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.
“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.”