I usually feel shattered after a double header of athletics, and this weekend was no different. An early morning drive to Exeter on Saturday for the South West schools championships was actually quite relaxing after a stressful week at work, but as I walked into the stadium, I knew that the level of expectation and pressure would be new to some our athletes, and I was not sure how they would handle it. Safe to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Tia Jackson had been complaining of a sore hip flexor, so it was touch and go on whether she would compete at all over the weekend. There was added pressure in that she was competing against her new training partner, Abi Peake, for the first time, who was representing Somerset.
We should not have been worried, as she produced her two best ever performances on the same day with 12.13 (1.6) in the heat and 12.05 (0.1) in the final, delivered after a heavy downpour of rain. Both national standards and a personal best that now ranks her fourth in the country. It was also a good day for Mia Breeze who achieved a personal best of 12.68 in reaching the final. Tia decided not to contest the 200 metres, but the club and county were represented by Khiaaama Kofi who produced a seasons best of 25.89 (2.4).
Damani Jones finally broke the 12 seconds barrier for the Under-15 boys 100 metres with a legal 11.89 in the final (for sixth) and 11.93 in the heat, showing the rewards from all the hard work he has put in. Shin splints stopped him from competing in the 200 metres, but it was a good day for the young lad. Club mate Xander Pena just missed out on the final but should be pleased with his 12.03w. There was another PB for first year Under-15 Girl, Chloe Marrett. A slip in the final could not stop her from dropping below 13 , as she crossed the line in 12.88. The other top sprinter in this age group was Kasavia Smolka Headley, who ended up with a good fifth place with 27.23 in the Under-15 Girl’s 200 metres.
Zakoor Khan and Lilly Bailey both made the finals of the 300 metre junior boy’s and junior girl’s races, finishing fourth and third respectively. Jess Frazier mistimed her assault in the Under-17 ladies 300 metres race, finishing second, but she should have done enough to secure a place in the team for the English schools, as she achieved the standard earlier this season. The club’s representation in the endurance races was good without being prolific. The top of the tree in Exeter were Hugh Sadler and Steve Kerfoot , who both finished second in tactical 1,500 metre races. While Hugh achieved the standard when posting a personal best at a BMC competition last month, Steve must be seeking a fast race before the deadline.
Megan Hornung ran a gutsy 1,500 metres in the Under-15 Girls age group to finish ninth, but will take comfort in the fact that she will get another shot, this next year.
Danni Sinclair ended up sixth in the Under-15 Girls 800 metres and Claudia Spice was fifth in the Under-17 age group. Both girls will be keen to compete at this level again next year.
With the club’s best hurdler, Ed Wilson still injured, Libby Dickens, in her first year of the Under-15 age group, was the sole representative over the sticks. She would have witnessed some excellent hurdling as the best three times in the country were produced at this event, but would have been disappointed about not performing better under the pressure.
The jumpers at the club had a mixed day. Christian Pestell, who long jumps to keep fit between the heavy demands of his football training, leaped to a personal best of 6.23 metres in the Under-17 Men’s competition, to the amazement of his Dad. Lily Bailey and Chloe Marrett were below par in the high jump. Lottie Stein, the club’s only young pole-vaulter came second with 2.54 but this was 21 centimetres less than the standard required for the English schools. The young ladies will be back next year in the same age group, so all is not lost.
Under the guidance of Paul Filer the throwers are going from strength to strength. Josh Schrijver and Jess Lewis all have the relevant English schools standards, while Libby Parker is making big improvements.
It was great to see other throwers like Sophie Hillyeard, Kacey Banks and Thema Osbourne- Hendricks being competitive, even though they are in the first year of their age group.
The next day was the third match of the YDL (lower age group) competition in Hereford, so another early start. There were a number of late drop outs by athletes who had competed in Exeter but the likes of Libby Dickens. Lily Bailey, Jess Lewis, Danni Sinclair, Zakoor Khan, Josh Schrijver, Lottie Stein and Kacey Banks competed on both days and must be applauded.
Personal bests for Lottie, Libby and Kacey would have made it all worth it and there were tears all round when Lily Bailey cleared 1.60 metres in the high jump to make a late claim for the English schools team.
It was business as usual on the points front, even with a big push from a resurgent Newport Harriers team. The match was won by approx 60 points and club has now qualified for the promotional match in Swindon on 21st July 2018. This is likely to be a big grudge match with our local rivals Yate and Team Bath.. I cannot wait !!
Young Athlete Development Adviser