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.