A team of 17 Biggleswade Athletic Club runners, along with a group of dedicated supporters and back-up crew, headed to the east to take part in the annual Round Norfolk Relay last weekend. This was the 14th year for the club taking part in the 17-stage, multi-distance and varied terrain race around the Norfolk border, which covers over 197 miles.
With dozens of teams from around the country, the relay begins on the Saturday morning at Kings Lynn, goes along the Norfolk coast line to Great Yarmouth and then heads inland, all the way back around to Kings Lynn, where the relay finishes on the Sunday morning after several overnight stages. After torrential rain, headwinds and mud last year, competitors were relieved to find kinder conditions to contend with.
BAC’s treasurer Ian Grimwood was left doing maths of a different kind, calculating how early he needed to get up to be fully fuelled and ready for stage one’s 6am start. With wife Juliet taking the final stage, they bookended the race stoically. Ian’s 16.32 mile leg took in sunrise and fine early-morning scenery on the way to Hunstanton, where he handed over to Charlie Arnold.
Charlie’s stage offered a wide variety of underfoot challenges, with sand, mud, grass, tarmac, wooden sleepers and corn fields all playing a part. Yet he battled brilliantly on the 13.75 miles to the hamlet of Burnham Overy Staithe, finishing a superb five minutes quicker than planned. His time was 22nd best of those in attendance, with the 21 ahead of him – and a great many behind him – being substantially younger than his 62 years.
There he handed over to Deb Bryant, whose shorter stage of 5.76 miles was offset by the fact that a huge chunk took place on leg-sapping sand en route to Wells-next-the-Sea. In spite of this her time of 47:13 was extremely strong – 27th best overall – but she was extremely glad to see the stage four changeover, where she handed the baton over to Chris Watson.
Andrew Hedley has run stage four for the last few years and is famed for his love of the llamas visible on the route, but although he was disappointed not to run the stage this time around, he was happy that Chris got to see them. For his part, Chris put in a superb performance on the 11.14 miles to Cley, ending with the eighth-best time overall.
Stage five was Andrew’s llama-free destiny this year, notoriously the most challenging of all the stages, as it starts with a few miles of a shingle beach and then throws in a few monstrous hills towards the end for good measure. In spite of his, he manfully withstood everything the 10.81 miles to Cromer, and still managed a smile at the end.
There he met Gary Baldwin, who took the baton for the 7.9 miles of stage six towards Mundersley. He narrowly missed making it into the top half of the stage standings, but his efforts made up some valuable time for the team.
In Mundersley BAC turned to the substitutes bench, as club chairman, team captain and timekeeper Damien Pitts was called into action for stage seven to Lessingham. With teams having to supply stage time estimates before the race, and prizes handed out for adhering closely to these (and a wooden spoon handed out to the team with the most inaccurate estimate), reserve runners cannot veer too wildly from those already submitted. Happily, this proved an opportunity to make up some time, and Damien controlled his pace to make up over five minutes for the team.
It has been a few years since the team has made it to Horsey Mill in the daylight hours, so everyone was taking the opportunity to take in the views, before cheering on Robin Wynde, who arrived to hand over the baton to Neil Harvey. Robin really enjoyed the stage, a touch over 7.5 miles, and both made up over four minutes while wishing there had been an extra half to play with so he could have caught the next runner.
Neil started his leg off in the daylight but finished in Belton in the dark. Although he had slowed over the stage, he was happy with his efforts over the 16.6 miles and thoroughly enjoyed the stage.
Famed navigator Nick Haworth took on stage 10 from Belton to Earsham. Prior to running the stage, he dropped his car off at the end of the 18.13 stage and got a lift back to the start. In theory the stage is a nice straight road, but somehow Nick he managed to guide Charlie to Lowestoft, over 11 miles out of the way, and indeed out of Norfolk altogether. Charlie even said that Nick was pointing out things that he passes on his stage, on the way to Lowersoft, which is even more worrying!!
Happily, once he had baton in hand Nick had slightly better bearings, and his 15th place on the stage made up five minutes for the team, before he passed on the baton to Paul Cooke to run to Scole. There, Paul’s superb run over the 12.45 miles was good enough for ninth place overall on the stage.
John Stott took on the 19.67-mile stage 12 last year, and was back on duty for the relay’s longest stage once again. The straight, long drag from Scole to Thetford is a real challenge, yet John managed to be four minutes quicker this year than last year to finish just outside two and a half hours.
Frank McLoughlin took on stage 13 again this year, just over half-marathon distance from Thetford to Feltwell, and he broke the two-hour barrier for the stage supported on a bike by Neil Harvey, who cut an interesting figure on two wheels thanks to his choice of headwear that looked more suited to an ice-hockey match than a cycle ride.
