On the way to the event on the Saturday morning, many of us must have been wondering what was in store as we travelled through the rain. Thankfully, for those coming from the south, conditions seemed to change once we were on the descent from Storey Arms to Brecon, and we were fortunate to have a dry day. Other than a last minute problem of no tents available, the one unexpected glitch was the wind/breeze. Usually, at Penlan, there is a helpful tailwind for the sprinters and hurdlers but this year it was a headwind.
In the more favourable conditions experienced in 2011, ten new bests were set, including a number in the sprints. This year just six championship bests were broken and, strangely, one in each of the age groups.
Given that the entries for pole vault competitions should be a cause for concern – there were only twenty vaulters entered across the six age groups – it was a delight that the first new mark of the day was set by Carys Jones (Dyfed) in the junior girls’ section.
Carys Jones pictured at the Welsh Schools Championships
The Tre-Gib pupil entered the combined junior boys, junior and middle girls' competition at 2.55 metres, clearing that at the first attempt. Two attempts were needed at the next height, 2.65 metres, but there were first time clearances at 2.85 metres and 2.95 metres. The previous championship best of 3 metres was set in 2008 by Rhianydd Llewellyn (Bryntirion, Glamorgan Valleys), but Carys broke that on her seventh vault, a second attempt at 3.05 metres, before bowing out with three failures at 3.16 metres. That 3.05 metres mark matched the winning height of Olivia Evans (Whitchurch, Cardiff & the Vale) in the middle girls’ age group.
Cwm Rhymni year 11 Jac Palmer has the incentive – some might suggest ‘the millstone’ - of competing in the same event as his father did – the hammer. ‘Dad’ Adrian won the Welsh Schools’ middle title in 1985, at Swansea, with a championship best of 51.86 metres and followed that up at Cwmbran in 1987 with a senior victory, again in a new best of 57.72 metres. Both performances resulted in him being presented with the Guto Nyth Bran Cup for the best field performance by a boy.
Jac made his Welsh Schools’ hammer debut in 2009, as a year 8 member of the Glamorgan Valleys junior boys’ team at Brecon. Using the 4 kg implement, he finished fifth with a best of 27.08 metres, but followed that a year later with a much improved performance to win the age group with a throw of 38.34 metres. On his middle debut (5 kg hammer) last year, he bettered the 50 metres line but his 50.76 metres was sixty centimetres behind the winner Matthew Reece (Glan Clwyd, North East Wales). As the pre-event favourite for the hammer at this year’s championships, Jac did not disappoint, producing a remarkable series – 56.58m, 59.38m, NT, 58.81m, 59.38m and 59.69m. Every single valid throw bettered the previous best of 55.78 metres set by Neil Williams (Groves High School, Clwyd) back in 1989.
Jac had added nearly four metres to Neil’s mark – and was awarded the Guto Nyth Bran Cup. On this showing, there is more to come and Shaun Pickering’s long standing Welsh best of 62.12 metres, set in 1978, could be broken this summer.
There were two further new bests on the field.
Miles Keller-Jenkins (Afan Nedd Tawe) impressed in the indoor season but, more recently in June, he made everyone sit up and take note when, competing for his club, Swansea, he cleared 1.97 metres in the u15 boys’ high jump at the National Young League Midland Premier match at Cardiff International Sports Stadium to break Chuka Enih-Snell’s Welsh national record of 1.96 metres.
At these championships, his target was the first of the three high jump bests held by Chuka when he was a pupil at Bishop Vaughan in Swansea - the 1.91 metres junior mark set in 1998. Entering the competition at 1.60 metres, Miles had first time clearances at that height and at 1.70 metres, 1.75 metres and 1.85 metres, by which stage, he had already seen off the challenge from old rival and defending titleholder Tom Trotman (Cowbridge, Cardiff & the Vale, 1.70m). It took two attempts at 1.92 metres to better Chuka’s mark and the competition ended with two failures at a new Welsh best of 1.98 metres. Mark the name. Hopefully even better heights will come as Miles progresses through the age groups – with Chuka’s middle (2.06m) and senior (2.10m) bests as targets.
