Thurston school sports stars crowned national handball champions

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: The winning team with their trophy and medals at Thurston Community College.  Inset: Thurston in action at the competition
NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: The winning team with their trophy and medals at Thurston Community College. Inset: Thurston in action at the competition

Thurston Community College have become National School Handball Champions.

The under-15 girls’ team were crowned champions in Worcester, following a thrilling final.

ENJOYING VICTORY: The girls outside their college on their victorious return

ENJOYING VICTORY: The girls outside their college on their victorious return

The team overcame Cardinal Griffin School 6-5 and lostjust one game on their way to victory.

Team captain Jess Horn, 14, said: “It was really good fun.

“We took part last year but didn’t get as far, it’s great to have won the school its first national title in a long time too.

“There was a bit of extra pressure as captain but not much, the whole team felt it as the competition went on I think. We were all so happy at the end.”

It was a physically demanding day of sport at the England Handball Association tournament at Worcester Arena, with the team playing more than 20 matches in the day.

For most of the day, they only had a three minute turnaround between games.

Jo Thompson, second in PE at the college, said: “For us it feels like we have finally got the title, and the recognition these girls deserve. They are such talented sportswomen.”

The college is fast becoming a hotbed for potential handball stars, as the sports department benefit from the knowledge and experience of sixth formers Sam Knott and Josh Braker.

Josh plays for the GB under-19 Men’s team while Sam is a former East of England squad member.

Sam has been vital to the under-15 girls’ success as she has helped coach the girls, focusing on their fitness and wellbeing.

The 17-year-old said: “I’ve really enjoyed it.

“They’re such lovely girls so they’ve not been difficult to coach and I’m just so proud of them and the achievement.

“It was amazing when they won.”

The victory comes just five years after the college began playing handball. In this time, the under-13 and under-15 teams have become dominant in the area, with the under-13 girls finishing fourth in the country last year.

The under-15 boys, meanwhile, have reached the regional rounds in three of the last five years.

Mrs Thompson said: “We were quite confident of how well they could do.

“They are very talented at a number of sports and have taken to handball like they’ve played their whole lives.

“As the competition went on, we began to feel it was ours, we felt we had enough to win.

“So, for me, there was actually a sigh of relief at the end — last year it was a lot closer I think, everyone kept beating everyone else. But we only lost one game on the way to the final, in the round robin stage.

“I am so proud — they were able to play to a specific strategy under incredible mental and physical pressure showing a level beyond their years and level of experience in the game of handball.”

John Pearce, national competitions and events manager for England Handball Association, said: “The competition has improved year on year with increased numbers and higher levels of play.

“It was the highest standard yet in the finals competition.

“The finals went down to the wire and it’s great to see new areas come to the fore and take the title.”