TWO days in Middlesbrough and titles were once again up for grabs as the North’s Under 20 and Senior athletes took centre stage as they fought it out in the Northern Athletics Seniors and Under 20s Championships

Determined however to upstage all of those who took to the track and the field was that fickle friend called Mother Nature who threw everything that could be thrown in terms of weather conditions, namely sunshine, a gusty wind. And chilly at times. If you were competing on Saturday, then they had the better of the conditions – certainly those jumping or throwing when they had a tailwind to work with – if however, you were on the track and coming into the finishing straight then not only were they taking on their rivals but a headwind. Sunday was a repeat performance. Mercifully the rain stayed away but the wind only relented halfway through the afternoon.

Not that the inclement weather was going to put off Katie Gardner as she took on the elements in the 2000m Steeplechase. The Derby athlete was in dominant mood and went straight to the front of the pack, controlling the pace of the race. She was never in any danger of being beaten and motored to a time of 6.59.23, setting a new PB in the process.

But if Katie’s win came in arguably the best conditions of the day, then Senna Gorvett of Blyth Running Club endured the worst. Competing in the 400m U20 hurdles Gorvett was stepping up for the day from U17 to U20 Gorvett was always in contention with a tail wind down the back straight, but she also had Sonya Chechik alongside her. The City of York athlete passed her coining into the third 100m but down the finishing strait Chechik clipped the final hurdle and it was enough to turn the momentum. Gorvett pounced and sprinted for the line as Sonya faltered with the Blyth athlete getting home in a time of 1;04;31

There was drama wherever you looked and saving his best till last too was Robert Shipley. Shipley, from City of York lined up in the final alongside Harry Ross-Hughes in the Senior 800m. Ross-Hughes and Shipley went toe to toe in the final lap of the race and Shipley , who is known to have a strong finish down the final 100m just had enough to push ahead of the Wirral athlete and snatch the title on the line by 5/100th‘s of a second with Gateshead’s Ben Schofield taking the bronze.

And speaking of the North Eastern powerhouse which is Gateshead Harriers they had a cracking weekend, Cameron Marshall (elder brother of Skye) winning the U20 javelin with a second round throw of 42.45 metres but his clubmate Millie Wilkinson had a busy 24 hours as she began in Jarrow by winning the 100 m Durham schools title. Then a quick sprint down the A19 to Middlesbrough saw her take to the track on the U20 100m. She had formidable competition in Mabel Akande from Lincoln Wellington who steamed through the race to a time of 11.75.Second went to Mehitabelle Angelo of Leeds City with Wilkinson taking the bronze in a time of 12.51

While Wilkinson had a busy day – imagine the schedule that Blackpool Wyre & Fylde’s Nia Rutter was facing. Rutter, who was competing in four events. Rutter started out in the senior high jump where she leapt to 1.55 and secured the title. She then hot footed it to the triple jump when she led at half way stage with a leap of 10.95. However lurking too was Charlotte Earl of Morpeth who nailed a leap of 11.23 in the following round that wrestled the gold from the grasp of Rutter. Rutter would finish with the silver and then head to the print hurdles where she picked up the bronze in a time of 17.67 behind Chelsea Walker from City of York before rounding off her medal haul with a silver medal in the shot putt behind Shaunna Thompson of Sale Harriers. A medal of every colour for Rutter over one day of competition. She will certainly be one to watch at the Combined Events later in the year.

Day one concluded with the senior 100m. Two races that went right to the wire. The men’s was marginally clearer cut as Gateshead’s Jordan Beavers came through in the closing twenty metres to win in a time of 10.92, beating Ryan Mostyn of Liverpool Pembroke & Sefton by 3/100ths of a second. It was close but watching at the finishing line I was at least able to see who had won. Even from my vantage point it was impossible to say for certain who had won the women’s race. Just weeks ago Susan Felorunso dead heated with Charlotte Kelsey at the same venue in the same event.. Kelsey was not competing in this event, but Felorunso had Gateshead clubmate Megan Costello together with Lauren Blakey and Olivia Fowler to worry about. As the race started Felorunso got the better start but was soon being pressed by both Fowler and Blakey, and it was a final push which proved to be decisive as Susan squeezed home by 1/100th of a second in a time of 12.37 beating Lauren Blakey of Derby into second and Olivia Fowler of Crewe & Nantwich taking the bronze. In all 3/100ths of a second split the first three and made the difference between gold and bronze. 

One thing that is special about athletics is watching athletes progress through the age groups and someone who has built up a collection of gold medals in age groups is Kaitlyn Waddell of North Shields Poly. Waddell, competing in the U20 hammer nailed a PB of 51.44 to take the gold in a field of three where all set personal bests. Kiri Shaw of City of York finished second with a new PB of 41.45 while Kaitlyn’s North Shields Poly team mate Georgia Turner picked up the bronze with 38.06

As so often with the sprint’s positions can be reversed. This was no exception as George Warburton and Charles Unsworth locked horns in the 100 and 200 U20 events. Warburton of Stockport and Unsworth of Blackburn. No sprint double on this occasion but a gold each as Warburton took the shorter event and Unsworth responding on the second day with victory in the 200m 

But there was a double and it came much to the delight of the host club. Middlesbrough’s Charlotte Kelsey left her home track with two gold medals. Kelsey took gold in the senior 400m ahead of Ella Blakey of Derby and then returned on Sunday to compete in the 200m alongside Joy Eze. Kelsey who had dead heated with Eze’s clubmate Susan Felorunso a few weeks ago was too strong in the 200m for Eze, easing hoe in a time of 23.69, the stamina in doing the 400m telling as they reached the finish line, ensuring that the Championships finished on a high note.

With that the two days in Middlesbrough concluded and now the attention switches to the regional finals of the Combined Events in two weeks, as the build-up continues to the age group championships in Derby which is just over six weeks away.

Susan Jardine is the presenter of Sportszone on Nova Radio North East. Listen to the programme every Saturday 2pm-6pm on www.novaradio.co.uk or download the Nova Radio North East app