THE North Eastern Counties Track and Field Championships has received an increase in entries for the two days of competition at Gateshead International Stadium at the weekend.
Nearly 500 athletes will be competing for valued North East medals in the first championship of the year, which can lead to further glory for some on the area and national stage.
Sunderland Harrier Michael Wilson is one such athlete, who defends his junior men’s (under-20s) 800m title. The St Aidan’s student will be gunning for his sixth championship gold medal, since winning his first as an under-13. That clutch of medals also includes one over 1500m as an under-15 and the rest are for the 800m at under-13, under-15, under-17 and the under-20 age group.
The talented middle distance runner, whose career has been blighted by injury, has already opened his season on a winning note. The Seaham athlete, competing in the North East Grand Prix at Monkton last Wednesday over his favoured distance of 800m, won the Jimmy Hedley Memorial Cup in 1.54.6 by defeating Gateshead Harrier Chris Parr (1.56.9).
“I felt really good. I was in control of the race throughout. I didn’t expect a fast time as the conditions were poor. Now I’m looking forward to the championships.’’ said Wilson.
As the season progresses, he will look to improve on his fastest time of 1.53.8 set last year when winning the championship title. Wilson will then seek further honours in the English Schools Championships, where he won the bronze medal as an under-15 in 2010. The Sunderland Harriers’ junior club record stands to Malcolm Hassan with 1.50.7 from 2001.
One event that has seen a massive upturn in entries is the senior men’s 5000m. Only three contested the race last year and an entry of 20 has been received this time. It is not just the numbers that has delighted the organisers, but it is also the quality of the athletes that have entered. It includes the North East 10,000m champion Peter Newton and Durham’s Northern Cross Country champion Dan Garbutt. Sunderland Harriers’ have Craig Isherwood, second in the Pier-to-Pier race on Sunday and Nathan Reed, who has surprisingly chosen this event over the 1500m. He finished third (1.58.0) in the British Milers’ Club 800m B race at Durham on Monday. Crook’s 15-year-old Markim Lonsdale was second in the A race with the UK’s leading under-17 time for the year of 1.53.3.
Sunderland’s medal prospects at the championships include Mark Smith in the under-17 3000m. He is the son of Graham, who still holds the championship 10,000 record from 1985. The other contenders include Sean Mackie in the under-15 800m, Reece Carroll under-15 100m, Molly Gardner under-15 100m, Jack Robinson under-17 400m, Hollie Lancaster under-17 100m and 200m and Natalia Piwonski under-20 discus and javelin.
Houghton Harriers will be relying on the Hardie twins Eva and Lily to deliver medals in the under-13 middle distances. Henry Johnson in the under-13 boys middle distances, multi events athlete Ben Mitchell in the under-17 events and hurdler Rachel Scott in the under-20s.
H Sunderland Strollers have eight women’s teams and five men’s teams entered in tonight’s Wallsend Harriers’ Gordon Smith Memorial Relays (7:30pm) from the Segedunum Museum.
H The Raby Castle 10k (10.00am) is on Sunday.