COMPETITORS were soaring to new heights at the North Eastern Counties Indoor Championships at Gateshead College Academy for Sport.
That certainly was the case for pole vaulters Molly Elliott and Isabelle Potier Godinho and high jumper Amelia Bateman, who were a trio of athletes who set new Championship Best Performances on an excellent days competition which kept the enthusiastic audience entertained throughout the opening day of the championships which saw field eventers take over the riverside venue..
On the day there were six new records set with shot putters Sophie Littlemore and Grace McDonald and long jumper Joshua Chrisp adding their performances to the record book.
The pole vault competition commenced at 10am and didn't finish until 1pm as the bar kept rising as the athletes responded to the huge support from the college's balcony. And it was Molly who claimed the title of being best vaulter of the day despite competing in the under-17 age group while Isabelle lined up in the older under-20 category.
The Birtley athlete went into the competition after a confident-boost performance in Sweden late last month where she improved her pb to 3:52 metres so the target to better the old championship 2007 figures of 3:50m set by Gateshead's Sally Scott, who later went on to win Commonwealth Games bronze at Hampden Park in 2014, was certainly within her reach.
And that target was certainly achieved for not only did she go on to break the record but, in adding another 10 cenitmetres to Scott's record, she consolidated second place in the UK rankings in a big way. Despite the long competition Molly was quickly back in action this time on the long jump runway where she came out on top once again with a winning jump of 5:36m. Isabelle Potier Godinho (Gateshead), a training partner of Molly under the guidance of Chris Boundy, also had to vault higher than ever before in an attempt to erase the 2015 under-20 women's figures of 3:00m set by Kim Weatherburn (South Shields). And it was another delighted vaulter who topped the podium after a clearance of 3:10m which, not only was a new pb but also added 10 centimetres to the existing record.
Proudly wearing her newly-acquired England vest after representing her country in a junior international in Hustopece, Czech Republic, where she set a new indoor pb of 1:72m, Amelia Bateman set her sights on Emma Morris (South Shields) championship record of 1:70m. And the Gateshead athlete duly obliged as, in the true Sergey Bubka tradition, added one centimetre to Morris's figures.
Earlier this month Joshua Crisp lifted the North of England under-13 long jump gold medal after setting a new pb of 4:75m. and he continued that run of excellent form by soaring out to a record-breaking distance of 5:06m, a distance which sees him heading the UK rankings and the only boy to in the country to better the five metre mark. The Blyth athlete's new NE record erases the 2010 4:77m figures of Markhim Lonsdale who is now one of the countries leading 800 metres athletes.
It was now the turn of shot putters Sophie Littlemore (Gateshead) and Grace McDonald of Middlesbrough AC (Mandale) to take centre stage in the shot put circle.
Sophie, competing in the senior category, was out to regain her title having missed out on the championships last year as it clashed with the British Championships.
And it was a smiling athlete who topped the podium after claiming the gold medal by adding over a metre to her old figures with a put of 13:65m which was just four centimetres shy of her life-time best. Sophie's victory is her fifth NE Indoor title which adds to her collection of four outdoor gold medals.
Meanwhile, in the under-15 girls shot put competition, Middlesbrough's Grace McDonald produced a best effort of 11:03m to better the 2003 figures of 10:85m set by Birtley's Katy Wilson.
Grace has a pb of 11:48m and is currently ranked sixth in the UK.
While it is always nice to report on the record breakers there were many other notable performances over the two days despite the shortage of senior competitors. There was a good competition though in the senior men's shot put where former Gateshead man Craig Sturrock came out on top pushing Morpeth's recently-crowned Scottish Indoor champion Craig Charlton into second place.
Craig admitted he's lost count of the number of times he has lifted both the indoor and outdoor titles but was a happy man to win with a distance of 15:28m in his first competition of the year.
Other senior men winners were: Pawel Grzaslewicz (Darlington) who won the high jump with a 1:80m clearance; Jarrow and Hebburn's James Andrew claimed the long Jump title (6:22m) while another former Gateshead athlete, Scott Hall, had the spectators behind him as he claimed the triple jump gold medal with a distance of 15:45m.
