THE BRITISH Triathlon Under 20s Festival is the national championships for junior triathlon with only the best selected to compete for each region.
Also known as the IRCs (Inter-Regional Championships), it is the pinnacle of the season for triathletes aged 11 to 19 and Stratford Triathlon Club juniors Jake and Ellie Deaner and Molly Bullock were in action having qualified in July at Eton Dorney to represent the West Midlands at the annual event.
Abbie Wootton also raced at the IRCs as part of the Youth Super Series (14 to 16 years).
Held on an overcast and blustery weekend, the individual races took place on the Saturday and the mixed team relays were on the Sunday.
Wootton was the first to race at the prestigious Mallory Park circuit in Leicestershire. Due to the cold temperature of the lake, wetsuits were compulsory for all competitors and Wootton completed the 400m swim, 10km bike and 2.5km run in a cracking time of 39:07 – a commendable 51st place in a high-calibre field.
Jake was the only other Stratford Triathlon Club junior to qualify for the individual races on the Saturday. In the Tristar 2 category (11-12 years), he ably completed the 200m swim, 5.9km bike and 1.25km run in 22:56 to finish 35th – a great result in his junior year in this category.
For the first time ever, the Stratford team returned on Sunday to contest the mixed team relay. Each region fielded four teams (A to D) consisting of four triathletes from various clubs across their region.
The distances were considerably reduced for the relays with each team member completing their own ‘mini’ triathlon before tagging the next member of their team to set off into the lake. The atmosphere of friendly competition was great fun yet intense and highly-charged.
For Wootton, the ‘sprint’ distances for the youth relay were 150m swim, 2.7km bike and a 1.25km run and she completed the course in 25:03, helping to secure her team 28th place out of 34.
Younger Stratford squad members Ellie, Bullock and Jake had to complete a 150m swim, 2.7km bike and a 1.25km run for their relay.
Both Ellie and Bullock were in the D team for the West Midlands and, perhaps because they had not raced the day before, both girls had storming races. Bullock’s swim was particularly strong, putting the team in a good mid-table position after her race.
With slick transitions and sheer grit, Ellie managed to close the distance between their D team and the West Midlands C team who raced neck-and-neck on the bike leg. Bullock completed her triathlon in 15:56 (with a water start) and Ellie in 15:41 (with a land start) and their team placed 40th overall.
Simultaneously to Ellie and Bullock, Jake was in the West Midlands B relay team and he completed the same course in 16:54, losing nearly a minute in transition when he could not find his bike. His team placed 48th overall.
Stratford TC head coach Richard Cox said: “The West Midlands team did Stratford proud at Mallory Park. Just being on the squad is a huge achievement.
“In an arena of such high calibre young athletes, valuable lessons were learned. It was an inspirational weekend for the Stratford youngsters.”