UK School Games
Loughborough University – Friday 1st September 2017
The annual UK School Games attracted around 1,600 of the UK’s top young sportsmen & women to the Loughborough University campus to compete in 12 sports. This multi-sports festival is based upon the same format as events like the Olympic and Commonwealth Games where competitors are housed together for the duration of the event which incorporates opening and closing ceremonies alongside 4 days of high level competitive sport.
One of the major sports included in the programme is track & field athletics where a full programme of events is included for both male and female competitors. This year the area had only 1 male and 1 female representative, such is the standard required to gain selection.
Kingston upon Hull AC’s 16 year old Libby Wheeler experienced the School Games in 2016 when she placed 4th in the triple jump, representing England North East. With a change in format this year seeing the 2 Northern regions merged to compete as England – North along with some highly controversial boundary changes being made by the organisers, including the inclusion of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire within this area, selection became much more difficult. Libby’s consistent performances throughout the season along with her national ranking position were noted by the selectors and she was again chosen to compete in the triple jump against rivals from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England – South and England – Midlands. The reigning Northern champion who narrowly missed medals at national level when finishing 4th at the English Schools Championships in July and 5th in the England Athletics Championships in August was determined to improve on her 2016 showing and started the competition with a solid jump of 11.32m. This she improved with a second round effort of 11.49m to briefly take the lead before being overtaken by English Schools gold & silver medallists Eloise Harvey (England – South) and Jazz Sears (England – Midlands) over the next couple of rounds. Libby produced her best jump of the day in the final round, improving to 11.50m, just 18cm short of her lifetime best. This took a clear 3rd place behind Sears (12.02m) and Harvey (11.89m) but 50cm clear of the 4th placed athlete. This brings to an end a highly successful final season in the under17 age category which has seen performances nationally in the triple jump at an all-time high with 5 girls having broken the 12 metre barrier, with 1 or 2 having been the norm in previous years. Libby now moves to the under 20 age group for the next 3 seasons but will relish the challenge posed by competing against older athletes at both regional and national levels.
Shaun Kerry was the second Kingston athlete selected for the England – North team he is in his first year in the under 17 age category having moved up from the under 15’s this April and he was making his debut appearance at the UK School Games. He is a hammer thrower who made his competitive debut in the event in April 2015 and he has made massive strides in the last two years, he debuted at the English Schools championships and won the first of his three consecutive Northern titles in that first competitive year. 2016 saw him taking the hammer title at the English Schools Championships as well as a silver medal at the England Athletics national championships. This year was going to be even tougher for Shaun as a first year thrower in the age group competing against older and more experienced athletes who were in their second and final year in the group. He enjoyed another successful season finishing as the UK ranked No. 4, winning the bronze medal at the English Schools event, retaining his Northern title and taking 4th place at the England championships. The UK Games hammer final was essentially a battle between Shaun and this year’s standout performer in the under 17’s Ben Hawkes of Crawley the UK ranked No. 1 who put out a throw of 68.21 metres to take the gold medal with Shaun taking the silver with 59.58 metres and Oliver Graham of Ipswich the bronze with 55.00 metres. Next year Shaun will enter his final year in the under 17’s and Ben and Oliver will be two of the athletes going up to the under 20’s.