Middle Distance - Spring Blog 2022

03/05/2022 13:38:18

Shane Smith

As we head into the outdoor track season I think it’s time to reflect on what has been happening with the squad in the closing part of the XC season; and for some the short indoor track season, as there have been some brilliant performances worthy of a mention.

Before we start it would be remiss for me to reflect on two recent momentous personal occasions as we head into the new year: firstly the birth of my first granddaughter on April 17th which I have to say is an truly amazing experience, my Daughter (and former Harrier) Danielle gave birth to her beautiful Daughter “Sorenna Rosa Leader” at a healthy 7lb 2oz and she is perfect in every way! I am so excited to be involved in being a Grand Parent during a fantastic new stage of my life… Mother Baby & her Partner Kassim are all doing well and two weeks in as I write this Blog and Sorenna is flourishing.  

The other slightly less momentous occasion was my 60th Birthday which was progressing as a typical low key affair, until I wandered into the clubhouse to see why all my athletes had stopped training and had congregated there to be surprised with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” with a wonderful signed card and some really lovely (Gadget type!) presents…this was a complete surprise and was so special and really appreciated by me; to everyone who conspired to keep this a complete surprise and helped make it a very memorable training night…a BIG Thank You!

2022 started pretty much as it ended with some outstanding performances from many areas of the squad, and a signal of intent that following what I firmly believe was the squads best ever performance Middle Distance Squad 2021 summary blog | Kettering Town Harriers | Kettering Town Harriers (ktharriers.com) in 2021, the squad are hungry for more success.

The traditional new year opening event, the NAA County Championships was well down on the numbers of athletes competing with many wanting to concentrate on English Schools and some trying indoors so it was remarkable that we matched our best ever Gold Medal Haul with x5 County Champions crowned, many with their 3/4th successive County Title (Alice Bates, Elsie Robinson & Jemima Davey). Perhaps the performance of the weekend went to Maggie Gancheva who defines the spirit of the squad with such a wonderful work ethic and consistency in training she showed she is ready to start reaping the rewards in a fantastic race to win her first ever County XC title; an important milestone for this talented youngster and perhaps a springboard to move onto higher level competition. I do really value the County Championships for some this is just a stepping stone during the season, but it never ceases to amaze me how much of a buzz most athletes get the first time they win a County medal.

The County Schools Championship followed shortly after and we again matched our best ever medal haul with another 5 Gold medals & three double county champions crowned in the process (Maggie Gancheva, Alice Bates, Elsie Robinson). What was really remarkable was the number of athletes stepping up their game throughout the squad with a sensational 25 athletes securing spots in the Anglian Trophy Inter-County XC event, a Record.

Things then started to ramp with a series of outstanding performances, Jemima davey winning her first Area title winning the Southern Area XC championships, with younger sibling Rafferty finishing runner up in the U11B North Mids League. Davey also ventured indoors for the first time and bagged a fine Bronze medal in the Southern Area Indoor championships over 800m. there was another great indoor performance which saw Alice Bennet storm to U17 UK No1 with her fastest ever opening 800m, a position she held throughout the indoor season.

It was also great to Emily Williams back in action, she is gradually making her way back to good form following two disastrous years heavily affected by the pandemic resulting in constant disruptions with her first year studying at Birmingham University. Williams won her first 800m race in two and a half years with a very credible performance of 2:15.92 as she looks to get back to somewhere near her PB form this season.

There was also a Brilliant performance over 5k (parkrun) with 16 year old Alice Bates slicing 30 seconds from her PB, which bring her total improvement over the winter period to almost a minute, Alice set the third fastest time in the UK for any female with a superfast 17:12 also setting a UK U17 leading time, the fastest U17W time since 2019, and 6th on the UK All-Time U17 Women’s list!

A tough Anglian Schools XC course saw two bronze medals secured (Jemima Davey & Alice Bates) and a record number of the squad secure English school qualification places, with many experiencing this highest level competition for the first time.

There was also a few first for the squad, a National Indoor title, and a European Masters silver medal! Alice Bennet won her first National title to win the England Athletics U17 800m Indoor Championship with a brilliant tactical race which saw her storm to victory with a hugely impressive 29 seconds last lap. David Locker, competing for GB at the European Masters in Portugal over 800m in the V45 category, saw all of his hard work over the winter period pay off with a fine Silver Medal and show the younger athletes in the squad that if you work hard and still do the “Hard Sessions” that age is no barrier to continued success.

Alice Bates also competed over 3000m indoors for the first time and smashed her PB to slicing  over 12 seconds off and heading to UK number 2 in the U20 rankings as a bottom year athlete with 9:47.59.

The two outstanding cross country athletes over the season both secured the top finishes at the end of season Championship races, the English National saw U13 Jemima Davey finish in a brilliant 11th place, with Alice bates a career best performance to finish in 14th place at English Schools. There were many other fine performances, and many athletes gaining valuable experience to take forward in future years.

The hybrid winter season of XC races, mixed with some indoor performances seemed to work well for some, and this is something I will look to encourage others to try. It means the athlete still get the essential Endurance elements with the XC races, but also retain some track speed and compete with the best indoors.

So where does this leave us going into track in 2022…well an early insight saw some fantastic opening performances from the squad in the traditional opening KTH fixture in early April, with Lucas Rogers catching the eye with his first ever 400m to show his improved form in training will transfer into track times and I predict he will be one of the leading male athletes coming to the fore this season. Big PB performances from Jemima Davey in the 2k, and Alice Bennett & Maggie Gancheva in the 1k also show they will be ones to watch over the next few weeks.

There is plenty for the squad to aim for with a few athletes in potential contention for the European U18 Championships in Jerusalem in July and a possible GB vest. Many athletes will be targeting English schools as their main race for the season, while some of course will be looking to the county championships or a good open meeting to win a County medal or simply run a fast time. The track season now starts to get going like a 30x fast forward button with races coming fast and furious in May & early June where most athletes will be approaching peak form.

Will I be speaking on my next blog in July about the new next best season ever? Who knows but I think the super talented squad are easily able to match the sort of performances they produced last season, but to be honest it’s not that important. Sure record breaking success is great but the most important thing is that the athletes continue to enjoy their sport and work hard for their own success whatever the level is? One thing I feel confident in is I’m sure I will be waxing lyrical whatever the upcoming season brings, I have a good feeling!

The views expressed in this blog are my own.

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