Vicky Berry took on a new stage this year, running the 7.27 miles from Feltwell to Wissington. Normally daylight appears on this stage, but this year it was saved for stage 15 for Julian Brunt, his first time at the relay. Although the start and finish of the 10.59-mile leg towards Downham Market are not the most scenic, there are some lovely views on the route.
For the penultimate stage, the shortest of the race, Ian Skerratt was another fresh from the reserves, called up to the team two days before the relay. In spite of this he ate up the 5.49 miles superbly, and made up a couple of minutes on expected time too.
The final 11.73 miles were then in Juliet’s hands, along with fears of bulls in one of the fields she had to traverse between Stowbridge and the finish back at Kings Lynn. Mercifully, they had moved on, leaving her free to enjoy her run. Overall the team finished in 27 hours and 53 minutes, just over 11 minutes slower than their predicted time for the event. This placed them 49th overall, with 60 teams finishing the full race.
Biggleswade Athletic Club’s Leonie Brunning kept up her stunning run of form in the high jump with the silver medal at the SIAB Schools’ International at Grangemouth, Scotland.
Making her debut in an England vest, Leonie soared to a brilliant 1.70m to consolidate her recent performances that have propelled her to third in the UK under-17 rankings. Leonie, of St Thomas More School in Bedford, had qualified thanks to a brilliant personal best and club record leap of 1.75m at the English Schools Championships earlier in July.
Competing as one of two athletes representing England in a field of eight against jumpers from Scotland, Wales and Ireland, Leonie entered the competition at 1.51m and cleared at the first time of asking. However, jitters were affecting her performance.
She said: “I was a lot more nervous for this competition than I had been the previous week at English Schools because it was a higher level competition – I was representing England.
Leonie with her silver medal. Photo by Brunnings
“When the competition began it was uneasy wait for my first jump as other athletes started at lower heights. Thankfully I cleared 1.51m on my first go. However, 1.56m was not so easy.” Having seen her fail twice, and despite the height being 19cm down on her personal best, her family feared this would be the height at which she would exit the competition. But Leonie dug in.
“Taking three attempts to clear … it was with relief rather than excitement with which I stepped off the bed as I knew I would have been extremely disappointed with myself to go out so soon.”
A first-time clearance at 1.61m followed, but more drama was to follow at the next height. “The pattern repeated itself on 1.61m and 1.64m – finding 1.61 easy and clearing it first time and then having to take three attempts at 1.64.”
The next height, 1.67m, would be the point that the field of eight thinned down, and with only three of her rival athletes clearing, medals were suddenly in reach. Thankfully, after failing her first attempt, Leonie went clear with her second. She said: “After clearing 1.67m at the second time of asking I found new determination as I had finally put myself in a medalling position. This was the height most struggled with.”
Only two athletes would clear the next mark, and thanks to the determination she had shown at the previous height, Leonie was one of them. “I think it was because of this that I cleared 1.70, also on my second attempt.”
The gold medal height proved to be 1.73m, and although she had bettered this in Birmingham the previous weekend, Leonie exited with three failures while Scotland’s Carmen Neat produced a lifetime best with her first attempt to take the top honours. Leonie’s England teammate Emma Sherwood took the bronze.
“It was a tough competition and I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my performance,” Leonie added. “However, I was delighted to come away with a silver medal!” Her performance helped England sweep the board in the team standings, with the female team comfortably beating Scotland into second place, which the combined male and female squad finished well clear of Ireland. She has been selected to represent the Midlands in the School Games which take place at Loughborough University from 30 August to 2 September.
Ian Roberts, England’s team manager, was full of praise for the whole squad: “I can genuinely say that it was not only one of the strongest teams we have ever been represented by at a SIAB event, but in my experience it was one of the best behaved. In our team meetings at the championships in Birmingham last week, I said that the privilege of competing for your country carries great responsibility, and my point was obviously taken seriously. The conduct of all team members was particularly good at the stadium, and we have received praise from other nations and spectators for the manner in which we supported each other, and how professional, humble and courteous everybody was.”
Biggleswade Athletic Club athletes were out in force in searing hot conditions for the Doug Anderson 5k in Bedford, and were rewarded with another huge haul of individual and team honours. The annual fixture at Bedford Park is BAC’s designated club championship race over the distance, with many entrants also competing for the Bedfordshire county championship honours.
BAC’s ladies team, made up of the top three club finishers on the night, were agonisingly pipped to the title last year, but romped to victory this time around, while it was left to the men’s team to read the small-print after they finished third. Their combined time in fact bettered that of Bedford Harriers in second place by 14 seconds, but their combined score based on placings across the finish line was 1 point worse off than their local rivals.
