After the whole of the 2020 North Eastern Grand Prix programme had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, it was a welcome occasion for organisers and athletes as competitive action returned to the Track at Monkton Stadium, Jarrow, on Wednesday 28 April.
The opening fixture of the 2021 series of events was held under current Covid regulations, which were required to be observed by competitors and officials alike. The regulations meant that a holding area was required for all events, and the numbers allowed in each event needed to conform to restrictions.
Nevertheless, the complete meeting took two hours forty minutes, and the evening was well subscribed, with all athletes at long last, very much welcoming a return to competitive action.
Events on the track were 75m, 150m, 300m and 1500m, with Field Events, comprising of Long Jump, Shot Putt and Javelin, having to be held over two pools of competitors, such was the demand for participation.
Amongst the athletes in action, were 16 from the ranks of Morpeth Harriers, of which 12 produced personal best performances, and three managed event wins.
Two of those wins came in the 1500m, where both Joseph Close and Connor Marshall produced excellent personal best performances.
In an event that also featured his Morpeth Harriers colleague Oliver Tomlinson, Close clocked 4m48.65s, to win by almost three seconds from Sunderland Harrier Jak Jarvis, with Tomlinson coming home in third place in a new personal best time of 4m52.08s.
Meanwhile, Marshall, in his 1500m, made the most of sitting behind his Morpeth colleague William De Vere Owen, throughout most of the three- and three-quarter laps, to make his deciding move at the bell, 400m remaining, to literally put the boot in and head for home.
As De Vere Owen led the chase, with company of Blaydon’s Will Collinson and Gosforth’s Reece Slater, Marshall continued his relentless pursuit for victory, and managed to hold on to win in a personal best time of 4m18.12s, taking almost a second off his previous figures.
Collinson managed to take second place, just ahead of third placed Slater, with De Vere Owen getting fourth in 4m18.98s, only a mere fraction of a second dividing all three minor places.
Under 17 athlete Ralph Robson led his heat of the 1500m for all of two laps, before finishing an eventual fourth in 4m34.4s.
Morpeth's third event victory of the night came from Under 17 sprinter Evan Logan, who was the third fastest in his age group in the 150m and was tenth fastest overall with his clocking of 17.47s.
Behind him in fourth place was fellow Morpeth Harrier Jessica Young-Rogers, now
competing as a Senior Woman. Young-Rogers produced new figures for 150m of 18.72s.
Back with the 1500m, and Ryan Davies took a whole nine seconds off his previous figures, when placing ninth in his heat, in an excellent 4m18.88s for the Under 17 youngster.
In the fastest 1500m heat, Kieran Hedley finished sixth in 4m00.76s, with fellow Morpeth Harrier Alistair Douglass three places behind him in 4m08.68s.
Morpeth Under 20 Woman Kate Gaffing produced an excellent personal best performance of 5m20.58s, when finishing third in her 1500m, two places ahead of fellow club colleague Kate Kennedy, who clocked 5m26.91s.
For Gaffing, the improvement was a whole twenty seconds, and for Kennedy, it represented
an improvement by three seconds. Caitlin Flanagan finished sixth in her 1500m heat, clocking 5m14.48s, which was a new personal best by three seconds.
Oliver Tomlinson’s younger sister Emma, who is an Under 13 athlete, finished ninth in her first outing over the 1500m distance, producing a time of 5m59.38s, finishing one place ahead of Morpeth Harriers Over 60 Veteran Andrew Dippie, who clocked 6m00.42s.
Morpeth's other athlete in action was Abbie Ross, who was fifth in her pool of the Long Jump, and was second Female, producing a best effort of 4.68m.
Organisers hope that the second meeting of the North East Grand Prix will go ahead as planned on Wednesday 19 May, again at Monkton Stadium, when athletes will compete over 800m for the Jimmy Hedley Cup, presented annually in honour of the legendary Jarrow and Hebburn coach, who was responsible for the early career successes of Internationals Steve Cram and David Sharpe.