By Susan Jardine

HOT on the heels of the Combined Events Championships in Manchester the North East played host to the Northern Athletics Championships as the outdoor season took another step towards the Schools Championship finals.

Middlesbrough was the venue on a weekend which heralded the start of the Premiership Football Season and  excitement in the World Cup was increasing – largely thanks to the efforts of the Lionesses. But there was a difference  between these and the Northern Athletics Championships in that there was not a medal winning match.

Held over the weekend the weather conditions could best be described as variable, at worst bonkers. It veered from the sunny and warm to wet and windy. But it was the same for everyone and the test lay in how well those competing managed it.

Getting the event underway was the U17 hammer and it was the North East who held sway as North Shields Poly Kaitlyn Waddell secured the title with a huge 49.89 to take a firm grip of the event, she would win, with her clubmate Georgia Turner taking home the bronze medal. Indeed it was a good start for the Poly as at the other end of the stadium Katy Pang went toe to toe with Victoria Chapman of Border Harriers in the Under 15 high jump. Both cleared 1m50, Chapman at her first attempt and Pang at her third before they moved on to try 1m 53. That neither of them cleared the height meant that this was deciding in countback, and Chapman took the title with Pang securing the silver medal.

Action was also underway on the track with the 300m hurdles for U17s and Blyth’s Senna Gorvett calmly came through her heat to book a place in the final. Come the final and the weather was atrocious as Gorvett battled the wind and the rain and her fellow competitors to lead off the final bend into the final 100m. The hurdles, draining in the best conditions and Gorvett came under pressure from Stockport’s Lucy Salter and as the finishing line approached it was a Jackson-esque dip which saw the Blyth athlete through in 44.00 – 6/100th’s of a second ahead of Salter and with it the gold the medal.

What is it that makes the Northern Championships so special – well there are any number of reasons – one of which is that the competition is so strong. Clubs from the North East, Yorkshire, the North West all compete with titles up for grabs in Under 13s, Under 15s and Under 17s.

While Gorvett prevailed in a tight battle on the track in the field Willson Parnell of Preston Harriers enjoyed a rather more comfortable victory in the Under 17 javelin with a throw of 43.67 some seven metres clear of Otto Kearns of the City of York. Kearns also medalled in the Under 15 hammer with a throw of 32.35 when he took the bronze behind Alfie Dodds. It must surely augur well for the future to see athletes multi-medalling across the board – and while Great Britain have a great history in the javelin the hammer is an event where British athletes have found medals hard to come by over the years. For Kearns in the boys events read Skye Marshall of Gateshead Harriers in the girls. Skye placed fourth in the triple jump then dashed to the javelin which she won with a throw of 31.81. But that was not the end of the competition for her as she returned on Sunday to take bronze in the discus and just missed out on a medal in the shot putt.

As happens so often those who compete in the decathlon and the heptathlon usually come face to face with each other in the individual events and Middlesbrough was no exception as Leeds City’s Eve Drury and Blyth’s Sadie Parker competed against each other in the long jump. Drury took an early grip of the competition with a leap of 5m35 with Parker replying with a 5m 33 in the penultimate round. Drury though had the answer with a 5m38 to extend her advantage and run out the winner of the event with Parker taking the silver. Drury would go on to take the bronze in the high jump behind Middlesbrough Mandale’s Emma Sedgewick. There was another gold medal for Middlesbrough when Eden Creasey held off a challenge from Katie Battle of Rotherham in the 800m with Blyth’s Lauren Creaby picking up the bronze medal.

What about those events that British athletics have so many fond memories of ? The 1500 is an event that those of us who have watched the sport year in year out and will have memories of the likes of Ovett, Coe and Cram who knew a thing or two about how to win it. Ben Stratton of Blackburn Harriers dominated the event, winning in a time of 4.12.92 from Liam Johnston of St Helens Sutton and his Blackburn clubmate Oliver Gill. Similarly the 400m, an event that gave us Roger Black, Iwan Thomas in the eighties and the nineties saw Rotherham’s Henry Parker take the title in 50.48 with Liverpool’s James Davis following him over the line in 51.12. Parker would also take the bronze in the 200m behind his Blackburn clubmate Charles Unsworth who powered over the line in a time of 21.82, Unsworth then completed the sprint double by winning the 100m in 10.94.

In truth there were so many stand out performances but if I am going to mention Charles Unsworth’s sprint double it would be wrong of me not to highlight Sunderland’s Celine Obinina Alo who motored home in the 100m and then completed the double in the 200m. Celine, in complete control of both events and she too looks to have a bright future in the sport. Contrast the shortest distances on the schedule with the longest over the weekend in the 3000. But still the performance in victory of Houghton Harriers Charlotte Dillon no less dominant, winning in a time of 9minutes 53.02.

Two athletes who had been in impressive form last weekend in Manchester in the decathlon lined up against each other in the U17 sprint hurdles. Corey Beachall of Liverpool Harriers, the gold medalist took on silver medalist Luke Pichler. Important too to emphasise that they were not the only contenders in the hurdles as Lewis Shaw from Warrington lined up on the starting line and it was the battle we all hoped for. There was no quarter asked and certainly none was given as Beachall proved the stronger of the three taking victory from Shaw and then Pichler. Pichler also competed in the long jump and after leading into the fifth round with 6.01 found himself in second place as North Shields Poly Rhys Brunton nailed a leap of 6.13. Pichler was left with one attempt to wrench the gold back and he took it by jumping 6.19. Brunton unable to respond with his final jump of the competition.

So as the curtain fell on Middlesbrough attention now switches to Birmingham on August Bank Holiday weekend before the English School’s championship takes place in Bedford in September as the outdoor season heads to its conclusion.

Susan Jardine is a presenter of Sportszone which is on Nova Radio North East which is available by way of www.novaradio.co.uk