NORTHERN STARS SHINE BRIGHTLY
A SUNBAKED Liverpool Wavertree Stadium was the venue as the best in Northern Track and Field
Athletics went toe to toe and head to head for medals at the Northern Athletics Championships.
Over the two days of competition there were a host of sparkling performances, records tumbled and
reputations enhanced for athletes from U13 all the way through to Under 17. There were doubles
and even a golden treble on the same Wavertree Stadium that saw the likes of Katerina Johnson
Thompson and Steve Smith receive their starts in the sport.
First to make his mark was Samuel Lunt. The Wirral Athlete decimated the opposition in the Under
17 men’s 400m to the extent that he smashed the championship best performance that had been in
the hands of Gateshead’s Niall Flannery from 2007, taking two tenths of it. The new record of 53.40.
So one gold medal secured and he only had to wait a further 24 hours for his second – and guess
what another Championship best performance, this time in the 400m hurdles with Gareth Bakewell’s
figures removed for a new mark of 48.54. Indeed such is the range of distances that Lunt has at his
disposal that he could just as easily run a leg on a sprint relay as much as he could do so in a 4x400m
As Lunt had shown records are there to be broken and following quickly on from the Merseysider
was Annabel Amadin. The Sale athlete sent the discus sailing out to 42.12 – just under two metres
clear of the existing mark set by Jayne Thornton of Longwood Harriers in 1985, she wasn't finished
for the day as she then won the shot put with a throw of 14.84, no record on this occasion. This
remains in the hands of Toni Buckingham
While Annabel was dominating the female shot and discus so too was an Under 15 year old in the
male equivalent as Joey Perkins from Gateshead produced a throw on 39.52 to seal victory. Joey
defending his title and bettering his best throw from last year’s championship. Joey has tweaked his
throwing technique and was agonisingly close to the 40m line – indeed he might have gone through
it had he not over-rotated in the penultimate round and fouled the throw. But just like Annabel
returned to win the shot put so did Joey – though it was not as clear cut as his discus victory – his putt
of 12.64 was just 8cm better than silver medalist Harry Beard of Sheffield.
One event where many of us have wondered what has happened to British challengers over the
years is the javelin. From the heady days of the 80s where Fatima Whitbread and Tessa Sanderson
enjoyed so much success, the halcyon days of Steve Backley and Mick Hill of the 90s through to the
bronze medal success of Goldie Sayers it was startling to see that there was no British
representation in the recent World Championships finals in Eugene and no one from England in
either javelin final at the Commonwealth Games. So maybe it is a case of looking at events such as
the Northern Championships to see where the next javelin star may come from. Step forward
Harriet Wheeler from West Cheshire. Competing in the U15 girls final she not only won the event
but also set a Championship best performance record of 42.80, smashing the existing mark of Jess
Thompson when the Harrogate thrower set the mark of 38.69 in 2019.
While we have talked about athletes from the U15 and U17 it was so heartening for the future to
see Thomas Thake from Hallamshire set a new mark of 2.11.96 in the Under 13 800m, knocking a
massive five seconds off the mark Durham’s Adam Ord set in 2015.
Which brings me neatly to a female middle distance double from a Middlesbrough Mandale Harriers
athlete. Eden Creasy powered home in the 1500m on Saturday in a time of 4.37.04 and followed up
by winning the 800m on Sunday – and also must mention Blyth’s Lauren Creaby who took her fist
Northern Championships medal with a bronze in her second fastest time ever. The event is stacked
full of talent for the future and one wonders how much the success of the likes of Keeley
Hodgkinson has encouraged people to try the 800m. Similarly the success Eilish McColgan has had in
the steeplechase looks like it is having a positive effect on the steeplechasers of the future and
Gabrielle Phelan of the Wirral dominated the field in a time of 5.06.29 to win a title just weeks after
competing in the European Under 18 Championships in Israel.
OK I mentioned a treble gold medal – and I have left it until last. Luke Pichler the Blyth teenager
competed in the long jump and the sprint hurdles on day 1 of the championships. Pichler had to
leave the long jump during the competition to line up in the sprint hurdles. He was up against Lewis
Shaw, Shaw won in Manchester – after Pichler stumbled coming off the final hurdle but this he had
to give second best to Pichler who came home in a time of 11.28, 4/100ths of a second clear of
Shaw. Pichler then was told he had been disqualified but appealed and was reinstated and received
the gold medal. He was then straight back to the long jump to post a leap of 6.02 which put him
firmly in the lead. However, we had to wait until his final jump of the competition for something
very special where he sprinted down the track and sailed out to 6.39 and left the sand pit with a
huge smile on his face. That was two gold medals – Would three be the magic number or would it be
two out of three aint bad on day 2. Well then answer became clear in the high jump as a clearance
of 1.75 gave him the hat trick of gold medals. A golden weekend.
So, a magical weekend of athletics concluded in Liverpool. Plenty of action remains in the season.
Bedford will host the National Age Group Championships on the Summer Bank Holiday
weekend. No one knows who will triumph next time out but the state of the sport in the junior ranks
looks to be highly competitive, and that surely augurs well for the future.
By Susan Jardine
You can listen to Susan on Radio Tyneside from 9 – 11pm every Friday: www.radiotyneside.co.uk