Leading the way in the overall standings was Jamie Hall, last year’s winner, who was fourth finisher but third in the senior male age group, with an excellent time of 16:58. Jamie also took third in the county championship standings. Two places and eight seconds behind came Steven Baldwin, in 17:06. Nick Haworth rounded off the top three BAC men with a run of 18:53.
Elaine Livera after the finish. Photos by Nick Spavins
Just ahead of Nick, Elaine Livera – who won the ladies’ title on her BAC debut last season – retained it with a stunning run of 18:49. This was remarkably two seconds quicker than her effort last year despite the punishingly humid conditions, and she finished six seconds clear of her nearest competition, and 22nd overall. She also took the county championship crown with 39 seconds to spare.
The course takes in two and a half laps of the park, complete with a steady climb that runners had to tackle three times. Due to the conditions, with the temperature still at 27C come the 7.30pm start, a drinks station was assembled – a rare sight for a 5k race – and most runners taking advantage opted to tip water straight over their heads in an attempt to keep their temperature down rather than drinking it.
Hannah Broom. Photos by Nick Spavins
Keeping her cool, club secretary Hannah Broom once again retained both of her female veteran’s over 35 crowns with a time of 20:19, and 46th place overall – she was also the sixth female finisher overall, and third in the overall county championship standings.
She said: “I was not looking forward to this race, it was always going to be tough in the heat and a healthy dose of competition but we were in with a chance of retaining the girls’ title so the challenge was on. I was struggling in the heat so the pace was slower than I would have liked but I picked off some guys but saw no girls – relief! – so I was hopeful in my race position. After working my way up the mountain of an incline in the last lap I made a dash for the finish managing to help the girls keep the ladies’ title while defending my FV35 title and county medal for the 3rd consecutive year! The support on course definitely kept me going and was very much appreciated!”
Emma Bailey took the FV40 county championship crown with a run of 21:14, just ahead of Natalie Morgan’s 21:37, but each dropped down a place in the main race standings due to a non-county-eligible athlete taking those honours. Emma said: “It was incredibly hot and by the end of 1 mile warm up I was exhausted and dripping – but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t believe the amount of blue and yellow vests waiting for the off, an amazing turnout. I set off feeling strong but that slow incline got the better of my legs on each lap, but having people supporting and cheering really helped spur me on. I pushed for the finish with everything I had left crossing the line in 21.14 – over a minute faster than last year! I have only been a member of the club for just over a year but have enjoyed running and competing so much and am very grateful for all the training and support.”
Most shocked athlete of the night was Kathryn Juty, in her Doug Anderson debut, who romped to FV45 county honours by well over a minute thanks to a fine run of 24:41. She said: “The great support given by BAC runners and non-runners alike really helped keep my legs going on such a hot, muggy evening – so thanks to all. I’d like to particularly thank Paul Davies for his comment: ‘I can’t believe you got a medal and I didn’t!’ Me either!”
Charlie Arnold. Photos by Nick Spavins
However the performance of the night arguably came from the evergreen Charlie Arnold, competing in the MV60 category, who finished in a brilliant 20:18. Nigel Bush, who recently graduated to the MV70 age group, finished third in those standings with a fine time of 26:26
Charlie’s performance was one of several interesting movements in BAC’s club’s championship race results. These are based on age-gradings, which level the playing field for all competitors by adjusting times for older runners downwards. Based on the recalibrated results, Charlie’s time moves to 16:02, and he ended up victorious by 48 seconds over coach Paul Davies.
Charlie said: “From the entrants list I could see that I was going to be up against fierce rivals whom I had already had some close races with already this season, some won and some lost. The evening was hot and humid, and it was going to be energy sapping needing careful pacing.
“In the closing stages the final incline lay ahead indicating the last 500m. Still feeling strong I pushed up what now felt like a mountain ready to set myself up for the downhill run to the finish and the final sprint. Everything went into the last few meters before relief at crossing the finishing line. I finished in 20:18 which was better than I expected taking account of the warm conditions making breathing difficult. I was especially pleased to find that I had finished 12 secs ahead of my nearest age group rival and even more ahead of another two who had beaten me a few days earlier in the Beds AAA 10km race.
“It was fantastic to see many BAC athletes out competing and scooping up several awards on the evening ahead of some much bigger clubs. Not just runners though, the support from BAC members lining the route and cheering was very welcome and kept me going when the going got tough. All who ran and supported were a credit to the club and illustrated the great team spirit that we have.”
Others placing in the county championship standings were Paul Cooke (3rd, MV40, 19:00), Marcus Davey (3rd, MV45, 18:54), Gary Baldwin (3rd, MV50, 23:05) and Nigel Bush (2nd, MV70, 26:26). BAC fielded an incredible 51 athletes on the night – the most the club have ever fielded in the race – compared to 24 last year, with Jennie Day, Vicki and Janie Highland, Sue Whitfield, Lorraine Emerson, Beverley Ritson and Samatha Thorogood among those making their competitive debuts for the club. Samantha said: “It was my first race in a club vest too and I loved it! The support around the course was very much appreciated.”
