The young athletes of Cheltenham Harriers achieved a significant landmark on Sunday 17 June, as the National Youth Development League moved to Round Three in Yate. By placing fourth on the day, but maintaining third place in the Premier League overall, they have qualified for the Championship play-off round for the first time. This is a fantastic result, especially as two of the other teams in their Division made it all the way to the Nationals last yearThe grey cloud and gusting winds seemed out of place, but the conditions did little to affect the enthusiasm and commitment of the Under 13 and Under 15 athletes.
The Hurdles have become a real strength this season, and meant that Cheltenham started well, with the first events on the track being the U13 age group. Harry Ineson and Barnie Shaw made it a double first for Cheltenham in the A and B races, in 13.76s and 13.14 respectively. The girls then followed with Jess Duncton coming third in a very fast A race with 11.80s, and Lorna Willmott winning the B race and breaking her own Club record with 11.25s. Staying with the U13 Girls, there were successes right across the team. Serena Ihle-Matthews made a strong debut, placing second in the A shot with 7.24m, following it with a throw of 15.73m in the A javelin to take third. Seren Jones put in one of the performances of the day, setting a new PB of 4:05.16 in winning the A 1200m and coping well with the strong gusting wind. In the 150m, Jess Duncton placed third in a very fast A race in 20.19, with Lorna Willmott then winning the B race in a new PB of 19.54s.
In the U13 boys, the 800m proved fruitful as William Holdsworth came second in the A string with 2:35.38; and then an excellent run by Barnie Shaw took him to victory in the B race in 2:32.71. In the field, Sam Cotton and Harry Ineson made it another double first in the Long Jump, Cotton winning the A with a jump of 4.32m and Ineson winning the B with 4.29m. Ineson went on to win the A High Jump with 1.41m. Connor Hilton had another successful day in the field, winning the boys A Shot Put with 7.15m, and then the B javelin with 21.34m. The versatile Hal Jamieson placed fourth in the A javelin with 22.79m, before completing a gruelling 1500m.
In the U15 events, a number of the athletes were suffering the effects of competing for Gloucestershire the previous day at the Schools SW Championships in Exeter. Such is the spirit in the squad that they made sure they turned out for this crucial League match. Kaityln Sheppard, Jorja Webb, Molly Gould, Ed Holdsworth and Alfie Wood all overcame fatigue to place well in their events, with Molly Gould looking fluent to come third in the A string Hurdles in a time of 12.31s. Making her debut in the competition, Daisy Hall placed third in the A High Jump with 1.40, before running a very strong first leg in the 4×300m relay.
In the U15 boys, Ryan Berry took third place in the 300m A, with Joe Coley following up with third place in the B race. In the Pole Vault, Robert Smith showed his consistency, matching his PB with 2.40 to take second in the A string. Finlay Jamieson and Arthur French competed strongly in probably the only event unaffected by the conditions, taking second place in the A and B Hammer in 26.84m and 23.59m respectively. A similar result followed for the javelin throwers, Will Excell taking second in the A string with 31.30m and Oliver Risborough placing second in the B string with a throw of 24.29m. The U15 boys then produced some excellent running in the relays that wrapped up the scoring for the day. Robert Smith, Arthur French, Harry Brooks and Sam Smith combined to place third in the 4×100m relay, and then some very impressive running by Joe Coley, Ed Holdsworth, Will Excell and Ryan Berry brought home second place in the 4×300m relay. As an overall outcome from the day, Cheltenham have cemented their position in the Premier Division for next season, and can look forward with real excitement to the Championship Round in July.