City of Portsmouth AC members scoop two golds at new-look English Schools Athletics Championships

City of Portsmouth members scooped two gold medals at a vastly-different English Schools Athletics Championships.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 11:00 am
Callum Taylor won the senior boys Javelin at the English Schools Athletics Championships
Callum Taylor won the senior boys Javelin at the English Schools Athletics Championships

On the first of three days of competition - compared to the previous two - Callum Taylor and Ellie Lovett triumphed in the throwing events.

Taylor won the senior boys javelin, with his best throw being 62.24.

Then Lovett, who lives on the Isle of Wight, won the senior girls discus with a winning throw of 40.18 - just three cms better than the runner-up.

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Ellie Lovett won senior girls discus gold at the English Schools Athletics Championships in Manchester. Picture: Neil Marshall

City of Portsmouth AC secretary Paul Farres said Lovett’s victory was a ‘remarkable result’ considering three weeks earlier she had been struck down with Covid.’

The Championships have been a central event in the calendar of junior athletics in this country since the first version in1925 and in its present format from 1960. Portsmouth’s Mountbatten Centre, home to CoP, hosted the event in 1986.

The Championships have been the spawning ground for almost all our Olympic, world, and European medallists.

The event could never be the same in the pandemic era and, although selection was through the county schools structure, each event was limited to the nationally top 14 competitors in each discipline.

Fola Odofin broker her own City of Portsmouth AC 100m record at the English Schools Athletics Championships. Picture: Paul Smith

The seniors competed on day one, the intermediates on day two, and the juniors on day three. Athletes were unable to attend the Championships except on the day they competed.

Hampshire took a 54-strong squad to Manchester, where most events were held at Sports City with the longer throwing events taking place at Trafford AC.

Unlike previous years, all the athletes had to travel independently of each other - either with a parent or a coach.

CoP members (10) made up almost a fifth of the 50-strong county team.

‘It was an incredible achievement to have that many athletes,’ said Farres. ‘That shows the strength of athletics in the county. There were other counties with a lot less athletes.’

Elsewhere in the throws, Tyler Pattison hit 44.33m for sixth place, ‘an excellent performance for an athlete at the bottom of this age group.

Sam Kershaw took ninth place in the shot with a throw of 12.20m.

On the track, Holly Wilkinson contested the demanding 1500m steeplechase, finishing 11th in 5:21.63.

On the second day of competition, which saw the intermediate girls and boys in action, Mimi Nightingale was competing in her first English Schools Championships. She was placed seventh in the Triple jump with a leap of 10.83m.

CoP had two representatives in the Javelin - Aidan Hunt and Christopher Jones-Parker, the latter having won the junior boys event when it was last held in 2019. They finished 11th and 12th respectively, with throws of 49.52m and 48.81m.

In the final day’s junior events, javelin thrower Jack Holt marked his potential with a fifth placed throw of 45.49m.

Taylor, Holt, Hunt and Jones-Parker are all coached by long-serving CoP coach Bronwyn Carter, who had never before had so many of her throwers at the same English Schools event.

In the Junior girls 100m Fola Odofin produced a personal best in the heats of 12.84 - breaking the CoP club record she had established earlier in the year. The fastest sprinter at CoP - at any age group - then finished fifth in the final.

Farres summed up: ‘None of these wonderful performances could have been possible without the guidance and inspiration of the City Portsmouth AC club coaches - specifically, Graham Arnold, Bron Carter, Phil Budd, Ann Hayter, Vince Stamp, Steve Purser and Alan Crook.’

He admitted it had been a ‘nightmare’ year for everyone involved in the sport, with the Mountbatten Centre closed during lockdowns.

That resulted in groups of CoP athletes forced to train in fields in and around the city, with all coaching done on a one-to-one basis.

League events were able to restart in mid-April, with CoP having so far competed in two National Athletics League Division 1 East meetings and two Southern Athletics League meetings.

In the NAL, they comfortably won a competition staged at the Mountbatten Centre and were runners-up at Milton Keynes. CoP’ final two fixtures are also in Milton Keynes.