THE ENGLAND Athletics Under 15 and 17 Championships held at the Bedford International Stadium are effectively the UK championships with the best young athletes from across the country 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 four young Stratford athletes showed their quality by initially meeting the stringent qualifying standards and then producing performances to make themselves and their club very proud.
With thundery showers always a threat, Bedford had the incredible luck to miss the rain that pummelled the surrounding areas over the weekend, but the strong swirling headwind on the first day hampered the 100m runners in particular.
U17 Dan Boyd finished fifth in his heat in a blanket finish and just outside qualifying for the semi-final. As with all the other athletes, this was in a slower than expected time of 11.95secs, which considering the tricky conditions he can be pleased with.
Oliver Cresswell had his pre-competition training interrupted and the rustiness showed in the U17 high jump as from the outset he could not find his rhythm.
His opening height of 1.76m was his best jump in a competition won by GB junior international Joel Khan from Worcester AC with 2.10m, just a fraction outside the championship-best performance.
Day two saw Jack Sumners lining up in the U17 long jump and, despite two marginal no jumps in the first three qualifying rounds, he still managed to produce a competitive jump of 6.36m to take him into the final.
He did not improve on his qualifying jump and finished eighth in a thrilling competition which saw the gold medal position change several times right up to the final jump of the competition.
With the sun shining and in her first EA Championships, 14-year-old Jodie Watson produced the best performance of the Stratford athletes in the U15 high jump.
She is still coming back to full fitness after a serious debilitating hamstring injury earlier in the year but, in a mature show of controlled high jumping, she had a day when everything came together and produced an outstanding series of jumps to win the bronze medal, only missing the silver on countback.
Watson started cautiously with an opening height of 1.42m, which as it turned out enabled her to get into her rhythm very early.
She went through the subsequent heights smoothly and serenely until she got to 1.61m which was 4cm over her personal best and, with her confidence high, she went over 1.65m to extend her PB by a massive 8cm.
In a competition dominated by nigh on 6ft jumpers, petite Watson showed size does not always matter.
Sumners and Cresswell lined up for their respective heats of the U17 hurdles and both ran well to reach the final.
The final was a who’s who of the best U17 hurdlers in the country and the two yellow Stratford vests stood out on the start line.
In what was the final event of the day, all the athletes got to the first hurdle in a line but then Tre Thomas of Charnwood and Mayowa Osunsami from Newham & Essex Beagles AC took control of the race as they battled it out for the gold medal.
Disappointingly for Creswell he hit the ffith hurdle which completely destroyed his normal smooth rhythm, but Sumners ran a superb race only to be pipped on the line for the bronze medal by just 7/100ths of a second after an acrobatic dive for the line by Alistair Calmers of Guernsey.
Osunsami won the gold in a time of 12.7, the third fastest ever by a UK under 17 hurdler.