WITH the outdoor track and field season open competitions starting in earnest during April, indoor Sportshall athletics is a fading memory.
However, after a hugely successful winter season for Stratford AC, four U13 girls and six U15 boys from the club were selected to compete for Warwickshire in the National Sportshall Athletic Finals at Sportcity in Manchester.
The teams were representing the West Midlands against nine other regional teams from across the UK.
The Sportshall UK Finals is a big event and is the culmination of more than 5,000 athletes taking part in various regional matches across the UK.
With all the razzmatazz that goes with the finals at such an impressive venue and with the Warwickshire team competing against the top regional teams in the United Kingdom, there were a few nerves but also a lot of excitement.
The Warwickshire team qualified for the finals in the regional competition and the U15 squad included Stratford’s Matt Ross, Rhys Mahon, Owain Jones, Alex Evans, Cole Williams and Leamington’s Drew Sinnott who all lifted their performance levels and performed well against what looked at times like ‘giant’ opposition.
The U15s compete in an ‘All-rounder’ competition in three different events and in particular the two-lap (140m) and four-lap (280m) races are hotly contested.
The best Warwickshire performance of the match came from Alex Evans whose busy, quick feet are very well suited to Sportshall and he finished the time trials with a silver medal, just a tenth of a second off the gold medal.
Final positions: Drew Sinnott 6th; Alex Evans 10th; Owain Jones 33rd; Cole Williams 37th; Matt Ross 54th; Rhys Mahon 61st.
The important thing in this event is every point scored makes a valuable contribution and the team’s collective efforts confounded pre-event predictions as the boys finished in a very good sixth place.
After the drama of the first day, the U13s took to the track on the Sunday and they too found the going tough against some very well drilled teams.
Stratford’s Millie Leighton, Evie Lowe, Tanya Mukumbira and Faith Tooze joined eight other girls from across Warwickshire to make up the county team representing the West Midlands and they finished a creditable seventh in the team competition.
The best Warwickshire performance came from Stratford’s Millie Leighton who had a good tussle in the standing triple jump with opponents from Sussex and Surrey.
The lead changed throughout the competition and, despite a consistent first two jumps, it was a massive effort in Millie’s third jump of 7.21m which secured her the gold medal.
Evie Lowe was a part of the tricky obstacle relay and she came away with a bronze medal.
Joint team manager Carolyne Johnston was full of praise for the Stratford contingent of the Warwickshire teams.
She said: “Stratford athletes have had a superb season in the Warwickshire League and the regional events this winter, but this was a real test of the youngsters to step up to this level and perform in a National event.
“All of them did exceptionally well and we’re very proud of them.”
ENGLAND Athletics and Commonwealth Games England recently announced the criteria for selection for the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas.
Selection for the Commonwealth Youth Games is open to athletes 16 to 17 years of age who are eligible to compete for England, who have shortlisted a number of eligible athletes to try and meet the stringent qualifying standards.
Among the athletes on the shortlist are Stratford AC’s super-talented hurdlers Jack Sumners and Ollie Cresswell who are currently ranked one and two respectively in the U17 rankings.
Scott Grace, team leader for athletics for the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games, said: “For many young athletes the Commonwealth Youth Games provide a first international experience and hopefully the first stepping stone towards senior success.”
After a gruelling week training in the sand dunes in Devon, it was not the best preparation to compete in the first opportunity to try to run a qualifying time.
However, as the competition is over the U17 hurdle height but run over 110m instead of their normal 100m, it was important to put down a marker before the two main qualifying events in May and June of meeting or exceeding the qualifying standard of 13.90s.
The first opportunity came in the Lee Valley Open in London and the weather conditions could not have been more variable and in turn unfavorable for the sprinters, with regular wind gusts well over the +2metres per second legal wind standard blowing the athletes all over the track.
The timing of the races, just a mere 25 minutes apart, did not help the athletes either and in the first race the wind was gusting at a ridiculous +7mps. Jack ran 13.64s and Ollie 14.07s.
The second race, with the athletes almost still catching their breath, was run with a tail wind of +2.1mps, with Jack running 13.88s, which is under the standard but frustratingly the wind was adjudged to be just over the limit.
Ollie struggled a little more with the wind and the rhythm required for the longer race and bigger spacing between the hurdles, running 15.5s, but both can be pleased with having put down a good marker for the forthcoming qualifying races.
THERE were some encouraging performances at the Birchfield Harriers Young Athletes Open from a number of Stratford AC juniors.
Mutli-talented thrower Lewis Byng was in top form, earning a gold medal in the shot put with a throw of 13.67m. This was slightly off his best as Lewis tries to reach the National Standard for his age group in this event of 14.20m, but still a good 4m clear of second place.
He went on to earn a silver medal in the U17 boys’ javelin competition with a throw of 43.28m and managed a PB of 30.18m in the hammer event, finishing in a respectable fourth place.
Charlotte Gravelsons almost caught the second placed athlete by finishing strongly in the 300m and was content with a bronze medal in a time of 46.6s, just short of her PB in the U15 girls’ age group.
Charlotte then went on to finish in second place in the shot put with a PB of 7.02m, having run a controlled 16.8s in the 75m hurdles earlier in the day.
Harry Gravelsons was not at his best as he struggled to contain a cold and found it difficult to keep his form in the U15 boys’ 800m race, finishing in a time of 3:06.8, some way off his best.
Harry went on to get close to his PB in the 100m with 16.1s, but saved his best for the high jump in which he was unfortunate to miss out on equalling his PB of 1.30m, but 1.25m proved enough for first place and a gold medal in the U15 boys’ age group.
Ellie Bryan ran a well controlled 800m, looking stronger on the second lap and winning her heat in a time of 2:39.85, a new PB. Turning her attention to the high jump, Ellie was a little disappointed to just knock the bar over at 1.40m, having to settle for 1.35m.
Grace Fairweather had a quick turnaround from a trip abroad to compete at the open and in the circumstances again showed some consistent performances with 13.56s in the 100m and 4.40m in the long jump.
It was good to see Adam Pomeroy competing for the first time this season and he finished fourth in his heat and came away pleased with a PB of 2.25.91.
Another athlete making her season’s debut was U13 Emily Cresswell with PBs in the 150m of 22.91s and 3.52m in the long jump.