man-of many talents Vaughan Hemy and James Thompson all putting in good shifts.One of the loudest cheers of the day came when Crook were announced to have finished in third place just eight seconds ahead of Sunderland Strollers and a further 17 seconds ahead of fifth placed Jarrow and Hebburn. Crook's quartet of Jason Bridgwater, Paul Brennan, Geoff Hewitson and Wayne Pearson celebrated with a double helping of cakes which were on offer thanks to Houghton Harriers, the host club.
LEADING RESULTS: 1 Sunderland 52:20; 2 North Shields Poly 54:16; 3 Crook 56:09; 4 Sunderland Strollers 56:17; 5 Jarrow and Hebburn 56:34; 6 Sunderland B 56:46. FASTEST LEGS: M Thompson (Sund) 12:06; 2 G Penn (NSP) 12:45; 3 G Robson (NSP) 12:56; 4 T Field (Sund) 12:57; 5 S Everett (DurC) 13:09; 6 J Duthie (Walls) 13:13.
*Grateful thanks go to Houghton Harriers for once again hosting an excellent NE Counties Signals Road Relay Championships which next year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the event.
THE North Eastern Counties Track and Field Championships returned to Middlesbrough Sports Village for a second time with entries up 10 per cent on the previous year.
This increased participation helped produce eight new championship best performances, one championship equalling performance as well as a guest athlete taking advantage of being allowed to compete by blowing away the senior women's javelin figures.
However, the two-day athletics fixture wasn't all about the record breakers as many who took part were rewarded with new pbs in their chosen events.
While the region's well established clubs were naturally to the fore once again there were numerous podium places for the less glamorous outfits not normally known for track and field prowess.
Gateshead Harriers led the charge showing a return to the glory days and, with around 100 athletes making the trip down the A19, were rewarded with 83 of them mounting the podium, 49 of which received gold medals, 25 picked up a silver medal and 19 received a bronze award.
At the other end of the spectrum Derwentside AC, who had a small sprinkling of athletes, were celebrating big time especially when Isla Fenwick topped the podium on no fewer than three occasions after victories in the under-13 200m, 800m and long jump setting new pbs along the way.
Not to be outdone Liam Townson added to Derwentside's medal tally by picking up a silver in the under-15 high jump.
Billingham Marsh House meanwhile, saw Max Butler finish in second place in the under-15 boys 800m while Rowan Teasdale did likewise in the under-15 1,500m.
Now, back to the record breakers. There was only one senior record to fall and that was in the women's shot put contest which saw Gateshead's Sophie Littlemore not only winning her fifth title in a row- she also has four indoor gold medals to her name - but more importantly erasing the 1977 record of 13:83m set by Cathy Hartnell (Sale Harriers) with a best effort of 13:89m.
Since linking up with the Tyneside outfit back in 2015 Sophie has been a loyal servant for the club and a prolific supporter of the county championships.
Last year Bobbie Griffiths set a new championship record of 37:69m in the under-20 women's javelin competition. However, she delivered a superb 38:88m effort this time round showing that the upward spiral continues. Bobbie, who has a lifetime best of 42:27, is currently ranked seventh in the UK listings.
There were three new championship records set in the under-17 men's section, two on the track and one in the field and also three in the women's age group, two in the field and one on the track.
English Schools' champion Dan Joyce set new 800m figures of 1:55.42 last year but went event better this time round with a new record of 1:53.71, a time which equates to third place in the current UK rankings.
In the 3,000m Wallsend's Sam Charlton broke the record last year with a time of 8:45.93 before going on to claim the National, Inter Counties and English Schools' Cross-Country titles. However, his figures were quickly erased as Middlesbrough Mandale's Archie Lowe produced a blistering performance of 8:39.80 which moves him into sixth position in the Po10 rankings.
While both Dan's and Archie's performances were more than creditable it was the under-17 discus, the final event on the opening day, that had the sprinkling of spectators left in the stadium spellbound.
North Shields Poly's James Wordsworth set about chasing Morpeth's Ruaridh Lang's two-year record of 45:65m and he did it magnificently by producing a new life-time best of 49:75m, a distance which slots him into second place in this year's UK rankings.
The under-17 women's 300m record had stood since 1991 but, in the final event of the championship it was bettered by Durham City's Tia Anderson (pictured above, photo credit ROSS PICHLER).
Teesside's Alison Curbishley, who went on to achieve numerous international honours, ran 40.15s over a quarter-of-a-century ago but Tia managed to dip under that recording a superb new pb of 40.10s which sees her move up into seventh place in the UK listings Another international's record also fell by the wayside in the under-17 pole vault. In 2007 Gateshead's Sally Scott, who went on to claim Commonwealth bronze in Hampden Park, Glasgow in 2014, cleared 3:30m but that height was bettered by Birtley's Molly Elliott who soared over 3:50m, a height slightly down on her pb but nevertheless consolidates third place in this years rankings.
The final record to fall came in the under-17 women's hammer competition which saw Morpeth's Jessica Gardiner throw a huge new pb of 46:17m which erased Middlesbrough Mandale's Saada Juma 2018 figures of 44:46m from the record books.
Gateshead's Lucy Giles came agonisingly close to adding her name to the record breakers. However the under-17 athlete, despite having a superior pb, could only equal the current record of 12:07m.
In the senior women's javelin competition Trafford's Kaylie Van Loo was allowed to compete as a guest and produced a best throw of 44:66m which would have been a new record if she had North East qualifications. However, West Suffolk's Sarah Dunkley's 2008 figures of 42:27m still stands.
Despite the increased turnout there were still a number of events which attracted just one or two competitors which, while the championships were a success, they could be much better if more and more would turn their attention to track and field competition during the summer months.
A special pat on the back goes to all competitors and spectators together with the volunteer technical officials who gave their time over two long days. Also thanks to Start Fitness for their generous support and to Meeting Manager Keith Willshire who worked tirelessly before and during, making sure the championships ran smoothly.