In the senior women's section, Birtley's Rebecca Pottinger won the high jump (1:55m); Clare McGrath (Low Fell) put a mark in the sand at 3:08m to win the long jump and Kara Gibbs (Jarrow and Hebburn) cleared 2:55m to win the pole vault.
Under-20 men champions were Middlesbrough Mandale's Steven Wheater who just failed to claim the championship record of 1:98m but won the gold medal with a clearance of 1:95m; Gateshead's Joe Halpin won gold in the long jump (6:73m) and silver in the high jump (1:75m); Tynedale's Ellis Leonard won the triple jump (11:96m) and former Chester-le-Street athlete David Todd won the shot put contest with a best of 13:92m In the under-20 women's section there was an exciting long jump competition with victory going to Gateshead's Emma Scarborough with a best of 5:06m which was just three centimetres further than Tynedale's Louise Smith who claimed the silver medal. Blaydon's Rebecca Thorpe won the triple jump (11:06m) while Kate Carmichael claimed the gold medal in the shot with a put of 9:82m.
There was a double victory for Ethan Stephenson in the under-17 men's section, the Morpeth athlete topping the podium in both the high jump (1:75m) and the triple jump (12:37m) while Curtis Bingham (Jarrow and Hebburn) won the pole vault with a 2:70m clearance and Jack Halpin (Gateshead) won the shot with 14:68m. In the same age group, Jarrow and Hebburn's Tom Paterson won the long jump (5:64m) and finished runner-up in both the high jump (1:60m) and triple jump (11:30m).
The under-17 women's age group saw victories for Blyth's Ellie Morris in the high jump (1:61m); Gateshead's Lucy Giles in the shot put (11:60m) and North Shields Poly's Lucy Errington in the triple jump with a best of 10:49m.
In the under-15 boys section Scott Temple (Hartlepool YAC) won both the long jump and triple jump in 4:60m and 9:20m respectively while Jarrow and Hebburn's Andrew Caygill won the pole vault (1:50) and Gateshead's Vinny Baker claimed the shot put gold medal with a put of 11:62m.
North Shields Poly's Anna Fitzpatrick and Gateshead's Darcy Garbutt were in fine form in the under-15 girls section winning the high jump and long jump contests in 1:53m and 4:80m respectively. In the under-13 boys age group Tynedale's Oliver Hunter claimed victory in the high jump and shot put contests with figures of 1:42m and 7:35m respectively while Wallsend's Luke Pilcher received three silver medals after finishing runner-up in the high jump (1:27m), long jump (4:47m) and the shot put (6:84m).
IT WAS always going to be a tough act to follow for the sprinters and hurdlers after six new championship best performances were set on the opening day of the championships.
And so it proved despite many athletes going extremely close to re-writing the record books.
There was one record however to celebrate and that came in the under-17 women's 60m hurdles which didn't come as too much of a surprise as all five finalists ran quicker than ever before.
Victory went to Gateshead's Philippa Ellis in her favoured event after finishing in silver medal position in the shot put and long jump competitions the previous day.
Philippa's winning time of 8.78s moves her up into seventh place in the UK rankings while Darlington's Charlotte Rutter, who finished runner-up in 9.05s and was also busy 24 hours earlier by finishing second in the high jump and third in the long jump, is now ranked 16th.
The bronze medal went to Morpeth's Amy Lott who recorded 9.08s and is now also ranked inside the top 20. The under-17 women's category was the strongest representation of the championships with four heats being required for the 60m with athletes progressing to the semi-final and final. Despite having to face the starter on three occasions it didn't stop all of the medalists posting new pbs.
Victory went to Gateshead's Megan Costello in 7.80s - the record stands at 7.75s - with Middlesbrough Mandale's Afomo Ofor finishing second in 7.88s and Blyth's Heather Macdonald completing the one-two-three in 8.07s.
