Record broken, but a lack of athletes

Michael Wilson with Ken Jefferson
Michael Wilson with Ken Jefferson
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There were nine championship records set in last weekend’s North Eastern Counties track and field championships at Gateshead.

But the counties records mask a worrying trend in the number of senior middle distance runners that boycott the championship in favour of paced races in the British Milers Club events and road races.

The North East senior men’s 800m championship saw only five athletes contest the title.

The North East has an abundance of talent over the long and middle distances as is shown with their domination of the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships. But when it comes to counties championship track racing, few are there to be seen.

The North East senior men’s 800m championship saw only five athletes contest the title, the senior 1500m was a straight final and in the 5000m eight athletes competed in the race won in only 15.17.00. The women’s middle distances were also poorly attended with only three in the 1500m.

All-time great and double Olympic gold medallst Seb Coe, a regular competitor in the Yorkshire Championship during his glory years, appeals regularly to middle distance athletes to turn out in their county championships. But in the North East it appears to fall on deaf ears.

Maybe an education programme to inform athletes about how important counties track and field competition is for aspiring athletes, could be used to encourage participation.

Included in the fall of records was the under-17 men’s 800m record set by Sunderland Harrier Malcolm Hassan in 1999 when he recorded 1.56.20. But he still holds the championship record for the under-20s 800m of 1.52.82 from 2001.

Last year, fellow Sunderland Harrier Michael Wilson came within one hundredth of a second of the record when winning his sixth title over the distance. 
He won the title again on Sunday and Ken Jefferson, the Harriers’ coach to both athletes, was there to see him win again.

The new counties records are: Track: Under-13 boys’ 1500m Henry Johnson (Houghton) 4:42.60, under-13 boys’ 75m hurdles - Lewis Cant (Blaydon) 12.74, under-13 boys’ 200m Lewis Cant (Blaydon) 23.36, under-17 men’s 800m Markhim Lonsdale (Crook) 1:55.72

Field: Under-15 girls’ javelin - Bobbie Griffiths (Morpeth) 33.86m, under-20 men’s pole vault - Charlie Myers (Middlesbrough Mandale) 5.00m, senior women’s pole vault - Sally Scott (Loughborough) 3.85m, under-15 boys’ discus - Ruaridh Lang (Morpeth) 39.83m, under-17 women’s triple jump - Emily Gargan 11.98m.