West Suffolk Athletic Club’s Michael Bartram was among those who impressed at the English Schools Track and Field Championships.
Staged at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, 1,700 of England’s best young athletes converged on the event to compete in three age groups, Junior (School Years 8-9), Inter (Years 10-11) and Senior (Years 12-13).
As well as vying for medals, the gold and silver medallists in the Inter age group were automatically selected to represent England at the forthcoming Schools International, to be held in Dublin.
As one of nine WSAC members selected to represent their counties, Bartram gave the outstanding performance in the Inter Boy’s 1,500m steeplechase to clinch gold and earn selection for England at the Schools International, with a personal best of four minutes and 20 seconds.
Another athlete to smash his personal best was Cameron McKie in the heats of the Inter Boy’s 800m event. Following nine months out through injury and illness, McKie showed promising signs to claim a sixth placed finish in 1.59.47, taking almost two seconds off his previous best as he narrowly missed out on semi-final place.
There was disappointment for Charlotte Murphy, running for Cambridgeshire in the Inter Girls’ 1,500m, as she was tripped from behind on the first lap of her heat, but still managed a courageous fifth in 4.47.
Elsewhere, there was contrasting fortunes for Seb Anthony and Ben Eames in the Inter Boys’ 3,000m as while the latter was forced to retire, Eames managed to seal a respectable 16th place finish in 9.03.
Mac Delo also clinched a new personal best of 8.59 but had to settle for a modest 13th place overall.
West Suffolk AC had three runners representing Suffolk in the Junior Girls’ 1500m.
Sophie Tooley moved up to the 1500m after a superb silver medal in the 800m in 2012, but could not repeat her success as she fought her way to an agonising fourth in the final in 4.34.
Holly Davies’ tactical race saw her finish in fourth in a personal best of 4.46 but she fell just outside the automatic qualification for the final, while Nella Walters, making her English Schools debut, acquitted herself well to finish seventh in her heat in a new personal best of 4.50.
Harry Hughes was the hot favourite to win the intermediate javelin title, even though it was his first year in that age group.
He won the junior boys’ title last year and tops the ranking list and has improved dramatically under the expert coaching of Mike McNeil.
The hot weather was ideal throwing conditions and Harry took full advantage to produce a personal best of 68.75m.
This was more than nine metres ahead of the field until his team mate, Marshal Childs of Ipswich, also threw a personal best of 63.19m to give Suffolk their first ever one-two in these championships.
Both will represent English Schools in the Home International. This will be Harry’s second representative match, having just returned from the World Schools’ Championships in the Czech Republic.
King Edward VI School pupil Oliver Thompson was also in action in the Senior Boy’s hammer event and showed promising signs to seal a 14th place finish overall with a throw of 47.24m.
Meanwhile, sprinter Kyle Potter contested the intermediate boys’ 100m and ran very close to his recent personal best to finish sixth in his heat, narrowly missing out on progression one of the fastest losers.
His time of 11.34 seconds was only a 10th of a second off the pace.
Beth Keswick was injured the week before the championships and was disappointed not to perform at her best in the junior girls’ high jump.
In total Suffolk won three gold medals and one silver, of which West Suffolk AC athletes claimed two gold medals.