The Youth Development League showcases the talents of the best athletes from clubs across the entire UK. So, though confidence was high after convincing wins in their three Premier League fixtures, Rugby & Northampton AC headed into Saturday’s Regional Final at Rugby knowing that while a place in the National Finals was within their grasp, it was by no means assured.
Facing the other top finishing regional clubs, Birchfield, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, Cheltenham and Swindon, only a top two result would yield a first National Final berth since 2016.
The U13 boys took golds in 150m, 800m, shot and javelin. Robert Mitchell, Laike Favier, Sonny Briggs-McKellar and Jaunty Campbell Archer also won the 4x100m. Individually, Laike Favier in the 800m and Charlie Cook, javelin, were outstanding with national level performances.
The U15 boys went further, with a clean sweep of the short sprints, both A and B races, as well as 300m, and 80m hurdles. Ernest Kisel and Robbie Dale had a brace of wins each in the sprints, and the pair, together with Jacob Vural and Harrison Nash, saw their 4x100m relay team leap to tenth best ranked in the UK this year.
However, R&N’s U15 girls are perhaps the strongest squad the club has ever known. They won no fewer than seventeen events. They matched the boys in sprints and hurdles dominance, but also excelled in the field events, with double wins in long jump, hammer, discus and javelin. Particularly outstanding were Savannah Morgan in the 100m and Isabella Banks in the 75m hurdles. Just for good measure, the quartet of Olivia Monk, Grace McCollin, Esme Du Bois and Savannah Morgan won the 4x100m. Ella Darby, Isabelle Knight, Lucy Boyes and Maia Thompson emulated their success in the 4x300m. Not for nothing are both relay teams top ten ranked in the UK, with the 4x100m currently third.
Team events are won by – teams. The U13 girls may not have had the number of outright wins of the older girls, but they packed in second, third and fourth places, racking up the points. Club Chairman, Adrian White said: “We have an unusually good vibe at the club at the moment. We had athletes competing in their not-so-favourite events to help the club get points, which is always good, but I was really surprised that parents even drove back from holidays in Malvern and Norfolk because their children didn’t want to miss this final!”
All in all it contributed to a convincing 100 points win for R&N AC over Cheltenham, who will join them in Manchester on September 3rd for the National Finals. R&N AC’s previous best showing in a national final was almost a decade ago, when they finished third. The squad of 2022 has the look of success, and could go one – or even two – better!
Rugby & Northampton AC 597
Cheltenham and County Harriers 489
Swindon Harriers 439
Marshall Milton Keynes AC 437.5
Cardiff Athletics 396.5
Birchfield Harriers 389