Hartlepool schoolgirl takes 1,500m title at North East athletics tournament

Emma McNeil, middle, following her win with runner-up Zoe Hill of Middlesbrough AC and Freya Gibson, left, third place of Durham City Harriers.
Emma McNeil, middle, following her win with runner-up Zoe Hill of Middlesbrough AC and Freya Gibson, left, third place of Durham City Harriers.

A town schoolgirl has her sights set on a career on the track after storming to victory in a top athletics tournament.

English Martyrs pupil Emma McNeil won the 1,500m for her age group at North Eastern Counties Athletics Association meet at the weekend, competing against other girls from all over the region.

Emma McNeil's medal for winning the North Eastern Counties Athletic Association 1,500m race.

Emma McNeil's medal for winning the North Eastern Counties Athletic Association 1,500m race.

The competition saw Emma, 12, and 14 others battle it out in the final at Middlesbrough Sports Village.

It was a close run thing but Emma, from Bishop Cuthbert, just pipped her Middlesbrough and Mandale Athletic Club team-mate Zoe Hill to first place, missing out on the club record by half a second.

Emma’s proud dad Lee, 45, said: “She did really well considering she’s been injured recently.

“On the bell she went to the front of the field and nobody overtook her so it was a great performance.

“Emma’s been racing for a year now and she was with Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers for a few months.

“But that folded so she had to go further away and now she’s with Middlesbrough and Mandale Athletics Club.

“There’s been some really good young athletes come through there and the facilities are brilliant too even though she’s got to travel there.”

Lee, who also has son Ben, 15, with Emma’s mum Kay, 41, spoke of his pride at seeing his daughter taste victory in such a prestigious event.

“It was very emotional,” said Lee.

“She’s come close to winning a few times in other big races but with her recent injuries we didn’t expect her to do so well.

“She’s a really competitive person and does a lot of sport at school as well as park running and social running.

“She doesn’t enjoy the cross country running as much when it’s wet and cold though!”

Emma will be soon be competing in the Youth Development League in Liverpool later this month.

“That’s the next big thing she’ll be at before the Northerns at the end of the year.

“She’ll be competing in the 800m at that one.”

Lee also passed on the family’s thanks to Emma’s coaches David Howells and Mark Toole for their help and guidance.