WARRINGTON shot putter John Nicolls kicked off his 2013 campaign with a fourth-place finish at the North of England Indoor Championships.

His putt of 14.20m placed him fifth in the British rankings this year, but with a whole season ahead of him the Stockton Heath athlete expects a final position of 15th is a more realistic aim for the end of the indoor season.

The championships were a useful preparation for a shot at reclaiming the European Masters title in San Sabastian in March, a title he defended in 2009 and 2011 after having first won it in 2007.

Nicholls, however, believes a putt of at least 15 metres will be needed to retain that title.

* LIZZIE Smith was the star performer for Warrington Athletics Club’s small team of runners at the same championships, which were staged at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

Smith dazzled in the under 17s girls’ 800m, in which she collected an excellent gold medal with 2mins 21.40secs.

She was followed home by teammate Louise Watterson in sixth place with 2mins 30.72secs.

Luke Johnston collected bronze in the under 20s boys’ 1,500m with 4mins 3.37secs.

In the under 15s boys’ long jump, Fisayo Williamson-Taylor finished seventh with a jump of 4.58m.

Mark Pendlebury finished in sixth place in the senior men's shot with a throw of 13.09m.