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EARLY arrivals to the third North East Grand Prix fixture at Monkton Stadium witnessed some excellent hurdle action while those who stayed behind to the end were fortunate to see an excellent high jump contest unfold.

The first event on the programme was the under-13 girls 80 metres hurdles with four athletes lining up and it was a personal triumph for the quartet with all four setting new pbs despite running into a slight headwind.

With eyes on a place in the team for the forthcoming English Schools’ Championships, it was neck-and-neck all the way between Blaydon’s Eden Burn and Blyth’s Abigail Huntly who went into the event with personal bests of 12.6s and 12.8s respectively. At the line it was the Blaydon athlete who edged home by two-hundredths-of-a-second to claim victory in a superb 12.04s with Huntly recording 12.06s, times of which now place the duo in sixth and seventh place respectively in the Po10 rankings. Hartlepool pair Isla Watson and Neve Watson, finished third and fourth in 12.50s and 12.85s respectively.

The excitement hadn’t died down before the quick-action officials had the hurdles in place for the under-20 women’s event over 100m and if the younger age group contest was a good opener to the night’s proceedings then the start line-up of Charlotte Rutter (Darlington) who had a pb of 14.66s; Scottish visitor Nicole Proudfoot (Kilbarchan, 14.7s) and Gateshead’s Philippa Ellis whose pb was 14.67 promised to be equally exciting. And, so it proved, as Ellis just got the verdict by one-hundredth-of-a-second to claim victory in a superb 14.40s with Proudfoot recording 14.41s and Rutter, after clipping a couple of hurdles, crossing the line in third place in 15.34s. With those performances, Ellis moves to eighth and Proudfoot ninth in the current Po10 rankings.

It’s pleasing to note that hurdling, for a long time, one of the less attractive events in track and field in the region, is now thriving and it’s no doubt not just down to the athletes who are producing the results but also the time and effort put in with their respective coaches.

The next event on the track was a series of five one mile races with the main event line-up chasing the trophy in honour of super-coach Stan Long whose daughter Christine was on hand to present the award. As is customary when so much is at stake, the early pace was ‘precautionary’ and, despite the lead changing on a number of occasions, it wasn’t until midway that the race really got going. Morpeth’s Alastair Douglas headed the field in the early stages before Darlington teenager Adam Russell had a go at the front as did Kieran Reay (Tyne Bridge) before Gateshead’s Matthew Linsley, winner of the Jimmy Hedley Trophy over 800 metres two years ago, burst to the front on the back straight of the final lap to pull away and win comfortably in 4min 19.72secs. Douglas came from fifth to second to claim the runners-up spot in 4:21.54 with Reay completing the one-two-three in 4:21.72 while Gala’s Darrell Hastie, a regular visitor to compete in the region, finishing in fourth place in 4:23.02.

Gateshead’s Oliver Douglass, competing in the main race, was the night’s leading under-17 when finishing sixth in 4:29.74. The quickest under-15 on view was Morpeth’s Joseph Close (4:53.23) while the fastest under-13 was Durham City’s William Jardine who recorded 5:13.28. Amongst the females, Newcastle University’s Shona Haston led the way with 5:08.68; Hannah Bowyer (Blackhill Bounders) was quickest under-17 in 5:23.48 while Durham City pair Charlotte Dillon and Alex Jardine were the eye-catchers at under-15 and under-13 clocking 5:08.25 and 6:22.07 respectively.

Four competitors faced the starter for the 1,500m steeplechaser and it was a good victory for Gateshead’s Jessica Milburn in what was her first attempt over the barriers. Vying for the lead in the early stages with North Shields Poly’s Darcy Tullis, Milburn proved the stronger to go on and win in 5:32.30, a time which places her in the top 10 of the current under-17 rankings.

Eight 100 metres races were next on the programme and in the final race, Gateshead’s Daniel Walsh sped home to win in 10.87s, his quickest time since 2015 when he ran 10.77s. The battle for second place went to his Gateshead team-mate Matthew Lumb in 11.03s after getting the better of Scottish teenager Dean Patterson (Glasgow School of Sport) by one-hundredth-of-a-second. Patterson’s performance slots him into fifth place in the current Po10 under-17 rankings.

Other leading 100m performances included: Reuban Moss (u15, North Shields Poly) 12.57s; Hugo Douglas-Reeves (u13, Darlington) 13.95; Nicola Caygill (sw, Jarrow and Hebburn) 12.26s; Susan Folorunso (u20, Gateshead) 12.41s; Krista Bissett-Brown (u17, Darlington) 13.46s; Kathryn Bell (u15, Gateshead) 12.76s while Katy Pang (North Shields Poly) and Darlington’s Lottie Graves were the leading under-13 performers with both recording 14.38s.

The final track event of the night saw four heats of the 400 metres with Gateshead providing a one-two in the A race as victory went to Ben Schofield in 50.60s who just got the verdict over Mark Collier who recorded 50.66. Birtley’s Chris Perkins (under-17) stepped down in distance to finish third in an impressive 51.22s which places him in the top 10 rankings to go with his fourth spot in the 800m and seventh place in the 1,500m! Wakefield’s Rachel Crorken was the fastest senior women with 57.23s, while North Shields Poly duo Katie Joslyn and Arran Head were quickest in their respective under-17 and under-15 age groups with 63.05s and 61.45s respectively.

The high jump proved to be a fitting climax to another well organised fixture by league secretary Chris Betts and his team of technical officials who, once again, kept the meeting on schedule. As the gathering mist descended on the stadium the competition turned into a challenge between Blyth pair Koffi Jeje Avornyo and Luke Pichler, the former competing in the under-17 age group with Pilcher an under-15 entry. At the end of an absorbing contest Avornyo came out on top after a clearance of 1:79 but Pichler was even more impressive after clearing a life-time best height of 1:71m, a huge improvement from his previous best of 1:55m and a height which moves him into fifth place in this year’s Po10 listings. Grace Arthur (Jarrow and Hebburn) was also impressive with a clearance of 1:50m which equalled her pb.

After her impressive hurdles victory Philippa Ellis turned her attentions to the shot put contest and here again she came out on top with a put of 10:32m. There were Grade Two standards for North Shields Poly’s Kaitlyn Waddell at under-15 level with a pb of 9:94m and also for Lelia Thompson (Gateshead) in the same age group with a put of 9:92.

Sunderland’s Jordan Beavers has been in fine sprinting form this season and before the lined up in the 100m later in the day he took to the runway to contest the long jump where he produced a mark in the sand at 6:93m which was a huge margin of improvement on his previous best. Darlington’s Lottie Graves also improved her pb in the under-13 category with a jump of 4:37m while Darlington team-mate Charlotte Rutter also jumped further than ever before with a leap of 5:34m in the under-20 age group.

While senior athlete Matthew Fairhurst (Blyth) had the distinction of throwing the javelin the furthest (39:57m) it was the region’s young athletes’ who managed to steal the show. Gateshead’s Skye Marshall and Chester-le-Street’s Hollie-Anne Sudder, competing in the under-13 section produced Grade Two throws of 24:62 and 22:62m respectively while Phobe Hall (Gateshead) also gained a Grade Two standard at under-15 level with a throw of 31:73m.

Once again the NEGP team are to be congratulated on hosting another highly-successful meeting and now look forward to the next fixture at the same venue on June 30 when the programme includes hurdle events – for under-15 girls and under-13 boys – 200m, 800m, and 3,000m on the track and pole vault, shot put, long jump, triple jump and javelin events for field competitors. Entries will be accepted on line from this Saturday, June 5.

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