England Indoor Age Group Championships
Sheffield, 13th/ 14th February 2015
A trio of Central AC teenagers made the long trip to Sheffield to take part in the England age group championships at the weekend. The event is the UK championships in all but name as the best athletes from throughout Britain and Ireland gather for the strongest competition there is at this level.
Katie Sharkey from Stirling was competing at this event for the first time ever in the under 15 girls 60m hurdles but was confident after being unbeaten in Scotland all season and going to 5th in the UK rankings after she won the Scottish schools in 9.21s. She eased through her heat in 9.36s then semi -final in 9.28s to qualify comfortably for the final in the 2nd automatic qualifying spot. She knew the final was going to be tough though but hung on for a highly respectable 6th place with 9.37s. There was an element of frustration for her though as her 9.21s run at the Scottish schools would have earned her the bronze medal but her 6th place is a highly respectable finish in her first ever run against the fastest athletes from throughout the UK.
Jessica Cleland was returning to this event for the first time since 2014 after a difficult period of injuries. 2 years ago the Dunblane teenager made an astonishing breakthrough as she became Central AC’s first UK sprint finalist in over 25 years finishing an unexpected 5th place in the under 15 60m. While she had been out injured though the opposition had improved and she knew the under 17 age group would be far tougher. She ran a respectable 8.01s to progress through to the semi-finals, an achievement in itself against such a strong field, but was unable to progress on to the final which was ultimately won in an impressive 7.52s by Irelands Ciara Neville. Jessica did get a measure of satisfaction though as the only Scot to progress beyond the first round.
However Jessica found a second wind on the second day as she took part in the 60m hurdles. She smashed her personal best in the heats with a superb 9.02s to qualify 8th fastest for the semi-finals giving her a chance to make another unexpected run to the final at this level. However she was unable to reproduce the form in the semi-final and was just run out if the fastest loser spots for the final. Like Katie there was elements of pride and frustration, pride in her excellent 9.02s pb in the heat, frustration knowing this time would have placed 5th in the final had she qualified, which would have been an excellent result.
Anna Cameron from Balfron, was making the trip for the first time ever as one of the youngest athletes in the under 17 age group. She has set several personal bests this season at 200m and 300m and took on these events with an aim of learning for the future. In the 300m she set out strongly on the tight inside lane but when they broke from lanes found herself boxed in and with just one automatic spot and 2 fastest losers to progress was unable to get into a position to challenge for the final. Her 42.59s time is her 2nd fastest ever though and was the 12th quickest time of the day. A highly respectable run which would have seen her progress to semi-finals had they been required. She also ran her 2nd fastest ever 200m with 26.56s the following day and will learn much from the experience.
All 3 athletes can be proud of the way they stood up to the best athletes from throughout the UK and Ireland and will hopefully encourage more Central youngsters to make the trip South to compete at the highest level at the equivalent outdoor event in Bedford at the end of August.