THE START of the indoor track and field season is an exciting time for getting back into competition after four months of hard winter training – most of the time in freezing and drab conditions – and seven Stratford Athletic Club juniors took the opportunity to blow the cobwebs off at the first Midland Counties Open at the High Performance Centre in Birmingham.
The benchmark at this time of year is for athletes to perform as close to or improve their existing personal bests and all of them did that which, for so early in the season, is an achievement in itself.
Jack Sumners has started his season where he left off last year by recording PBs of 8.20secs in the U17 60m hurdles and then in the long jump with 6.59m, which propelled him into second spot in the national rankings.
Considering all the jumpers have had to contend with ice and frost which has often made the pit virtually unusable during training – which has limited the technical work required – that is a remarkable result.
Jack’s training partner and close rival Ollie Cresswell had his normal tussle with Jack in the hurdles.
As they are so evenly matched, they were in complete synchronisation until the last hurdle when Ollie stumbled but still ran 8.26secs, which was only a fraction outside his PB but still good enough to take him to fifth place in the national rankings.
In the high jump Ollie started at 1.72m and cleared every height at the first attempt until 1.92m when he had three failures but, in clearing 1.89m, he was only 1cm outside his PB.
U17 Archie Hurley is relatively new to high jump and he had a promising start to the season with a final jump of 1.55m, again just below his PB.
Georgia Clarke is new to the club and showed the results from her winter training and improved hurdling technique by recording a PB (9.28secs) in the U17 60m hurdles.
In addition, she was just a whisker outside her flat 60m time with 8.30secs.
Zephan Boxall has moved up to the U17s this year and, after a year coping with and finally overcoming a serious injury, he took the opportunity to show his undoubted talent.
He ran 8.75secs in his first race and 8.65secs in his second race, both within the qualifying time for the National Championships in February.
U15 multi-eventer Maddie Clark is another athlete who has recently overcome a long period of relative inactivity and rehab with a knee injury but she made up for lost time by competing in four events (60m – 8.73secs, PB; high jump – 1.35m; shot put – 8.10m; long jump – 3.87m).
Just to be competing was a triumph for her grit and determination to get back on the track but to do so well was a big bonus and a boost to her confidence.
U15 Grace Fairweather is another of the training squad who has worked very hard during the winter and her reward was a PB in the 60m of 8.57secs and a long jump best of 4.40m.
FOLLOWING his impressive start to the season in Birmingham, Jack Sumners travelled to the London U13, U15, U17 Games at Lee Valley and again showed his class.
Despite one of his main rivals clattering the last hurdle, which sent it flying into Jack’s lane, he vaulted over it and still finished in 8.23secs.
After a hesitant start in his next race he was playing catch-up but, after a surge at the finish, he again broke his PB with a time of 8.17secs which lifted him to third in the national rankings.
Report compiled by Paul Bearman.