JODIE Watson secured a superb bronze medal as four Stratford AC athletes more than held their own at the England Athletics Under-15 and 17 Championships held at the Bedford International Stadium.
The event is effectively a UK championships, with the best young athletes from across the country competing against each other.
Meeting the qualifying standards to be able to compete at this level is a test in itself but to actually compete on a national stage is a step up to another level and four young Stratford athletes showed their quality by initially meeting the stringent qualifying standards and then producing performances to make themselves and their club proud.
With thundery showers always a threat, Bedford had the incredible luck to miss the rain that pummelled the surrounding areas over the weekend, but the strong swirling head wind on the first day hampered the 100m runners in particular.
In the under-17s, Dan Boyd finished fifth in his heat in a blanket finish and just outside qualifying for the semi-final, but as with all the other athletes in a slower than expected time of 11.95 seconds that under the tricky conditions he can be pleased with his run.
Oliver Cresswell had his pre-competition training interrupted and the rustiness showed in the under-17 high jump, where from the outset he couldn’t find his rhythm.
His opening height of 1.76m was his best jump in a competition won by GB junior international Joel Khan from Worcester AC with 2.10m, just a fraction outside the championship-best performance.
Day two saw Jack Sumners lining up in the under-17 long jump and despite two marginal no jumps in the first three qualifying rounds, he still managed to produce a competitive jump of 6.36m to take him into the final.
He didn’t improve on his qualifying jump and finished eighth in a thrilling competition that saw the gold medal position change several times right up to the final jump of the competition.
With the sun shining and in her first EA championships, 14-year-old Watson produced the best performance of the Stratford athletes in the under-15 high jump.
Watson is still coming back to full fitness after a serious debilitating hamstring injury earlier in the year, but in a mature show of controlled high jumping, she had a day when everything came together and she produced an outstanding series of jumps to win the bronze medal, only missing the silver on countback.
Watson started cautiously with an opening height of 1.42m, which as it turned out was fortuitous starting at a relatively low height because it enabled her to get into her rhythm very early.
She went through the subsequent heights smoothly and serenely until she got to 1.61m, which was an impressive four centimetres over her personal best and with her confidence on a high she went over 1.65m to extend her PB by a massive eight centimetres over her previous best.
In a competition dominated by nigh on six foot jumpers, petite Jodie showed that size doesn’t always matter.
Sumners and Cresswell then turned to the track where they lined up for their respective heats of the under-17 hurdles and both ran well to reach the final.
The final was a who’s who of the best under-17 hurdlers in the country and the two yellow Stratford vests stood out on the start line.
In what was the final event of the day, all the athletes got to the first hurdle in a line but then Tre Thomas of Charnwood and Mayowa Osunsami from Newham & Essex Beagles AC took control of the race and they battled it out for the gold medal.
Disappointingly for Cresswell, he hit the fifth hurdle, which completely destroyed his normal smooth rhythm.
Sumners ran a superb race, only to be pipped on the line for the bronze medal by just seven 100ths of a second after an acrobatic dive for the line by Alistair Calmers, of Guernsey.
Osunsami won the gold in a time of 12.7 seconds, the third fastest ever by a UK under-17 hurdler.