An alternative race report from Nick Haworth
As I neared the venue at Bedford Park at 6.45pm, the car thermometer showed a temperature of 28.5C – a fall of a couple of degrees from earlier on, but nevertheless race conditions might be considered challenging by some. Oh, what the hell – if the rest of the club was prepared to endure the race, I’d be a fool not to join them in collective suffering! – So there we all were – all 51 of us gathered like sheep on the grass near the start – all for one – one for all!
A few minutes before the start at 7.30pm, the temperature had cooled slightly to 27C, we walked in small groups, silently down to the start – all one of us dripping with a combination of sweat and nerves – secretly asking ourselves why we had volunteered to run in such an event. But before any whimpers could be uttered the starter horn blasted and we were off – a big swarm of runners all in a desperate bid to make ground – to gain the upper-hand on rivals and to do their best to get the misery done with as soon as possible.
In all our minds – the mantra – “control your breathing, maintain posture, arms up, face forward, focus, focus!!” – Easier said than done and how fast did eagerness wain – initial enthusiasm quickly wilted in the desperate heat as we neared a tough right-hander up-hill section.
Still, we held on, the cheering supporters aiding us along – our running mates spurring us to maintain pace – a nice sweeping section allowed temporary recovery before another blast was required along the home straight – oh was that the finish – not quite – another lap to go laddie!! – just keep going!!
More agony, anguish, and well, down-right pain – panting, lungs bursting, legs weak with fatigue, another incline with a tight bend – but hey is that the final corner ahead? – a meandering right-hander and then a gradual downhill for the final sprint – let’s just hope I’m clear – swoooosh – swiiiiip! – perhaps not – caught unawares – I am beaten in the last 70 yards by an admirable adversary – well run !! – and I’ve been beat – but only just – good race !!
A halt, and then a walk – more like a stumble actually, as we all limp off to collect a medal, and much needed water. A sigh, sweat pours off our faces, our body, and our limbs but no-one cares – as a smile of elation and satisfaction materialises across everyone’s faces – all for one – and one for all!!
And more, from Elaine Livera and Jamie Hall
Elaine’s race: I wasn’t planning on running this race (I was just going to come along and watch) as I was still a little upset that I had missed so much of the 5k training everyone had done during summer. But as it was a nice day, I decided it might actually be a nice day for a run! I went in without expecting anything at all, especially when I saw all the ladies on the start line who were wearing cropped running tops. As I was feeling a little heavy legged from the gym, I started slower than usual and quickly lost positions on the ladies at the start line. However, when I relaxed into the run, my legs loosened up and I realised that it was only 5k, only 20 minutes of pain, I may as well try as hard as I could!
I caught the three women ahead of me quite easily and was surprised when they didn’t stick with me. Thanks to Paul Davies for increasing his pace to run around with me! When we crossed the start line for the third time, I was really starting to struggle and cookie was pulling away from PD and me. It was then that I saw a girl from Marshall’s come up beside me. Where did she sneak up from?!? PD said sternly that I needed to stay with cookie.. which make me feel a little ill as I was already going as quick as I thought I could at the time. We passed 4km to go and the girl was starting to overtake me… Noo, the horror of being beaten in the last km!!
I started to power up the hill in the hope that I could put some distance between us over a hill. When I neared the top, I saw Nick (who had sailed past me easily about 1km ago) and realised I was actually going fairly quick as I said hi and bye within the same breath. All I wanted to do was cross that line in front of the Marshall’s girl! It was a sprint to the end (and that last section takes forever to cover!!)
After I was finished and had recovered, as I felt pretty horrendous at the end of the run, I realised that I had really enjoyed doing that run. It was exciting the whole way round and the winning place was up for grabs by anyone!
It was really lovely to see all the supporters and all the yellow vests all the way around! It feels really nice to be a part of so many outgoing and outdoorsy people! Great running everyone! Keep it up!
Great work to all of the runners not just the prize winners! Everyone who ran and supported deserves a pat on the back! It was a very hot evening but also a very enjoyable one and BAC feels like a big family! Also great great run by Charlie who beat his competition by miles and won the club championship as well as the county championship!!
Jamie’s race: This was my first race for the club for a while, and a chance to have a go at the first race I ever did this time last year. Although I knew it wasn’t going to be as successful as last time around given the injury setbacks I’d had this season, I was looking forward to wearing the club colours and have a go!
After a really sluggish start I managed to stick with fellow club member Steven [Baldwin], given his recent awesome form. I figured if I stuck with him I couldn’t go far wrong. As the race went on we were joined by a couple of guys from Ampthill who helped keep us honest throughout. Working together as a group we reeled in another runner and were making good time.
