Welsh Schools again represented Wales at this year’s Mini Marathon, the South Wales based team members travelled on Saturday meeting up with the North Wales contingent at Royal Holloway College for the traditional overnight stay before Sunday’s event.
After the improved performances which our cross-country teams produced at the SIAB Schools international held at Margam Park, hopes were high going into this competition. The Mini Marathon is run over the last 3 miles of the London Marathon course. Just as in 2015 and 2016 conditions were cool and dry, with a slight breeze which did not significantly affect times.
The team got off to a great start with Oliver Barbaresi (Friars) just losing out over the last few metres of the course as he recorded an excellent 4th place in a time of 14:29. Dominic Smith (Olchfa) also recorded a superb time of 14:49 for 17th place and they were well backed up by James Vincent (Whitchurch) in 30th (15:02) and Elliot Lawrence (St. Joseph’s, Port Talbot) just one place behind in 15:07. This gave the team a creditable 6th place in the team event.
The Under 15 Boys team did have a look of experience about it. James Penrose (Wycliff School) was again first home (as in 2016) but in a vastly superior time of 15:14 compared with 15:56 last year, next home was late call up Louis Spencer (Stanwell) who completely justified his inclusion with 27th place and a time of 15:45, the team were closed out at 32nd with Nathan Jones (Bishopston) and Joe Reardon (Rhydywaun) also setting new course bests.
The Under 13 Boys were led home by the only survivor from last year’s team in Jacob Reynolds (Cwm Rhymni), Jacob was another athlete recording a top 10 as he finished 7th , his 16:23 was again a huge improvement on 2016. Liam Edwards (Bro Myrddin) just squeezed into the top 20 at 19th and he also got under the 17 minute barrier in 16:49. The Under 13 Boys produced the team performance of the day as they finished 4th overall.
In the Under 17 girls the team finished in 5th with Kiara Frizelle (Cathedral) first home in 7th, Kiara was another athlete setting a new course best of 16:43 and there were also fine runs from Naomi Reid (Y Pant) in 17th and Abbie Williams (Pembroke) in 21st as they both made final appearances over the Mini Marathon course, others at the event for the last time were Oliver, Dominic, James Vincent and Elliot plus Isobel Dodd (Brynteg), another athlete who has consistently performed well.
In the Under 15s Mia Roberts produced another super run finishing 8th in 16:57, a time that represented a 50 second improvement on her 2016 time. Also really impressive in this age group was Ashleigh Willis (Olchfa) as she recorded a superb 17:57 to go under 18 minutes for the first time. A heavy fall at the start robbed Eluned King (Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr) of the chance to improve on her 2016 time and the girls had to settle for 6th place in the team event.
The Under 13 girls finished 9th in their team competition, the stand out individual was Samia Jones (Syr Huw Owen) as she finished in 15th place and was another to improve on her 2016 time with 17:55 compared with 18:57.
Following the conclusion of the races the athletes then remain in London to experience the closing stages of the full marathon. There was real elation as the leading senior men came past the Schools team with former mini marathon participant Josh Griffiths first Brit home, a great role model for all our young schools athletes.
In the international comparison, we figured ahead of Scotland in two of the four sections in which they compete, and we beat Northern Ireland in all six age groupings.
Of the 36 athletes competing this year 23 were also in the 2016 line up, of those 23 19 athletes improved their times from last year, further evidence of the improvement in performance levels of our young endurance athletes.
Welsh Schools Support Officer Steve Jones was again the team coordinator, and thanks go to the team managers Rhys Jones and Joan Goldsmith who did an excellent job and a special mention to Steve Livett (Menai), who again looked after the North Wales contingent.