Gateshead were exceptionally strong in the under-17 men's 60m where five of the six finalists lined up from the Tyneside club. It was no surprise when Gateshead made a clean-sweep of the medals with, once again, the athletes all setting new life-time bests.
Victory went to Lewis Cant (7.19s), Josh McKeown finished runner-up in 7.24s with Daniel Lennie crossing the line in third place in 7.32s. Matthew Lawson, also of Gateshead, finished a close-up fourth in 7.33s.
In the 60m hurdles Blaydon's Aaron Lillistone topped the podium with a winning time of 8.96s.
Quickest athlete on view overall was Jarrow and Hebburn's Josh Errington who won the under-20 men's 60m in 7.03s which equalled his pb and was just three-hundredths-of-a-second away from the championship record.
Gateshead duo Kyle Walton and Gregory Abib Bukasa filled the minor placings in 7.13s and 7.27s respectively.
In the under-20 60m hurdles, victory went to Gateshead's Oliver Lewis in a new pb of 8.92s though he was upstaged by Daniel Njai who was competing in the Masters Championship and ran 8.78s.
The under-20 women's section saw wins for Stella Rene Perrett (North Shields Poly) in the 60m with a time of 8.03s and for Middlesbrough Mandale's Amy Carter in the 60m hurdles in a time of 9.33s.
Despite having five of the six finalists in the under-15 boys 60m Gateshead couldn't quite match the performance of their under-17 team-mates and had to settle for just the gold and silver medals. Blyth's Stewart Bestford, having his first-ever championship race indoors, managed to spoil the party by finishing in third place in 7.82s behind Joel Brown-King (7.70s) and Ulrich Lawson (7.77s).
Blaydon's Joseph Clark was also having his first indoor race and he came out victorious in the 60m hurdles with a winning time of 10.37s.
There were new pbs for the medalists in the under-15 girls 60m with Gateshead's Darcey Garbutt lifting the title in 7.95s to move into the top 10 in the UK rankings.
Middlesbrough's Martha Wyatt received the silver medal (8.12s) with Cody Hall (Shildon) capping a fine performance in third place in 8.20s.
In the 60m hurdles Darcey just failed to make it a winning double as she finished runner-up (9.77s) behind New Marske's Ebony Chrystal-Murtha who recorded 9.62s. Darcey's Gateshead team-mate Eve Harrison finished in third place in 10.17s.
It was pbs all round in the under-13 boys 60m though gold medallist Finlay Maynard (Middlesbrough) was having his first-ever outing indoors. The Teessider came out on top with a winning time of 8.56s with Wallsend's Reuben Moss finishing in second place in 8.64s and Blyth's Alex Walker completing the one-two-three in 8.99s. The 60m hurdles was won by Bailey Peacock in 12.58s.
Just three-hundredths-of-a-second separated the medallists in the under-13 girls 60m. All three girls were rewarded with new pbs with victory going to Gateshead's Cecile Nelson in 8.64s. Maya Turner of Blyth finished second in 8.66s with North Shields Poly's Madie Barbour third in 8.67s.
Blyth's Hannah Wilson recorded a pb of 10.16s to win the 60m hurdles as Hannah Lott (Morpeth) finished second (10.23s) with Blaydon's Grace Kyle completing the medallists in 10.65s.
There were only three senior men and three senior women contesting their respective 60m race. Julian Osei-Bonsu won the men's championship in 7.31s with Gateshead team-mate Justin Cooper second in 7.58s and North Shields Poly's James Mole third in 7.90s.
The women's event was won by Laura Mole (North Shields Poly) in 8.33s with Katie Tavers (Gateshead) finishing second in 8.39s and Emily Stewart (Gateshead) receiving the bronze award in recording 9.27s.
Thanks go to all the athletes who took part without them we wouldn't have a championships while spectators played a huge part in making the two-day meeting a success by cheering on every competitor.
Also a huge thanks to the organisers and officials on the day who made sure everything ran smoothly and to time. We now look forward to the NE Indoor Pentathlon at the same venue on Sunday, March 17.
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.