An anxious minibus filled in Pitsford's quad on Monday morning (19th June) with travelling support and a huge number of nationally qualified Pitsford School athletes ready to take their places in the Midlands squad, at the ISA National Athletics Championships. The event took place at the home of Athletics, the Alexandra Stadium in Birmingham.
The 12,700 capacity stadium was daunting on entering especially with a film crew shooting as part of the 2020 Commonwealth Games bid, but a focused Pitsford team tried to remain cool depsite the scorching 30 degree heat.
With such a large number of athletes competing from Pitsford, the team was kept on its toes with a tight and full schedule in store. First to compete was Matilda Rigby, who qualified as a top 2 performer in the Midlands competition in the 1500m. As we walked out from the shade of the stands the task in front of Matilda instantly grew and the entire stadium shared sympathy with the long distance runners whose task was clearly made all the tougher by the extreme humidity and heat. A brave Matilda stormed around the track for a time of 6.20 minutes and ranked herself 12th, a fantastic achievement and great start to the day.
Next up was Oliver Taylor as he went track side to warm up ready for his 75m hurdles race. Oliver qualified as the Midlands winner so we were hopeful of a high placing. He didn't get the start he had wanted to the race and two very good hurdlers took 1st and 2nd, with Oliver narrowly missing out on a bronze medal placing 4th overall.
Fabian Powell followed. Everybody in the team was aware of Fabian's potential and the lightning quick year 6 began to carefully prep himself for the first of his two competitions with the 80m sprint first on his personal agenda. There was also a hope here that Fabian may push the national record of 10.1 seconds after a qualifying time of 10.5 seconds. Crossing the finish line with a winning time of 10.53 he did not break the record, but he did claim Pitsford's first gold medal of the day and as he shot over the finishing line emphatically - if you blinked you may well have missed it.
The team were immediately buoyed by the result and the medal returning to the Pitsford camp. With no time to waste the team moved around to the long jump pit where year 5 pupil Lewis Robson was already underway, admirably assisting him was Elliot Powell, himself a long jumper of some quality and performing in the event later in the day, he was on hand to offer pearls of wisdom to aid the junior school jumper. Lewis seemed calm in his approach and leaped to a 3.60m best jump on day, not quite as far as his Midlands winning distance 3.73m, but still this managed to grab him an amazing 6th place in the National Competition.
A small and welcome break in the programme gave the athletes a much needed short break as the sun continued to beam and temperatures soar. The relay team wisely used it for a short rehearsal.
Then the tension began to rise again, as hyper sonic Fabian Powell again walked down the stand towards the track for the year 6 150m event. His warm up and pacing routine began - there were plenty of nerves around him, but he remained what seemed calm and relaxed. The ISA national record stood at 20.2 seconds, so again the hopes of the team rose, hoping he could enter himself into the record books. He soon launched into action and flashed around the bend onto the straight and zooming towards and then over the finish line, another gold for Fabian and Pitsford! The electronic timer had a reading of 19.41, we looked to the programme and to the timer, double and triple checked and again, then we were sure he had done it. A brand new national record!
Maybe for the hardest in the day's schedule, Elliot Powell was to take part in the long jump at the same time as the 200m final, obviously making the already staunch competition even tougher, with official UK Athletics judges everywhere getting this right for Elliott proved very hard. Not to be outdone by his younger sibling though, Elliot was keen to get himself onto the medal podium. He lined himself at the start line and immediately raced into an early and commanding lead racing around the first bend, and accelerating still into the second, then powering up the straight. All of a sudden there was a challenger from the London South team who seemed to be gaining on him. Elliot pushed even harder, the stadium was on its feet, the cheers became defeaning and the pair crossed the line in what seemed almost simultaneous position. It was to be a photo finish, the results would be a little time in coming, growing the suspense further. Elliot with no time to spare sped back to the long jump. The result for the 200m came through - it was Elliot by 0.04 seconds. An amazing race and Elliot's first gold medal of the day, the team's and Powell family's third.
Pitsford were now flying, so round to the long jump and with some complications around timing hindering Elliot slightly he still managed to jump to 4.29m missing out on the medals by just 21cm. Personally disappointing for Elliot but still a marvellous achievement for the team.
Now for the part which had built all day for Jake Pearce and John Adams as it was the year 7 relay team's turn after the team raced home winners in the Midlands competition they were hopeful but knew they would need to be at their best. They made three swift exchanges of the baton, flying round with an impressive 57.48 seconds which was enough to claim 5th spot overall.
So the day came to a close, regardless of all the outstanding individual and team performances, the day must be remembered for the achievements of all who were there. To qualify for this event is a remarkable achievement and one that every competitior should be very proud of.
A big thank you goes to all the Pitsford parents who came to support, we are sure that the extra cheers helped spur the team a bit further along.