Glass very half full

27/07/2021 13:54:40

The last time I blogged was around my birthday in mid-March where I reflected on the previous and in my view disastrous Covid affected 2020/21 track & XC season: I was full of hope as we were coming out of the third, and by far the toughest, lockdown and was openly optimistic about what the upcoming track season would bring, always the glass half full guy…that’s me!


Even “Mr. Glass half full” could never have been as optimistic as the reality of the past 4 months which has seen a magnificent bounce back from the Middle distance squad with nearly 200 PB’s set so far this season, six of the squad making English Schools championships; and this is with the ultra tough top 16 English ranking criteria, an English Schools winner, a Midland Counties Champion, 5 brilliant new club records; with at least 2-3 hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and 4 athletes enjoying a top 10 UK ranking, and 5 more with a top 30 UK ranking. The squad are on fire and punching well above their weight.


With so much happening it has been a real challenge keeping up on all that has happened in a frantic track season which still has some way to go. With the focus for most in the squad, English Schools, now passed this is the first opportunity I have had (On my holidays) to try and take stock of all that has happened and to write my first blog of the track season. Of course, as always, I have to acknowledge this is a huge team effort with John Cairns & Cheryl Lamb helping to deliver the sessions and motivate the squad to achieve these phenomenal results, and the parents who play such an important role in ensuring the athletes can attend sessions, races and provide the support; thanks to all of you.


Of course, Covid has still affected the season with restrictions on the access for parents and coaches, and stripped-down championships the main issues; but at least the championships have taken place and for that we must be thankful. Training is now largely back to normal with groups sizes unrestricted which I know from speaking with other coaches is not the norm by any stretch so again for that we must be thankful as this is always a big factor to drive performance. For me, the biggest thing by far has been the appetite from the athletes It has been great to see how they have responded and worked their backsides off, if nothing else the previous seasons huge disruptions have added a layer of steel and determination to the squad’s mentality.


At this time, all legal restrictions around Covid have now been lifted, and life getting more and more back to normality, however the cases of Covid are on a third spike with only the fact that most of the adult population having had at least 1 jab, and over 70% at least 2, preventing the massive disruption to the NHS, the main concern from the Government. We wait tentatively with fingers crossed there are no further lock downs required.


So, what are the main highlights this season, well I must start with new club member Indienne King who had been training once per week with the squad since the tail end of 2019, she finally made the decision to move clubs and adopt our training plan just as the third lock down was implemented. A perpetual Brides maid at National Championships including the U20 championships in June with yet another silver medal; albeit a brilliant performance as a bottom year athlete, Indie has now realised the undoubted potential both I and her parents knew was there with a magnificent National Championship win to become the English Schools Senior Girls 800m Champion; a Gold Medal at last! This is fully deserved Indie has set the standard for the squad and has enjoyed a brilliant first track season in the Red & White hoops:


A summary of her achievements: English Schools 800m Champion, England Athletics U20 Silver medallist, First GB Junior vest competing at the Loughborough International, First invite to the British Championships & Olympic trials, Two very good U20 club records, 800m & 400m & just 0.1 sec off the 200m record, UK ranked 4th U20 as a bottom year athlete, and she has lowered the 800m time by almost 4 seconds well below her original pre-season target of 2:09; the European U18 qualification mark, sadly cancelled due to the pandemic. An outstanding season my any measure with huge potential for Indie to build on this in the next few years.


There are many other highlights, a brilliant championship win for Amelia McMurtrie to become the Midland Counties 800m champions with a masterful qualification and final raced within a few hours of each other. Amelia also finally ran a new 800m PB with a 4 second improvement which has weighed heavy on her shoulders since joining the Harriers in 2019, and she also enjoyed her first appearance at the English Schools Championships.


A brilliant 4th place finish at English Schools for Alice Bennett in the Inter Girls 800m, and some outstanding performances in the 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m setting impressive new PB’s in all events, UK ranked 5th @400m, 7th @ 800m. Alice can consider herself unfortunate that English Schools 800m was ran as time trials, as she likes to race, and a podium finish would have been possible in my view in a normal race format. She did not PB in 2020 so has shown great resilience and has worked extremely hard over the winter to slice almost 5 seconds of the 800m time.


Alice Bates & Lara Turner Qualifying for English Schools for the first time with highly respectable finishes of 10th & 11th respectively, this year’s qualification was the hardest in history due to the limited covid affected programme with only the top 16 English athletes invited to compete, so great pride can be taken in making the cut and both will have gained useful experience of sport at the top elite level.   


Jacob Asher-Relf made a spectacular return to athletics, having not raced or trained for nearly two years he resumed training for just a few weeks before running two outstanding 800m’s within a few days of each other to set a National Standard time and break the U15B 800m club record to boot moving to UK number 5 and gate crash the English Schools party. Jacob made his first appearance at his first attempt finishing in a remarkable 6th place finish, with clearly much more from Jacob once he gets fully back into the groove.


There were many hugely credible performances, Josh Geddes finally dipping below the magical 2:00 min 800m barrier, and then completing the same feat a further 4 times, Ben Brooker knocking on the door of the same magical marker no less than 5 times all within a second with the closest effort just 0.02 sec away. Jemima Davey has broken two outstanding U13 Club Records in both the 800m & 1500m, the distance she sits as the UK number 3: the current highest squad ranking. In terms of squad rankings currently we boast 4 athletes in the UK top 10, with a further 5 athletes with a top 30 UK ranking, a remarkable achievement for a club of this size.


Sadly, I cannot mention everyone, but all have helped make this an amazing start to the season; the established elite, development squad, and new joiners have all produced the goods and as mentioned earlier with nearly 200 PB’s set, a mark which could easily be beaten by the close of the season, the KTH middle-distance squad are on-fire!


With still at least 4-6 weeks of the track season left, major age group National Championships still to play out, and of course Watford Wednesdays now finally coming on-stream there is certainly more to play out this track season. As I write this blog, we have two members of the squad (Alice Bates, Lucas Mansell) selected for representation for the Midland Counties squad at the Cardiff 5k inter area championship “race for victory” event at the end of August; off impressive 5k road times ran in the Desborough beat the sunset 5k race. This competition is a steppingstone towards a possible pathway for selection for team England, so impressive running showing the squads versatility over the longer distances over road.


A final few notes of positivity, you would expect no more from me; It’s great to have some senior women in the squad with new squad addition Steph Lawrie joining Elana Albery, running her fastest times for many years after training with the performance squad and looking to PB in her track events of 800m/ 1500m which were set many years ago. Elana also has set new PB’s in 10k, 5k and 1500m and this is a great positive influence on the younger female members of the squad who can see that track athletics does not finish when you become an U23.


I can also see real progress with European U18 Silver medallist Emily Williams making her way back from a disastrous Covid affected 2020/21, working closely with her coaching team at Birmingham University I am hopeful Emily will be back to her best for 2022. We also continue to see talented athletes joining the squad from further afield with some high-quality athletes considering trials with the squad over the next few weeks; all will be clear in early August. This is great, I am a real believer that success breeds success, Kettering’s middle-distance squad is fast becoming the squad of choice in the region; now that is enough to keep my half glass of positivity full for some time to come!


Shane Smith – Head Endurance Coach


The view expressed in this blog are my own views

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