Going into the final boiling hot half lap I just kept thinking of the tactic coach Paul had given me last year and the point at the top of the “hill” where I had to kick from. As soon as I hit that point I gave it absolutely everything and managed to finish fourth in a time just under 17 minutes, which I was absolutely over the moon with. Although not the result from last year, I was really happy to be part of the mens team which finished 3rd, and part of such a successful club with lots of awards to show for all the hard training. The atmosphere was brilliant with yellow and blue tops everywhere giving each other support and doing the club proud, extra thanks to Steven for the company during the race. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable event!
Doug Anderson 5k results
Overall race position | Name | Chip time | Age graded result 4 | Jamie Hall | 16:58 | 16:58 6 | Steven Baldwin | 17:06 | 17:06 22 | Elaine Livera | 18:49 | 18:49 Lady Club Champion 24 | Nick Haworth | 18:53 | 17:43 25 | Marcus Davey | 18:54 | 16:56 27 | Paul Davies | 18:56 | 16:50 30 | Paul Cooke | 19:00 | 17:49 39 | Robert Morgan | 19:38 | 18:17 42 | John Stott | 19:56 | 17:35 45 | Charles Arnold | 20:18 | 16:02 Male club champion 46 | Hannah Broom | 20:19 | 19:53 56 | Damien Pitts | 21:10 | 20:43 58 | Emma Bailey | 21:14 | 19:58 59 | Giles Hawthorne | 21:17 | 19:31 66 | Natalie Morgan | 21:37 | 20:39 85 | Malcolm Steward | 22:49 | 21:15 92 | Gary Baldwin | 23:05 | 19:32 105 | Richard Barker | 23:46 | 21:27 113 | Neil Harvey | 23:57 | 19:36 130 | Kathryn Juty | 24:41 | 22:04 140 | Stephen Atkins | 25:33 | 19:50 144 | Martha Ford | 25:38 | 25:34 148 | Ian Grimwood | 25:52 | 19:43 150 | Andrew Hedley | 25:57 | 21:47 155 | Simon Strong | 26:09 | 23:15 161 | Nigel Bush | 26:26 | 19:21 170 | Stuart Goodwin | 26:50 | 25:22 187 | Kevin Parker | 27:28 | 24:25 196 | Vicky Berry | 27:55 | 23:07 200 | Juliet Grimwood | 28:12 | 23:40 205 | Julian Brunt | 28:23 | 26:01 212 | Ricky Byrne | 28:50 | 28:22 215 | Georgia Barker | 29:13 | 27:14 218 | Maria Merridan | 29:25 | 26:36 241 | Jennie Day | 31:03 | 27:25 243 | Julie Spavins | 31:18 | 29:40 250 | Julia Mackay | 31:51 | 26:44 258 | Samantha Thorogood | 32:22 | 30:55 259 | Vicki Highland | 32:28 | 32:28 260 | Beverley Ritson | 32:28 | 31:01 270 | Colin Harries | 33:11 | 23:59 271 | Janie Highland | 33:17 | 26:29 273 | Helen Kapur | 33:48 | 27:38 276 | Sue Whitfield | 33:58 | 29:37 280 | Louise Pike | 34:21 | 33:02 281 | Emma Bell | 34:21 | 31:24 283 | Lorraine Emerson | 35:12 | 34:16 285 | Joanne Ellary | 35:43 | 34:34 286 | Tim Gardiner | 35:54 | 32:25 291 | Roo Goodwin | 38:05 | 37:16 293 | Shani Giddings | 38:48 | 31:43
… and reordered into club championship standings order Position | Name | age-graded time | chip time 1 | Charles Arnold | 16:02 | 20:18 Male club champion 2 | Paul Davies | 16:50 | 18:56 3 | Marcus Davey | 16:56 | 18:54 4 | Jamie Hall | 16:58 | 16:58 5 | Steven Baldwin | 17:06 | 17:06 6 | John Stott | 17:35 | 19:56 7 | Nick Haworth | 17:43 | 18:53 8 | Paul Cooke | 17:49 | 19:00 9 | Robert Morgan | 18:17 | 19:38 10 | Elaine Livera | 18:49 | 18:49 Lady Club Champion 11 | Nigel Bush | 19:21 | 26:26 12 | Giles Hawthorne | 19:31 | 21:17 13 | Gary Baldwin | 19:32 | 23:05 14 | Neil Harvey | 19:36 | 23:57 15 | Ian Grimwood | 19:43 | 25:52 16 | Stephen Atkins | 19:50 | 25:33 17 | Hannah Broom | 19:53 | 20:19 18 | Emma Bailey | 19:58 | 21:14 19 | Natalie Morgan | 20:39 | 21:37 20 | Damien Pitts | 20:43 | 21:10 21 | Malcolm Steward | 21:15 | 22:49 22 | Richard Barker | 21:27| 23:46 23 | Andrew Hedley | 21:47 | 25:57 24 | Kathryn Juty | 22:04 | 24:41 25 | Vicky Berry | 23:07 | 27:55 26 | Simon Strong | 23:15 | 26:09 27 | Juliet Grimwood | 23:40 | 28:12 28 | Colin Harries | 23:59 | 33:11 29 | Kevin Parker | 24:25 | 27:28 30 | Stuart Goodwin | 25:22 | 26:50 31 | Martha Ford | 25:34 | 25:38 32 | Julian Brunt | 26:01 | 28:23 33 | Janie Highland | 26:29 | 33:17 34 | Maria Merridan | 26:36 | 29:25 35 | Julia Mackay | 26:44 | 31:51 36 | Georgia Barker | 27:14 | 29:13 37 | Jennie Day | 27:25 | 31:03 38 | Helen Kapur | 27:38 | 33:48 39 | Ricky Byrne | 28:22 | 28:50 40 | Sue Whitfield | 29:37 | 33:58 41 | Julie Spavins | 29:40 | 31:18 42 | Samantha Thorogood | 30:55 | 32:22 43 | Beverley Ritson | 31:01 | 32:28 44 | Emma Bell | 31:24 | 34:21 45 | Shani Giddings | 31:43 | 38:48 46 | Tim Gardiner | 32:25 | 35:54 47 | Vicki Highland | 32:28 | 32:28 48 | Louise Pike | 33:02 | 34:21 49 | Lorraine Emerson | 34:16 | 35:12 50 | Joanne Ellary | 34:34 | 35:43 51 | Roo Goodwin | 37:16 | 38:05
