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ESAA T&F Championships 1999

Report by: Martin Cunnane

9th & 10th July 1999 - Bury St. Edmunds

Emily Freeman Wakefield Harriers based athletes turned in two medal-winning performances for West Yorkshire Schools at the recent English Schools Athletics finals held at Bury St Edmunds.

Star of the show as far as Wakefield supporters were concerned was 18 year-old sprint sensation Emily Freeman, who added the prestigious English Schools U20 women's 100m title to her season's growing list of major achievements which include the North of England junior and senior 100m and 200m doubles and the AAA 100m title she won at Bedford a couple of weeks ago.

Freeman, who earlier in the week had accepted an invitation to run in the Rome Golden Gala where she finished second in a development race in 11.9 secs, qualified comfortably in the heats, beating Staffordshire's Rachel Redmond by half a metre in 12.2 secs.

In the final, Freeman flashed from the blocks and led all the way to the line, beating Gloucester's Libby Alder by over a tenth of a second in 12.34 secs with Leonie Lightfoot of Cheshire third in 12.56 secs.

Freeman has been rewarded for her sterling performances this year with selection to the British U20 squad that will take on France, Spain and Italy in an U20 international at Albertville, France,on July 24th.

Freeman is also preselected for the England team at 100m and the sprint relay for the World Junior Championships which are to be held in Riga, Latvia, commencing on August 5th.

Also in the women's U20 section of the championships, Wakefield's talented bunch of junior women had a string of near misses headed by Natalie Jackson who finished fifth in the shot final with 11.12m, just 7cm behind the bronze medal winning mark of Belinda Hall of Surrey. Suffolk's Amy Wilson took gold with her best putt of 13.03m.

Michelle Lonsdale also finished tantalisingly close to the medals in the U20 women's javelin having thrown 41.25m just 90cm behind the bronze throw of Lucy Rann of Hampshire. Peterborough's Goldie Sayers won the title for Cambridgeshire with 45.98m.

Fiona Westwood finished sixth in the U20 women's long jump with 5.45m. Sarah Claxton won with 6.26m with Fiona Harrison, daughter of ex-Wakefield and England rugby captain Mike, collecting bronze with her best leap of 5.91m.

In the 4x100m, Freeman and Westwood teamed up with Ruth Dales, who had earlier just failed to make the 100m hurdles final after finishing fifth in the semi-final in 15.65 secs, and former Wakefield Girls' High School student Laura Siddall.

The quartet qualified comfortably for the final where they finished third in a speedy 48 secs flat, picking up the bronze medals behind Essex who won in 47.46 secs and West Midlands who claimed silver in 47.87 secs.

In the U17 women's competitions, Jenny Handley put up a superb performance in the triple jump, topping a spectacular series of leaps with a silver medal-winning effort of 11.21m, just 2cm behind the gold medal-winning effort of Surrey's Natalie Brant. Handley's leap broke her own Wakefield age group record for the event and she continues to go from strength to strength.

Also in the U17s, another athlete who has made tremendous improvement during this track season is Aine Hoban. She qualified for the 3000m final despite being in the first year of the age group and then ran with determination to fill ninth place in a reasonable 10 mins 37.22 secs. The race was won by Louise Dames of Hants. in 10 mins 00.48 secs.

In the U17 men's high jump, James Wild, who had warmed up for the event by breaking the West Yorkshire League's 17-year-old high jump record with a 1.91m clearance just a week before, was disappointed not to reach the final after clearing 1.85m. Essexs Darryl Stone went on to take the honours with a 2.03m jump.

Martyn Bernard did reach the U15 boys high jump final in his age group and was mighty unlucky not to win a medal after clearing a personal best 1.81m, the same as the bronze medallist Mark Latham of Merseyside. He was beaten into fifth spot on countback. Derbyshire's Mark Bidwell won gold with a 1.90m clearance.