STRATFORD Athletic Club’s Lewis Byng produced a championship-best performance to win the U17 men’s shot put at the England Athletics Under 15 and Under 17 Championships at Bedford International Stadium over the weekend.
The championships attract the best young athletes from across the UK – simply meeting the qualifying standards for a competition of this level is an achievement in itself – and, on a chilly weekend of sun, showers and wind, several championship-best performances were established including Byng’s stupendous fourth-round winning effort of 19.45m in the U17 men’s shot put.
Not only was it a championship-best, it also moved him up one place to third on the UK all-time U17 list and consolidated his fifth position in this year’s world U17 rankings.
Byng’s exploits and amazing improvement this year has provided excitement – not just for the Stratford contingent supporting him – but also for his rivals and many neutral spectators who had gathered to watch the sheer excellence of his amazing performance.
To put his improvement into perspective, in the same championship last year Byng threw 15.25m when he earned the bronze by a single centimetre. This year he threw nearly three metres further than last year’s silver medallist Andrew Knight, who again finished in the silver medal position.
In one year, Byng has improved by more than four metres which is a credit to the hard work and dedication he has put in with SAC coach Sandy Green.
His improvements in the javelin have been no less impressive and he contested that event in difficult conditions on the second day of action in Bedford. Taking the precaution of using his short run-up to avoid slipping, Byng still managed to eclipse his previous PB by more than a metre to take the silver medal with 58.75m, ending a soggy but successful weekend.
Combined-eventer Millie Leighton’s dexterity means she can turn her hand to many different events and she produced the individual event performance of her life to win the silver medal in the U15 triple jump.
Her series of jumps peppered the 11m mark and her fifth-round jump of 11.29m kept her nose in front of the bronze medallist. Her winning leap would have been a PB had it not been for the strong following wind of 4.0m/s.
Leighton was back in action in the U15 hurdles and, after an unfortunate slip at the start without using blocks, she was playing catch-up after the first hurdle and finished in fifth place in her heat.
In only his first year of competing, Ollie Wear was taking part in his debut England Championships in the U15 javelin. In a high-quality competition in which Benjamin East set a championship-best of 67.04m, Wear finished sixth with a PB of 46.46m.
Freddie Clemons, another one of SAC’s promising combined-eventers, also experienced his first taste of a national championships and exceeded expectations by making the U15 80m hurdles final. In pummelling rain, Clemons finished eighth in what turned out to be a controversial final.
A false start by the silver medallist meant the race should have been stopped and recalled by the starters. The athletes were offered a re-run, which most accepted, but three of the athletes could not be found to ask and so the initial result stood.
Reflecting on his race, however, Clemons was disappointed he fluffed his start and had to more or less stop because he was about to take off from the wrong foot and it put him behind before the first hurdle and, like Leighton, playing catch-up.
That apart, he said he was “really happy to have made the final”, especially on his debut.
Report compiled by Paul Bearman.