LEWIS BYNG and Jack Sumners provided the biggest cheer for the Stratford Athletic Club contingent and supporters by winning three medals between them at the England Athletics Under 15 and 17 Championships.
The event, held at the Bedford International Stadium, is effectively the UK Championships with the best young athletes from right across the UK competing.
Meeting the qualifying standards to be able to compete at this level is a test in itself but to actually compete on a national stage is a step up to another level and seven young Stratford athletes showed their quality by meeting the stringent qualifying standards.
For once this year, the weather at Bedford was glorious and on day one Byng won under 17 shot put bronze in impressive fashion.
The clear winner was the outstanding West Cheshire AC athlete George Hyde with a massive last round throw of 17.42m but the other medal places were up for grabs throughout the competition.
Byng started cautiously to make sure he qualified for the final three throws and then he let rip with three 15m throws.
In the last round the medal places swapped between Byng and two other athletes and, with 15.25m, Byng snatched the bronze by a single centimetre.
Beth Cate was running in the U15 100m and this is a very high calibre event with previous competitors going on to represent GB.
She ran close to her personal best in her heat but then had the disappointment of not qualifying for the semi-final after the officials managed to split Cate’s and another athlete’s time by an incredible 1,000th of a second.
Imogen Sheppard ran in the U17 300m and produced her best run of the year of 41.58secs in her heat, a PB, and finished 12th overall.
On day two Cate was again in action in her favoured 200m but, along with the weather, the running was very hot and she finished outside of the qualifying places for the final in 26.97secs.
Tazmin Chape was competing in her first major championships and narrowly failed to qualify for the U17 javelin final as she finished in a creditable 13th place with 34.65m, just below her best.
Sumners again gave the Stratford contingent a lot to cheer about as he started his two-pronged quest for medals with a superb silver in the U17 long jump.
Although his series of jumps, like all the athletes, were inconsistent, he pulled out a massive jump of 6.87m to temporarily hold the gold medal spot until Callum Orange of Leeds City AC produced a wind assisted-PB to win by two centimetres.
Sumners, Oliver Cresswell and Zephan Boxall lined up for their respective heats of the U17 hurdles and, after a poor start, Boxall then found it difficult to regain his rhythm and did not make the final.
However, Sumners and Cresswell both ran within themselves to win their heats comfortably.
The final was given top billing as the final track event and the athletes did not disappoint the crowd. The two yellow Stratford vests stood out in the centre of the start line flanking Commonwealth champion Sam Bennett of Basildon AC – three of the top hurdlers in the UK.
The ‘big three’ all got to the first hurdle in a line but Bennett then took control of the race, edging his way in front to win the gold medal in a big PB.
Disappointingly for Cresswell, he did not really get into his normal smooth rhythm and finished sixth after clattering the last hurdle, but Sumners ran a typical gritty, technically excellent race to become a double silver medallist in the national championships.