Biggleswade Athletic Club’s Leonie Brunning soared to a superb silver medal at the English Schools’ Championships in Birmingham, thanks to a new lifetime best height that propelled her to third in the UK rankings.
Leonie, of St Thomas More School in Bedford, was in a Bedfordshire and Luton Schools vest at Alexander Stadium, competing in the Intermediate Girls (Under 17s) category. Aged 15, so towards the lower end of the age group she was competing in, she had arrived in the Midlands on the back of a few below-par competitions, but soon put jitters behind her.
She said: “I was a bit more nervous than usual because there was qualifying rounds which is something I hadn’t done before – let alone in a competition as big as the English Schools’. I had a few disappointing competitions in the weeks leading up to it, only clearing 1.55m and 1.50m at events since a combined events competition in which I jumped 1.69m.”
Lining up in a field of 25 split into two qualifying pools, she found her form early and secured one of the 12 spots for the final. She said: “Once I was safely through those I was optimistic about the finals as I felt I had jumped really well.
“I had taken my practice jumps and was feeling pretty confident. However, a few minutes before the competition started the officials decided the high jump beds needed to be swapped, so that was slightly off-putting.”
Still, she entered at 1.50m and has a trouble-free progress over that mark, then at 1.55m and 1.60m. “Having first-time clearances at the first three heights made me less uneasy and as soon as I cleared 1.69m – which equalled my PB – I was buzzing and determined to clear higher so that I could medal. At this stage there were only five of us still left in. I did not want a repeat of last year where I lost out on a spot on the podium due to countback!”
At the new height of 1.72m, she failed her first attempt – but second time around she was delighted to clear the bar for a new personal best. More was still to come, however, and at the third time of asking she cleared 1.75m to take the silver medal. “I ended the competition with a new PB and second place – as well as very tired legs as overall I had a total of 14 jumps during the competition!”
Countback once again told, with the first-placed athlete Temi Ojora of Buckinghamshire clearing 1.75m at the first time of asking giving her the gold, but the silver medal was secured, along with an invite to wear an England vest at the Schools International in Scotland this weekend. Leonie – who broke BAC’s club record in Birmingham – has leaped up 20 places in the British rankings in recent weeks, and is now 2cm above the national standard for U17s in the event. To put the performance into further context, 1.75m was good enough for fifth place at the recent senior British Championships, in a lineup headed by Team GB’s Morgan Lake and Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
Bedfordshire and Luton Schools had fielded their smallest ever team – just 17 athletes – in the Championships, and Leonie was among a quartet from the squad who qualified for England duty.
Josh Watson, Morgan Webster, Cameron Rayner, Sarah Ridley and Dan Steel took first places in the latest round of the Southern Athletics League, which took place at Biggleswade AC’s track at Sandy. Their victories formed part of another excellent team performance, which saw the victorious men’s 4x400m squad also broke a club record that has stood for a quarter of a century.
