Rugby & Northampton AC achieved their best ever result in a national final at Manchester’s Sport City on Saturday. They fell just 3 points shy of a win, losing out to Blackheath and Bromley in a thrilling finale.
Undefeated in league and regional final stages, R&N lined up with the top seven clubs in the National UK Youth Development Final, the cream of 199 clubs involved across England, Scotland and Wales.
Highlights included wins for U15s Ernest Kisel and Harrison Nash in the 100m, and national level performances and wins for Olivia Monk in the 100m, Isabella Banks in the 75m hurdles, and Isabella Knight in high jump. This was followed by double wins for English Schools champion, Savannah Morgan and Lucy Boyes in the 300m.
The U13 boys were inspired by a win for Laike Favier in the 1200m and a superb 75m hurdles from Sonny Briggs-McKellar, a performance which catapulted him into the UK top ten rankings. However, Charlie Cook’s javelin success took him to UK number one! A pb for Martha Pollard also confirmed her ranking in the top five U13 javelin girls in the UK.
With all the individual track events competed, R&N AC trailed Blackheath by some 29 points. However, a series of exciting wins in the relays changed the entire complexion of the match. First the U15 girls 4×100 quartet of Olivia Monk, Grace McCollin, Isabella Banks and Savannah Morgan kicked a dent into the deficit. Then Jacob Vural, Ernest Kisel, Robbie Dale and Harrison Nash utterly battered it with a season’s best performance in their 4x100m.
The most thrilling event of the day was the U15 girls 300m relay. Lucy Boyes, Esme Du Bois and Maia Thompson powered R&N into a strong position for anchor leg runner, Ella Darby. However, she faced a serious, and what looked like terminal, challenge from the top Reading sprinter, Molly Barnes. Somehow Ella held on, and in a performance of extraordinary grit and courage took R&N to yet another win. The girls’ performance is the best by any U15 team in the UK this year.
With the final event of the day, the U15 boys 4x300m, Blackheath and R&N AC were tied on 638 points. With two of R&N’s runners leg weary from the 4x100m and all of Blackheath’s fresh, it was always likely to end as it did – with a win for Blackheath. Blackheath have finished in second place five times since the competition began in 2013 – and once missed out, as R&N did on Saturday, by just 3 points. They were well overdue a win.
For R&N AC, this capped their previous best of third in a National Final. Club vice chairman, John Gercs, said, “This was a truly unbelievable performance which was made possible by inspirational coaches and incredible athletes at both Northampton and Rugby hubs working together as one. It’s just a taste of our future at the top table of athletics.”
1 Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC 648.0
2 Rugby & Northampton AC 645.0
3 Reading AC 567.0
4 Wirral AC 513.5
5 Cheltenham & County Harriers 463.5
6 Giffnock North AC 455.0
7 City of York AC 445.0