Of the 179 entries, 141 athletes turned up on the day, and that is believed to be the highest ever number of competitors to take part at this event. Unusually, there were no champions from 2011 in action defending their title.
In a summer of rain, rain and more rain, it was good to have a dry day but, sadly, the high, gusting wind had an adverse effect on performances in all track events and the long jump – and made a significant contribution to keeping the lead scores below the 3000 metres mark.
The two top scores of the day – 2858 and 2820 – came in the u17 women/middle girls section thanks to a head to head between year 11 Georgia Bates (Deeside/Hawarden) and year 10 Annabel Curle (Cowbridge).
(Rosie Unwin 60 leads U17 Girls winner, Georgia Bates)
Having started as a cross-country runner, Annabel has made significant progress in the last two years in high jump and hurdles. With high jump as the first of the five events, it was no surprise that she took an early lead thanks to a hugely encouraging clearance at 1.65 metres. Georgia opened with the second best height at 1.56 metres but narrowed the gap in the long jump, her best of 4.81 metres, 26 centimetres better than Annabel, reduced the Cowbridge pupil’s lead to 39 points, 1236 to 1197. The duo produced similar times in the 80 metres hurdles, Annabel recording 13.08 to Georgia’s 13.09, though the north Walian’s head wind was significantly stronger. After three events, Annabel still headed the field on 1902 points with Georgia on 1861 and two year 10 pupils, Rosie Unwin (Maldwyn/Llanidloes) and Claire Taylor (Cardiff/Radyr), in third (1811) and fourth (1781) respectively.
Everything changed in the fourth event – the shot. Georgia produced the only 8 metres plus put of the competition to take the lead (2267) while Annabel (7.26), Rosie (6.12) and Claire (7.65) lost ground. Alex Cawthra (Maldwyn/Welshpool, year 10) was the only one of the seventeen girls to run sub 2:30 in the 800 metres, usually the least favourite event for all those taking part. Georgia ran a steady 2:38.58 (589 points) to complete the five events on 2856 with Annabel’s 2:40.59 (566 points) leaving her on 2820, a personal best.
For Georgia, this victory added the Welsh Schools’ middle title to her junior win in 2010, also at Newport.
In the u15/junior girls’ championship, the lead changed hands after each of the first three events. Jodi Beynon (Blaenau Gwent/Ebbw Vale) led after the long jump thanks to a leap of 4.76 metres. Hurdles talent Abigail Bowers (Maldwyn/Welshpool) raced to a 11.99 seconds clocking in the 75 metres hurdles to head the twenty-three strong field after two events on 1119, while her Powys team-mate, Welsh Schools combined events international Sarah Williams (Maldwyn/Welshpool), was the only girl to put further than 8 metres (8.40) to lead by seven points on 1485 points after three events. After that, it was Jodi all the way. A modest clearance of 1.47 metres gave her a three centimetres advantage over everyone in the high jump as she regained top spot on 2066 points, and she consolidated that lead with the second fastest 800 metres (2:32.10) for a final points score of 2733, just over 100 points ahead of Sarah (2631) with Abigail in third (2544). Double victory for Jodi made up for her defeat by Sarah at the Welsh Athletics indoor combined events’ championships last November
Both u20/senior sections were dominated by athletes better known as long jumper/javelin throwers. In the male competition, it was very encouraging to have three members of Newport Harriers taking part. Former Welsh Schools international Tomas Morgan (Newport), the only athlete in the u15, u17 and u20 sections not eligible for the schools’ awards – he left school two years ago – dominated the first four events with performances of 48.06 metres (javelin), 6.63 metres (long jump), 12.08 (100 metres) and 11.09 metres (shot), leading at that point by 700 points. Despite struggling in the 1000 metres – he was slowest of the six finishers, in 3:41.9 – Tomas still finished over 250 points clear of Schools’ senior winner Adam Jones (Brecon/Crickhowell, 2527) on 2786 points – third highest score of the day.
It was a similar tale in the female section. On her debut at the event, year 12 Melissa Arthur (Caldicot), who represented Welsh Schools at under 17 level last summer, produced the top performance of the five starters in the first four events – 1.47 metres (high jump), 5.14 metres (long jump), 13.45 seconds (100 metres) and 8.67 metres (shot) – giving her a points buffer of more than four hundred points at that stage over Molly Probert (Aberdare Valley/Mountain Ash), another athlete making her debut. The final event, the 800 metres, was competitive with Olivia Dyer (Radyr) leading the five home with 2:51.61 and Molly bringing up the rear on 3:03.80. Melissa’s fourth place 2:58.96 clocking ensured victory in the Schools’ senior section with 2697 points, with Molly claiming the Schools’ silver (2213 points), and Elinor Jones (Amman Valley) taking bronze (2067).
In the absence of the Dyfed duo David Omoregie and Aled Price and Matthew Collins (Cardiff & the Vale), Luke Ward (Deeside/Hawarden) was always the likely winner in the u17men’s/middle boys’ section, and so it proved.
The north Walian produced top or joint top performances in the opening three events – 14.8 seconds into a 5.7 metres head wind in the 100 metres hurdles, sharing top height of 1.74 metres with Ieuan Orton (Bro Morgannwg) in the high jump and registering the only long jump better than six metres (6.01) – to lead the competition on 1853 points, a lead of over two hundred points on second placed Kyle Arnold (Caldicot), with Harri Williams (Bro Morgannwg) in fourth (1441) behind team-mate Orton (1601).