Darren Janssen was the first to take to the track in the 400m hurdles A string, finishing in 73.4 secs. Both him and Josh Watson in the B string finished in excellent fourth places. Darren and Josh then went on to do a variety of events over the course of the day, with Josh leaping over 1.78m to claim first in the men’s high jump as well as the 110m hurdles, and Darren taking fourth place in the discus with a throw of 29.30m and second place in the B-string shot put with 9.12m, on his way to competing in all four throwing events.
Up next on the track was the 800m.
In the women’s race, Hannah Ridley clocked in at 2:28.5 on her way to second place in the A string, while Emma Bailey, in her first track race for the club, came in at 2:44.7 to claim second place in the B string. The same pairing was seen a couple of hours later in the 1500m, with both athletes taking third place in their respective strings. Hannah finished in 5:30.3, while Emma stopped the clock at 5:42.0.
In the men’s 800m, Stephen Day had a great run in the A string to claim a PB and fourth place, coming in at 2:15.8. Marcus Davey filled the B string spot, coming in strongly at 2:39.0.
Next it was the turn of the sprinters. In a hotly contested 100m, Sarah Ridley was awarded second place, despite being given the same time as the first-place athlete of 13.1secs. In the B string, Molly May yet again equalled her PB of 14.5secs on her way to fourth place. Janice Amber, running as a non-scorer, also clocked the same time.
Both Molly and Janice were in action again in the 200m, but this time they were joined by Francesca Riley in the A string, who ran an excellent race and finished third in 27.9secs. Janice, who was running in the B string this time, came in at 29.5, which was good enough for third place, while Molly, as a non-scorer, also broke the 30 second barrier. In the men’s A string 100m, Morgan Webster stormed down the straight to cross the line first in 11.3secs. In the B string, Cameron Rayner finished strongly, beating athletes who were several years older than him to take second place in 12.1secs. In the 200m, Morgan streaked ahead and finished a good few metres ahead of the rest of the field to claim another first place in 22.7 seconds, which was also a PB. Cameron, not to be outdone, also finished first in the B string with a time of 24.3secs.
In the field, Sarah Ridley appeared in five events which included the shot put, where she won rather convincingly, with her throw of 9.63m being exactly 50cm ahead of her next competitor. She also took second place in the discus, launching it to 28.64m. She was joined in the throws by Sandra Ingham, who competed in all four disciplines and came away with fourth in the B string discus with a throw of 15.25m and 4th in the A string of the javelin competition with 20.08m.
Another athlete who had a busy day was Kathryn Juty. She ran in the 100m hurdles along with Hannah Ridley and both athletes came away with respectable third place finishes. She claimed valuable points for the team by coming fourth in the B string long jump, leaping 3.45m and fourth again in the B-string triple jump, with a distance of 6.67m.
Daniel Steel was just as busy in the men’s competitions, taking part in seven different field events. He jumped over 6m in the long jump, but unfortunately it was called as a no jump. His leap of 5.93m was, however, still good enough to take first place. Toby Foster nearly crossed the 5m barrier with a jump of 4.96m, which placed second in the B string. Dan also claimed first place in the B string high jump, clearing 1.78m and on the track, ran a personal best in the B-string 110m hurdles of 19.2secs to take yet another first position.
There were also some very strong performances in both the men’s and women’s 400m. Francesca Riley ran in the A string and came away with 3rd place in 62.7secs. Jessica Cooke led the B race from the start but just got overtaken with 50m to go. She still finished in 3rd place and knocked over a second off of her PB, clocking 66.2 seconds.
Callum Stokes was the Biggleswade representative in the men’s A race. He held off the other competitors down the home straight and finished in a deserved second place in 53.1 seconds. In the B string, Tristan Rayner looked strong throughout the race and came home in 56.0secs, which earned him second place as well.
The male distance runners were out in force, with Stephen Baldwin and John Frost in the A and B strings of the 1500m. Stephen, minutes after running his way to third place and 9:38.1 in the 3000m, looked relaxed throughout the race and cruised into second place in a time of 4:36.9. John showed off his sprint finish to come in third place in 5.08.5. They were joined in the race by Marcus Davey and Elliot Swinburne as non-scorers, who both put in a valiant effort to finish just behind John. Paul Davies joined Stephen in the 3000m and finished second in the B string 11:08.5.
The last event on the track, the relays, saw some of the best performances of the day. The women’s 4x100m team of Molly May, Francesca Riley, Janice Amber and Sarah Ridley got the baton round in 53.2secs, less than half a second outside the club record, and again were awarded second place despite having the same time as the winners. The men then held on to second place in their race and finished in 46.4secs. In the 4x400m, the women finished a credible third, while Stephen Baldwin, Dan Steel, Callum Stokes and Morgan Webster put in a blinding performance to finish first in 3.42.2 and break the club record by one-tenth of a second, which had stood since 1993.
