Jac Hopkins and Ellie Atkinson – the top two Welsh finishers at the recent Aviva SIAB Schools’ cross-country international in Perth – headed the Welsh performances at the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon last Sunday, April 22nd.
In cool, dry, almost windless conditions, which were ideal for racing over the final three miles of the main marathon course, it was year 10 Jac Hopkins (Bishopston, Swansea) who claimed the top individual position, finishing third out of a field of 70 finishers in the u15 (years 9 & 10) boys’ race in the competition for regions. In a very tight finish, he shared a time of 15:01 with second placed Jack Crabtree (North West). That was the fastest time recorded by a Welsh boy on the day and it was the first occasion that a Welsh Schools’ year 10 boy has gone under 16 minutes. Only six ‘seniors’ – Jonathan Hopkins (14:21, 2009), Adam Bitchell (14:58 in 2008, 14:27 in 2009), Dewi Griffiths (14:42 in 2008, 14:29 in 2009), Charlie Hulson (14:40, 2009) and Liam Lloyd (15:00, 2011) - have recorded faster times.
With Jac’s year 10 team-mates John Cove (Cardiff High, Cardiff & the Vale), Iolo Hughes (Syr Thomas Jones, Anglesey) and Christian Lovatt (Amman Valley, Ammanford) also producing good runs – John dipped under 16 minutes in finishing 18th with Iolo in 23rd just missing that time and Christian taking nearly a minute of his 2011 run - finishing in the top 31 places. That scoring quartet also produced our lowest score of the day, 75 points, which proved only good enough for fifth.
In the equivalent u15 girls’ race, year 10 Ellie Atkinson (Llantwit Major, Cardiff & the Vale) underlined her improvement since the turn of the year by claiming eighth place in 17:39, a time (on the three mile course) only previously bettered by four of our ‘senior’ girls – Leah Dixon (17:09, 2009), Gwenno Brown (17:29, 2009), Natasha Cockram (17:35 in 2009, 17:09 in 2010) and Ffion Price (17:15 in 2010,17:32 in 2011).
Year 10 Olivia Gwyn (Bishopston, Swansea, 17:56) also ran sub 18 minutes to finish 17th but the competition was tough and third and fourth counters – year 10 Lara Philippart (Olchfa, Swansea, 18:44), who lowered her 2011 time by 28 seconds, and Heidi Davies (Llandrindod, Powys, year 9, 18:52) came home in 38th and 45th for a total of 108 points and seventh place.
The all-year 8 u13 girls’ team – in the last race of the morning – produced a gutsy performance. Cari Hughes (Syr Thomas Jones, Anglesey, 18:24) improved one place on her tenth position in 2011, though marginally slower, but she was chased home by Jessica Bradley (Tasker Milward, Dyfed, 10th, 18:25) and Issy Morris (Christ College, Powys, 15th, 18:37), with all three recording times under 18:40. Bethan Evans (Y Pant, Pontyclun, 45th, 19:46) completed the team for a score of 79 points, second lowest behind our u15 boys, and sixth place behind the South East’s winning total of 13!
John Spill (Friars, Bangor, year 8) set the quickest time for our u13 boys last year when his 16:37 run earned him seventh place. Jake Heyward (Llanishen, Cardiff) was only six seconds slower this year to finish eighth, a fine performance. In another all year 8 squad, support came from Marinus Petersen (Dewi Sant, Dyfed, 27th, 17:30), Michael Roberts (Eirias, Colwyn Bay, 39th, 18:02) and the hard working Daniel Davis (Tregib, Llandeilo, 40th, 18:06), who had competed for the Dyfed u13 boys team at the Aviva UK Sportshall Finals in Birmingham on the Saturday. Their four boy total of 114 points placed them sixth.
In the opening race of morning – at 9.10 am – it was Llanishen sixth former Mike Ward who led the Welsh u17 boys’ team home – as he had in the u20 race at the Home Countries cross-country international at Glasgow in March. He finished 19th (15:11) and, although the team had closed in a further 16 seconds, that fourth man was fifteen places lower down the field of 71 finishers. Year 12 Matthew Edwards (Barry, Vale of Glamorgan), making his event debut, finished 24th (15:17) while Jonathan Tobin (Bishopston, Swansea, 15:25, year 11) produced a near 40 seconds improvement on last year’s run to finish 30th, with Nathan Jones (Prestatyn, NE Wales, 15:27, year 12) also slicing over twenty seconds off his 2011 time to take 34th place. Their 107 points total ranked them eighth.
The u17 girls’ squad was the only one affected by non-availability, with Megan Withers (Tasker Milward, Dyfed) being replaced by Elin Davies (Bishopston, Swansea). Team managers must have been delighted by year 11 Elin’s showing as she headed the Team Wales contingent, finishing 24th in 18:08. Behind her, the scorers were completed by three more year 11 pupils. The experienced duo of Malika Rezougui (Blackwood, SE Wales, 18:37) and Rebecca Evans (Y Pant, Pontyclun, 18:43) finished 37th and 40th respectively with north Walian Georgia Garner (St David’s, Llandudno, 19:16) claiming 51st place. A team total of 152 points ranked them ninth.
Team manager Steve Jones was pleased with the overall team performance, feeling that we were competitive in all six age groups. Given the potential strength of the English regions, he feels that our yard stick should be our performance against Scotland and Northern Ireland. The score against the Scots was two sections each, while we finished ahead of Northern Ireland in all six competitions.