League maintains progress

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THE North East Athletics League continues to grow – despite two of this year’s six fixtures being interrupted by torrential rain.

A total of 1,428 competitors turned out at Gateshead and Monkton over the season – over 100 up on 2009 and 16 more than last year.

League secretary Chris Betts said: “We pushed the numbers up by putting the final meeting back one week until the middle of August.

“There’s not a lot of competition at this time of the year, and despite the appalling weather with the meeting being stopped for 30 minutes due to a downpour, attendance was good.

“We also had a visit by a party of students from Grey School, Bloemfontein, South Africa, who were staying in Gateshead on their way from Stratford to Edinburgh as part of an Olympics-led tour of the UK.

“It gave an international flavour to the final meeting.’’

Betts is now busy organising the Start Fitness league awards presentation evening in the lounge at Gateshead Stadium on Monday, September 10 at 7.15pm.

He added: “The first six finishes in the grand prix in each of the age groups will receive awards, as well as athletes of the match winners.

“These will be presented by Mike McLeod, Olympic silver medallist in the 10,000m at Los Angeles and also the person who won the Saltwell Road races 14 times in a row – he was not called the Elswick express for nothing!’’

Sunderland athletes will be among the prize-winners with Sunderland Harriers’ under-15s Holly Lancaster and Logan Powell receiving athletes of the match awards for their respective winning performances in the 200m (26.2) and 100m (12.24) in the May and June league meetings.

Powell will also pick up a grand prix trophy for third place.

Charmaine Porter, who during the course of the season has dropped down from the middle distances to the 400m, won the junior women’s grand prix with 60 points.

The 17-year-old Jarrow and Hebburn athlete has a best for the one lap event of 58.83. Sunderland Harrier sprinter Sam McKenzie finished fourth on 20 points.

Houghton Harriers’ all-rounder Laura Fenwick, runner-up in the 300m hurdles (49.6) in the County Schools’ Championships, won the under-17 title and fellow Houghton athletes, Owen Barras was second under-17 man. Lewis Thompson was fifth.

Ben Mitchell was runner-up in the under-15s. Birtley’s Sophie Burnett was third under-15 girl.

The senior men’s grand prix was won by South Shields all-rounder Phil McCluskey on 58 points, with Sunderland Harriers’ middle distance runner Kevin Calvert fourth on 22.

H Low Fell Running Club host their 5k trail race tomorrow night (7.10pm) at Watergate Park. The event also hosts the North East Veterans’ Championships. Young athletes race over 2k at 6.40. Changing is in Ravensdene Hotel at Lobley Hill.