The Biggleswade team finished third overall on the day, a great result considering they were competing against some much larger teams. They hope to better that result at the final league match of the season, which will take place in Woodford on 18th August.
BAC athletes put in great effort at the third match of this season’s Southern Athletics League. As always many competitors took part in multiple events to earn valuable points for the club, but in spite of the extra strain in the heat at Parliament Hill, the quality of performances remained high.
Among the top placings on the day were Josh Watson in the high jump, his best leap of 1.90m taking top spot by a huge 15cm. He also placed third as the B-string competitor in the pole vault and the 400m hurdles.
Sarah Ridley went two better, taking first place in three events. Her top spot in the triple jump came with an effort of 10.07m, 80cm clear of her nearest competition, while she also took the spoils in the shot put with a throw of 10.10m. Finishing up an excellent trio of victories was her best discus throw of 27.68m, while she added second place in the 100m (13.1sec) and third in the hammer (21.40m). Both Sarah and Josh earned man of the match awards for their efforts.
Sandra Ingham topped the standings in the B-string hammer with a throw of 13.04m, and she added to this with a fine third in the javelin, thanks to a throw of 21.96m.
Elsewhere, top three placings were rife, with Morgan Webster second in both the 100m (11.6sec) and 200m (23.1sec), ably followed up in the B-string equivalents by Callum Stokes, who took third and second respectively (12.2sec and 24.5sec), and was also runner-up in the B-string long jump (5.19m). Webster also took second place in the triple jump with 11.52m, while Tristan Rayner was hot on his heels in the B-string thanks to a leap of 11.29m to earn another second place.
Bradley Strong took third in the B-string 400m with a time of 61.0sec, and Charlie Arnold’s best placing on a busy day was third in the B-string 800m (2:44.4). Stephen Day just missed the top three in the A-string 800m but was third in the A-string 1500m, just outside the 5min mark with an excellent time of 5:00.4. His B-string back-up in the latter event, Nick Haworth, took second spot with 5:21.5, and added third place as the B competitor in the 5,000m (18:48.5). Hannah Ridley was second in the 100m hurdles with 24.4 sec, to add to her third place in the 800m (2:31.1), while Jessica Cooke was second in the B-string women’s 400m with 67.7sec.
More third places came from Molly May in the B-string 100m (14.9sec) and 200m (30.7sec) and Stephen Baldwin in the A-string 5,000m (16:51.9). Daniel Steel took third spot in the 110m hurdles (19.8sec), and as B-string in all of the high jump (1.60m), shot put (9.39m), hammer (14.20m) and discus (24.45m), and another to place in multiple events was Kathryn Juty, with third in the long jump (3.81m), pole vault (1.70m) and B-string javelin (10.62m). Paul Davies was another third place in the B-string 2,000m steeplechase (9:28.3), Alex Ingham took A-string third in the javelin with 49.57m, while Nathan Dodds took third in the A-string discus (31.75m), as did Francesca Riley in the 400m (63.4sec).
In the relays, the women’s quartets took second places with 54.3sec in the 4x100m and 4:30.4 in the 4x400m, one better than the men – third in both of their races with times of 47.7sec and 3:58.1 respectively. The combined team finished fourth out of six teams in the fixture, showing once again that despite excellent performances, gaps in the squad are holding BAC back. No matter what your level, there are valuable points to be had at SAL fixtures – get in touch with the track and field coaches for more information.
Biggleswade Athletic Club athletes struck gold, silver and bronze at the Eastern Counties AA Championships in Peterborough late last month, amid some fantastic results and outstanding personal best efforts.
A quartet of BAC competitors were in attendance competing in the Bedfordshire vest, with Morgan Webster leading the way despite having struggled with a hamstring strain that had kept him out of training in the run-up to the event. Yet on the day itself, competing as an under-20 athlete, he took the blocks for the 400m in a combined field of under-20 and senior athletes, and flew round the lap in a new personal best of 50.2 seconds, winning the race against older competitors and taking the gold medal.
Leonie Brunning’s fine form in the high jump continued, and despite her best effort of 1.55m being down on her best, it earned her an under-17s silver medal. She showed her versatility in the jump disciplines by also competing in the long jump, and her leap of 4.89m was good enough for bronze.
Francesca Riley. Photo by James Webster
Leonie Brunning. Photo by James Webster
Also earning bronze was Francesca Riley, competing in the senior 400m, and her new training schedule paid dividends as she took the third spot on the podium.
Molly May was taking part in her first ever championships, and she didn’t shrink in stepping up to the higher level, indeed she took a huge half a second off her 100m personal best in the under-17 final – a fine time of 14.4sec.