For Luke, the shot – fourth event of the day was not one of his strong events. His best was only 7.83 metres, taking him to a points score off 2209. Behind him, Ieuan improved to second spot (2087) thanks to a 10.01 metres put with Kyle (2052) slipping one place as a result of a modest best of 8.76 metres. The boy who made the biggest impact was Harri, who surprised himself by producing the longest put of the competition – 10.45 metres – to narrow the gap to the lead trio on 1954, and he followed that up with a hugely determined run in the final event, clocking the fastest time of the sixteen finishers. His 2:08.59 was worth 623 points moving him up the field to take silver in the Schools’ section with 2577 points. Luke had a steady run, coming home in 2:17.13 to win both the Schools’ and the Welsh Athletics open u17 competition on 2701 points, while the battle for third place ended with two athletes – Kyle & Ieuan – locked on 2466 points. In that tie situation, UKA rules provide a tie break situation based on head-to-head performances. Ieuan had the better scores in the high jump and shot but Kyle was stronger in the hurdles, long jump and 800 to take the Schools’ individual bronze medal.
The entry in the u15 boys/junior boys’ section of 37 athletes on the day – down from the 55 entered - was one of the biggest ever in a competition at these combined events championships.
For the first four of the events, everything focused on the battle between Cardiff & the Vale/Cardiff AAC clubmates Tom Trotman (Cowbridge), the 2011 Schools’ bronze medallist and Welsh Athletics second placer, and Harry Hillman (St Teilo’s), winner of the Welsh Athletics u13 quadrathlon last year.
In the opening stages, it was year 8 Harry who led. His 12.41 seconds hurdles time was quickest in the section in the first event, and he followed that with a 10.19 metres put in the shot to lead on 1160 points after two events. Year 9 Tom had opened with 13.07 seconds for his hurdles run and had followed that with a best-in-competition 10.52 metres shot put to lie second on 1112 points with James Woods (Bryngwyn) in third (1013).
Tom has been high jumping at 1.80 metres, or above, for much of this wet summer so it was no surprise that he cleared that height in event three to take the lead on 1739. Harry, a useful high jumper himself, had a best of 1.62 metres but was now nearly 100 points in arrears (1640) while a 1.65 metres clearance by Oliver Butterworth took him into third place (1494). In a wind affected long jump, Tom and Harry were the top two performers – Tom on 5.25 metres with Harry one centimetre further – so the points scores after four events were Tom leading on 2170 with Harry second on 2073, James Woods back in third (1845) and Tyler Pritchard (Cwmbran/Blackwood) in sixth (1786).
With event four – the long jump – taking so much time to complete, the u15/junior boys’ 800 metres time-trials were, unusually, the last track events of the day – and the final race bought a significant change to the top placings. Tyler, second in the Welsh Schools junior boys’ cross-country championships in February and having already run sub 2:04 for 800 metres this summer, set off in determined fashion, scorching round the track for a time of 2:04.12, boosting his score by 697 points to 2483. Behind him, the two Cardiff athletes chased with an almost plastic band joining them. Harry looked to ease away from Tom, and Tom knew that, if he wanted the double victory, he could not let Harry get way. Harry was second home behind Tyler in 2:16.23, but his gap to Tom was not quite big enough. Tom finished close behind with a time of 2:20.96 and the 438 points gained were enough. He won with a final score of 2608 with Harry having to settle for second place with 2578, but what about third? That spot, in both championships, went to Tyler as the three boys ahead of him at four events – James, Oliver and Jake Evans (Tasker Milward) – recorded times of 2:22 or slower, which meant that they did not better 2300 points.
Both Welsh Athletics u13 championships were dominated by the pre-meeting favourites.
In the boys’ competition, Ben Paris (Cardiff) was the top performer in the shot (7.17 metres) and the 70 metres hurdles (13.38 seconds). He will be disappointed with his 3.63 metres long jump performance - six of his rivals bettered that distance – but, with his cross-country background, he roared back to set the fastest 800 metres time at 2:28,67. A final points score of 1275 gave him a healthy winning margin over his Cardiff clubmate Deio Hughes (1156) and Luke Davies (Brecon, 948), who claimed the silver and bronze medals.
While the Cardiff AAC boys gained two of the individual medals on offer, the club’s girls went one better, taking a clean sweep of the three available.
Lauren Evans was the top performer in the first three events – the only athlete in the shot to better 7 metres (7.08), quickest over 70 metres hurdles (11.97), and the only one over4 metres in the long jump. She added a reasonable 800 metres performance of 2:56.89 to that trio to end with a winning score of 1623 point. Behind her, Amy Ahia claimed second with 1515 points while Amber Harding’s 2:45.62 800 metres time was good enough to see of the challenge from Felicity Church (Swansea Harriers) and Lucy Davies (Pembrokeshire Harriers) for third place. Amber’s points total was 1494 with Felicity recording 1488 and Lucy on 1479.
There was a much bigger entry from Powys Schools in this year’s Welsh Schools competitions and team organiser Gareth Oldham and the district were delighted at their success in the junior girls’ section, taking the team title and hving the second placed team..
The top twelve finishers in the Welsh Schools’ junior and middle boys and girls competitions are to receive invitations from International Secretary Dai Gatehouse to compete at u16 (years 9 & 10) and u18 (years 11 & 12) at the invitation indoor championships to be held at the National Indoor Athletics Centre, Cyncoed, Cardiff on Sunday, November 4th. Eligible individuals, who were not able to compete at Newport, may also be invited.
Following those u16 and u18 competitions, Welsh Schools will select its team to compete at the SIAB indoor combined events international at Glasgow in early December.
Report by Peter Morris.