Central AC and Balfron High pair, Matt Chandler and Briagha Cook, were on superb form as they represented Scotland in the Schools pentathlon international in the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. For Matt it was a historic day as his Scottish Senior Boys’ team took a famous victory over their English, Irish and Welsh counterparts.
Hopes were high after Matt and his Scottish teammates, which included Arbroath-based Central AC athlete and Scottish U17 Athlete of the Year, Joel McFarlane, had consistently won medals at UK championships over the last year. This was Matt’s third consecutive year in the event, but at 17 would be his final appearance in a schools international. After narrow defeats to England the last 2 years, last year by just 16 agonising points, they were eager to make amends and finally score a victory for Scotland.
Matt opened solidly with 8.61s in the 60m Hurdles for 5th place individually which helped Scotland take the lead in the team event. A personal best 10.87m in the shot kept up the challenge but some good throwing from the England team saw them move in front. A swift 200m from Matt with 23.80s helped the Scottish team to close the gap to just 58 points. In the long jump Matt leapt to a creditable 6.27m and with some excellent jumping from his teammates Scotland took the lead by a narrow 24 points going into the final 800m event. There was still work to do and each member of the team had an English counterpart to track. Matt did what he needed to do in his heat as he tracked his opponent all the way setting a personal best 2:13.09 minutes to finish with a score of 3,281 points ahead of his English rival. The final heat saw some close battles between the Scottish and English team, however some fine running from the Irish team with the top 3 finishers put them into contention as well leaving a nervous wait for the scores to be tallied.
Central’s Arbroath-based Joel McFarlane took an outstanding personal gold medal to lead the Scottish team home. When the final scores were announced it was Scotland who had taken the victory by 111 points from England and 122 points from Ireland. This was Scotland’s first team win since 1998, before any of the current team were born and meant that Central AC athletes had finally secured a gold medal at this event after a string of individual and team silver and bronze medals from numerous Central athletes over the last few years.
Briagha Cook was making her international debut at 15 in the Junior Girls’ event and opened with a solid 5.04m long jump. She followed this up with a superb 9.04s 60m hurdles personal best, the 2nd fastest of the day to lift her to 6th place. Another big personal best of 1.59m in the high jump, 3rd highest of the day, put her up to 4th just 7 points from a medal position. Briagha knew she would be under pressure in the final 2 events but produced a further personal best in the shot with 8.07m then another personal best in the 800m of 2:38.85 minutes. These performances gave her an excellent finishing score of 3,186 points for 7th place and helped her Scottish team to 2nd place overall and a silver medal behind a strong English team and well ahead of their Irish and Welsh counterparts.