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.
We have received the very sad news that Sonia Brown passed away this morning. Sonia was an inspiration for many of our athletes, from her running career, the creation of the Little Bees section of the club, coaching and for the effort that she put in to support/promote the club. I will really miss Sonia’s smile and cheerful nature, as she could make me smile, even if I have had a bad day.
Sonia is a big loss to the club and she will be sadly missed by our members.
Prior to the first race at the Biggleswade AC Track Fest tonight (6.30pm), we will be holding a minutes silence for Sonia at the Athletic Track. A card and book of condolences are being arranged for members to sign/complete and will be available on club nights.
As and when more details are released concerning the funeral and we can share these details with you, we will.
Our thoughts are with Sonia’s family at this sad time.
A full club tribute will appear in this blog at a future time. If you would like to contribute, please email the press team with your memories of Sonia