SANDAL sprinter Grace Eyles established herself as one of Britain’s brightest young athletes by claiming 300m bronze at the Aviva English Schools’ Track and Field Championships in Gateshead.
The 16-year-old Wakefield Harriers starlet clocked a club U17s record of 39.22s to take to the podium in an event which has previously launched the careers of the likes of Olympic and Commonwealth champion sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis.
Surrey’s Rachel Dickens took the intermediate girls title in 38.52s, with Bedfordshire’s Sabrina Bakare taking silver in 39.22s to leave the St Thomas a Becket College student toasting a job well done.
“I was really surprised to get a medal. I was just aiming to get into the final so to get a medal as well is a real bonus,” said Eyles. “I also got a personal best that I am really happy with as well.
“It was a hard race but it is a great experience to win a medal in front of a big crowd and a fantastic stadium.
“I have worked hard in training so I am just so happy I have got a medal to show for it.”
Along with Lewis-Francis, the competition is also where Olympic bronze medallist Katharine Merry cut her teeth.
And Merry is adamant that Eyles will have benefited enormously from the experience of scooping a medal in front of a packed crowd at the Gateshead International Stadium.
She said: “It is huge for them. For Grace this is the be all and end all and if she can perform to the best of her ability in front of a big crowd and live television it is a big confidence booster.
“I remember thinking after I won a medal that I am the best school child in England and that really rubber-stamps their potential.
“You can’t put a price on the confidence that brings. When you look down the list of past record holders you can see that this competition does produce world champions and you just don’t know how many of this group will go onto make a name for themselves.”
Harriers’ only gold medal of the championships came in the field where Lucy Holmes performed brilliantly to win the senior girls shot with a personal best throw of 12.51m.
Laura Robson scooped bronze in the senior girls 100m with a sprint of 12.28s, having won her heat in a time of 12.26s.
Bethany Sharp clocked a personal best 45.05 in the intermediate girls 300m hurdles heats but finished just outside the medals in fourth with a time of 46.04s in the final.
William Mulroy was fourth in the senior boys high jump with 1.83m and Andrew Jones took fifth in the junior pole vault with 2.95m.
Samantha Brook finished seventh in the senior 400m hurdles, Hannah Yates was ninth in the intermediate discus and Craig Westerman took 12th in the senior discus.
Matthew O’Connor, Sophie Woollin, Stephanie Rodgers and Bethany Porter also competed.
The Aviva English Schools Track and Field Championships is part of the Aviva Athletics Academy which encourages and enables children to get involved in athletics. For more information go to aviva.co.uk/athletics
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