Under darkened evening skies, North Shields Poly continued their rich run of success at the North East Athletics Masters relays as they collected two gold medals on the night.
The event, now in its third year, was hosted for the second time at Bedeswell Park in Jarrow.
Each leg was on a two-lap course, flat and with some sharp turns and petering out at just over two miles.
The Poly faced teams from across the region in a hotly contested championship.
The architect of the success was again Poly’s talismanic club captain Vaughan Hemy , the quietly spoken, unsung hero of many relays.
The last two years has seen an explosion of interest in relay events taking place across the region.
The Poly has always been strongly represented in relays and often competing at the sharp end, and Bedeswell on Wednesday was no different.
In the ladies’ race in the 35/45 age category, the club was able to field a strong team of Suzanne Thew, Stephanie Dann and Louise Hayes.
Two from the squad had won the masters national relay cross country championships in Nottingham earlier in the year and they were always going to be a handful for the opposition.
After careful tactical guidance from the club captain, Thew took on the first leg. But by half way round lap one she had slipped from the field and was opening up a comfortable gap on Birtley AC.
That was consolidated by triathlete Dann, who set the evening’s fastest female time, allowing Hayes a more relaxed anchor leg.
She crossed with two minutes to spare on the rivals from Birtley.
The club captain had some major dilemmas in the men’s race as he broke down 24 athletes across eight teams.
These included a wide variety of specialists from marathon men such as John Scott, track athletes like the athletics captain Richard Baker, high jumpers in Bruce Robertson as well as the plethora of standard roadrunners.
It was finely balanced when he selected his three for the A team in the 45/55 category. Quite a mixed bag with John Baty, Tommy Brannen and Guy Bracken.
All three were recently back from injury and rather lacking in race fitness and sharpness.
A more cautious and less capable captain would have gone for the safe option, but Hemy is a gambler and rolled the dice.
The first leg was handed to Baty, a well recognised fell runner but rather lacks the finesse and etiquette of a road runner.
His was an inspired choice and was soon in the thick of the action, ably supported by other club favourites in Kevin Capper and Mike Moore.
By the end of his stint he had bludgeoned the A team through to the top five.
The hand over was not so sharp, however, but it finally passed to the evergreen Brannen to maintain momentum on lap two.
It was then down to the ‘Ice Man’, Bracken, to assess the overall situation as he set off in hot pursuit.
He locked his sights on to the four runners ahead and was not to blink again until he had crossed the line in first place.
At the half way point, he was clear in the V45/55 race but a solitary Gateshead Harrier remained at the front of the field some 50 metres away. Accelerating over the final 1k saw him draw level and then open up a 50-metre gap as he coasted over the line to victory; handing the team its second gold medal of the evening – and a fastest time of ten minutes seven seconds.
Other Poly teams performed creditably but did not get among the medals.
Onlookers in the gathering gloom and with the lights coming on, were treated to a copybook sprint finish courtesy of Paul Hughes,as the ageing 400 metre track runner saved a final flourish off the last bend as he left runners in his dust storm wake.
Hughes rarely troubles the scorers these days outside the stadium but always aims to catch the captain’s eye with a finish.
Architects get the credit for the buildings they design (not the builders that follow the orders); in relays it is the reverse as all credits go to the runners in the final results with no mention to the captain. But this was another victory crafted by Hemy.
For any athletes (all disciplines) or runners interested in joining North Shields Poly, get in touch with Ian Woodward.
For triathletes, the Poly also has established a triathlon section in the club, contact Bruce Robertson or Neil Dick. For the Poly fell section contact David Johnson.
The Poly teams will be back at the relays on Wednesday, May 14, at close neighbours, Wallsend.