Adele Nicoll pictured in the Middle Girls Shot competition
Year 10 Adele Nicoll had already entered the list of holders of championship bests at our Nationals, as well as making her mark in the NASUWT Cymru competitions. The Powys pupil started competing in the shot and discus events at these championships in 2010. As a first year under 15, she bettered the 2.72 kg shot mark of 12.19 metres set by Delyth Evans (Emlyn, Dyfed) in 1980. Adele’s debut winning best was 12.62 metres, but she had to settle for second place in the discus (32.26m) behind Awen Rosser (Strade, Dyfed, 34.78).
In 2010, the then Welshpool year 9 pupil went even further extending her junior shot best to 13.33 metres, which gained her the TSB Cup for the best girls’ performance in a field event – and she won the discus with a throw of 37.06 metres, just over a metre down on Sandra Lee (Friar’s, Gwynedd) 1978 best. She was also selected to represent Welsh Schools at the SIAB Schools’ under 17 track & field international at Cardiff, and won the 4kg shot event with a put of 12.76 metres and finished third in the discus with 38.02 metres.
This year, the School Games 2012 was held much earlier than usual – on May 9th – at the Olympic Stadium. Adele made her debut – only pupils in years 10 & 11 are eligible to compete, and only in one individual event – and duly won the shot with a put of 13.71 metres, while her team captain Awen Rosser (Strade, Dyfed) threw 40.04 metres to head the discus field.
At these Nationals, Adele competed in the middle section for the first time, contesting both throws and competing against the defending title holder in both – Awen. The discus came first, with the shot timed as the last of the field events. Adele was always in command in that discus, exceeding 42 metres on three occasions – with her best coming in round two, 42.73 metres – to see off Awen’s challenge (37.46m) but the championship best of 43.80 metres set by Philippa Roles (Dwr-y-Felin, West Glamorgan) in 1994 at Colwyn Bay remained intact.
In the shot, it was a slightly different story. Phillipa’s event best (12.90m) dated back to Cwmbran in 1993. On her first two attempts, Adele put 12.89 and 12.82 metres but, on her third attempt, the shot soared out to 13.43 metres, and the record was broken, by more than half a metre. On her final attempt, Adele went close again – 13.40 metres – but had to settle for the win, nearly two metres ahead of Awen, in second. That record breaking performance was good enough to earn Adele the TSB Cup for the girl achieving the best performance in a field event.
This was the second successive year that she has received that award – following in the footsteps of javelin thrower Karen Hough (West Glamorgan, 1983 & 1984), triple jumper (now pole vaulter) Sally Peake (North East Wales, 2002 & 2003), pole vaulter Hannah Abraham (Glamorgan Valleys, 2004 & 2005) and hammer thrower Toni Wells (South East Wales, 2009 & 2010). Will she become the first to make it a hat trick next year?
On the track, there were only two new bests – both in endurance events.
Rhianwedd Price (Llandrindod, Powys), now in year 13, was unwell last year and could not compete. She already holds the championship best in the middle girls' 1500 metres steeplechase – 5:26.43 set in 2010. Early in the afternoon, she demolished the senior girls’ mark set by Kayleigh Brown (Tre-Gib, Dyfed) in 2007. Kayleigh was timed at 5:34.45. Rhianwedd finished in 5:07.26 hacking over 27 seconds off that mark, and bringing it within a small margin of the 5 minute barrier. Sadly, she could not complete a dream afternoon with a second victory in the 3000 metres – another year 13, Sarah Livett (David Hughes, Eryri), gained a rare but long deserved win in that event – but that new steeplechase best ensured that the Awards Committee presented her with the JDB Williams Memorial Cup for the girl achieving the best performance in a track event. It is the second time that Rhianwedd has received that trophy – the first time was in 2010 – and it is a trophy which, surprisingly, has eluded her twin, Ffion.
Elliot Slade (Bishop of Llandaff, Cardiff & the Vale) missed these championships last year, because he was preparing to make his debut for Great Britain & Northern Ireland in the World Youth Championships in Lille, where he reached the semi-finals. By Welsh standards, Elliot has made extraordinary progress over 800 metres, running a season best of sub 1:50, regularly producing sub 1:53 performances and testing himself against senior opposition at the Aviva UK Championships & Olympic Trials at Birmingham a fortnight before our Nationals.
