HUNDREDS of schoolchildren pulled on their sports gear to take part in the finals of an Olympic-inspired athletics tournament.

The 400 youngsters who qualified for the final heat of the Sedgefield Dash! descended on Hardwick Park where they went head to head in track and field events plus throwing and jumping contests yesterday.

A record of more than 1,900 children have this year participated in the Sedgefield series, part of a wider initiative designed to encourage young people to take part in sport by promoting physical activity as a positive life choice.

Mark Blackbourne, Dash! event director, said: “We’re delighted with how many young people have participated in the Dash! events this year.

“It’s been great to see the schools and pupils get so engaged in sport through the initiative.”

Described as a school sports day like no other, the first Dash! was launched in Durham in 2012 in response to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Last year the Sedgefield Dash! was added and across both events 3,750 children from 43 schools ran, jumped and threw in 48 heats and eight finals in Durham and Sedgefield.

And this year almost 4,4000 boys and girls have participated in the Dash! events, with a record number of 1,194 from 48 schools qualifying for the finals this week.

Yesterday afternoon saw proceedings kick off with an opening ceremony complete with a flag-raising followed by age-group final heats.

There was also a mascot race while parents were invited to get involved in the running.

A presentation ceremony was then held to bring the competition to a close.

Organisers were delighted by a bumper number of competitors and spectators and gave their thanks to the Hardwick Hall Hotel for hosting the event.

William Hampson, aged ten, who represented Sedgefield Primary School on finals day, said: “The Dash! is a really good thing and gives kids a chance to have a go at competing in a big sports event and get more active.

"I have really enjoyed competing and the venue is great.”

Cllr David Brown, Mayor of Sedgefield, presented medals to the winners.

He said: “It’s excellent to see so many young people from the local community getting involved in the Sedgefield Dash! and it’s a nice change to witness a complete absence of mobile phones and other electronic devices.

"This is a fantastic venue and the event organisers and supporters have done an excellent job of encouraging so many children to be more active.”

The finals of the Durham Dash!, described as their biggest yet, will take place on the Palace Green, in Durham City, today when an estimated 800 school pupils from Durham and Chester-le-Street will compete.

Dash! events are delivered by Durham & Chester-le-Street School Sport Partnership and Sedgefield School Sports Partnership.