English U17 Pentathlon Champion - Jess Duncton Athlete Insight

30 March 2022

The past few months we’ve all heard about the incredible performances of Jessica Duncton right? If you haven't, where have you been! In just the first three months of this year Jess has broken 5 club records, won English U17 indoor bronze over 60m hurdles and English U17 indoor gold in the pentathlon. Jess’s performances saw her run for England last season and gain the attention of her first sponsor, Cass & Friends. So we thought we would find out a bit more about Cheltenham Harriers latest superstar. 

(Photo: Jess receiving English Indoor 60m hurdles bronze in 2022 and running for England in 2021)

Jess started athletics when she was 10 and instantly fell in love with multi events. Despite her preference for sprints she did compete over cross country for her first few years as well, she even made it to the National Primary Schools Cross Country Championships two years in a row. The track was definitely calling though and once there was no looking back for Jess. It didn’t take long for Jess to win the first of now 12 Gloucestershire County Championship medals, in events ranging from 800m to 100m to long jump to shot put. Jess’s talent is no surprise, her mum was also fast and enjoyed long jump while her dad has competed in two Ironman, the perfect mix of endurance and speed for a multi-eventer!

Jess doesn’t take her success for granted though and credits her supportive training group and coaches for getting her to where she is, in fact her support group is her favourite part of training. Of course it's not all medals and PBs, there is a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Jess said the winter is especially tough to train for her more technical events, such as high jump and long jump, because they are outside, it can be frustrating to see her rivals able to train in indoor facilities. If anything this just highlights even more how impressive Jess’s performances are and how much more potential she has.  

(Photo: Jess competing with some of her supportive training group last season)

Going into her record breaking indoor season Jess said she felt unprepared, ‘This indoor season felt like it went so quickly. I didn’t feel prepared at first, due to having lockdown, we didn’t have an indoor season for a couple of years. So I was quite nervous that I might not perform well.’ Her first event was held at Lee Valley where she broke her first two club records of the year in the U17 60m hurdles and 60m flat club records. Jess said the event got her nerves out the way allowing her to feel more relaxed at the bigger championship races to come. Jess continued to get quicker and quicker as the season went and summed her season up rather calmly by saying

‘I got some medals and PB’s so it went really well.’

The English Championships pentathlon was Jess first National gold medal even more incredible considering she broke 2 club records on route (60m hurdles and long jump) to gold and the club pentathlon record too. When asked how Jess handled the pressure she states ‘For the English pentathlon champs I did not feel ready. I had no high jump or long jump practice prior to this due to some issues.’ Jess and her mum worked hard together to find ways she could continue to train, allowing Jess to re-teach herself the skills and prepare her run-up ready for the competition. Competing over five events in just one day is tough for anyone, but remaining calm and dealing with these kinds of setbacks shows the makings of an elite level athlete. 

On the day itself Jess began with the hurdles and said she was more than ready for this event after PBs earlier in the season, lowering her PB further on the day boosted her confidence going into event two, the high jump. Once again showing the makings of a champion Jess sums up the high jump by saying

I won’t lie, this event frustrated me, as after a couple of no jumps, I got control of my anger and turned it into power for my next jump to clear 1.53 first try.’

Jess held on to that feeling to help her through the shot put and long jump, frustration into power was Jess’s new secret weapon. With one event to go, the 800m, Jess knew she had to beat her main competitor who had been on her tail in 2nd place all day. Despite the tiredness after such a demanding day Jess gave the 800m everything and was thrilled to finish 1st and see all her hard work paying off. Jess acknowledges she still has much to learn, but also builds confidence from seeing how far she has come.

‘I find keeping myself composed difficult but I’m so happy I’m getting better.’

(Photo: Jess receiving a hard earned English Pentathlon gold)

As for the upcoming outdoor season Jess has set herself high targets, but realistic targets, ‘I’m aiming to compete for England again, and possibly secure a place to compete for 100m hurdles u18s European champs (this is a new distance and I’ve got a couple of years to try) If this doesn’t work out I will try again next year. However I aim to compete in national heptathlons and get a medal this year! I want nothing but to perform at my full potential.’ 

Jess optimism, determination and hard work should be an inspiration to everyone. We are all behind you Jess!