Elliot Slade pictured winning the Senior Boys 800M
Here, Elliot produced another fine run on his debut in the senior 800 metres, stopping the electronic clock at 1:51.66 to hack over two seconds off the event best of 1:53.95 set by his training partner, Joe Thomas, when he was a pupil at Coedylan School in Pontypridd back in 2006. Sadly, because of the meeting timetable – the 400 came before the 800 – Elliot opted not to attempt a double, which was achieved by Joe in 2006.
That new 800 best earned Elliot the Welsh Academicals Cup for the best track performance by a boy.
The Awards Committee still had two decisions to make – for the specialist cups – the Kirsty Wade Middle Distance Trophy and the Colin Jackson Hurdles Cup.
The Hurdles award went to an under 15 athlete, who was making her debut at this competition. Abigail Bowers (Welshpool) had finished third in our junior Combined Events championships at Newport on June 30th, recording 11.99 seconds into a 4 metres per second headwind for the 75 metres hurdles. Here she went even quicker at 11.86 seconds into another headwind, 2.1 metres per second. In receiving the Colin Jackson Cup, Abigail becomes the first junior to receive the award since Helen Davies (Denbigh, North East Wales) in 1998.
So what of the Kirsty Wade Trophy? The Awards Committee took, arguably, the easy option, choosing, for the first ever time, to make a joint award to Rhianwedd and Elliot, which means that it is retained by the Price household as Ffion was the recipient in 2011.
With Rhianwedd having a share in that award, it meant that girls from Powys had claimed an undreamed of lion’s share of the six individual trophies, an achievement which must have been a very special and proud moment for Gareth Oldham, who has done so much to keep the district functioning.
For the second time, all events were scored in the team competitions. Afan Nedd Tawe district improved to claim two trophies this year – taking the senior and middle girls – while Cardiff & the Vale of Glamorgan narrowly missed out on a clean sweep of the boys’ trophies for a second year, retaining the middle trophy and taking the senior but losing narrowly to Dyfed in the junior section. Dr Hedydd Davies was left with only two age group trophies this time – both junior sections - but the overall strength of his Dyfed squad saw him retain the President’s trophy with a winning margin of over fifty points from Cardiff & the Vale. We congratulate Dyfed on their success.
While this account focuses on athletes who set new best marks, it should be appreciated that, with around four hundred and fifty pupils taking part, there were a similar number of individual stories to be told – of highs and lows, of joy at success and of disappointment at not achieving a dreamed of target!
Whatever the outcome, we hope that the majority of the pupils competing - and the large number of officials, parents, supporters and spectators, who were there - enjoyed the day.
The provisional date for next year’s Aviva Welsh Schools’ National track & field championships is Saturday, July 6th. The venue has not yet been finalised.
Footnote – Aviva SIAB u17 track & field international – Saturday, July 21st
English Schools’ hosts this year’s Aviva SIAB u17 track & field international on Saturday, July 21st, at the Julie Rose stadium in Ashford, Kent. .
We wish our team ‘Good Luck’.
Many thanks to everyone involved at Brecon on July 7th:
- To Aviva for sponsoring the event
- To the pupils who competed for their district
- To National Track & Field Secretary, Marian Williams, for all her hard work - before, on the day, and in the aftermath
- To the district team organisers and team managers
- To everyone who contributed to officiating on the day – technical & non technical
- To Brecon Leisure Centre and the stadium staff for their help in the planning process, for their huge support on the day, and for clearing up after the event
- To Paul Farrington, our link to Aviva and UKA Athletics, and to his colleagues
- To Mr Graham Webb and Welsh Athletics President Mr John Penny, for organising the presentation of awards
- To Welsh Athletics for their help and support, and for providing a tent
- To British Red Cross for providing first aid cover.
- To International Secretary, Dai Gatehouse, and the international team managers
- To Mike Walters, for chairing the Awards Committee
- To the parents, who came to support their children
Report by Peter Morris.