6/7 July 2001
The Dorset Schools' team enjoyed their most successful
championships ever when they returned to the Exeter arena and the scene of their
glorious victory in the South West Championships in the middle of June.
They were billeted in student houses next to St. David's station and the relative peace of the accommodation compared with the main campus helped to create an excellent ambience among the team members. Meals were taken at Birks Hall at the university and counties travelled in convoy to the arena without stopping at junctions or red lights as priority was ensured by the presence of police at all the crucial points on the short journey. This all added to the sense of occasion. On the first day there was one medallist: Dan Hepplewhite gained second place in the Junior Boys Shot, a remarkable performance since he only resumed competition just before the South West Championships after suffering a hand injury while playing rugby. Performances on the first day hinted at the possibility of something special on Day 2, but nobody could have anticipated what actually happened as six additional medals were added to achieve an impressive haul of four golds, two silvers and one bronze. Unluckiest athletes perhaps were Bill Walter, a first year Intermediate, who threw a personal best of 15m 25 in the Shot, only to miss the bronze medal by 6 cms, and Michael Johnson who, after impressing in his heat of the Junior Boys' 200m, sprained his ankle getting out of the minibus and was unable to compete on the second day.
The stars were many. Louise Watton confirmed her status as favourite to win the Junior Girls' Javelin for the second year running, though she had to contend with a strong cross wind which made throwing difficult. Charlotte Moore was similarly a strong favourite in the Inter Girls' 800m and dominated her races in a manner which promises great things for the future and for two weeks time when she competes for Great Britain in Spain. Craig Bravington showed immense composure as he hurdled a fallen athlete near the start of the Junior Boys' 800m final before using his devastating finish to leave his rivals trailing in his wake. Colin McCourt displayed awesome finishing speed over the final lap of the Intermediate Boys' 3000m to take over four seconds out of his more favoured rivals who struggled in the windy conditions while he floated in a manner that suggests we shall hear much of him in the years to come. We wish him luck on his international debut in Ireland on 21st July. Sian Scott was seeded on paper to come second and she did not disappoint, drawing on all her reserves of speed off the final hurdle in the Senior Girls 400m Hurdles to seize the silver medal. One of the most unexpected medals and one of the finest performances of the weekend was that of Nikki Hamblin: a first year Junior Girl, whose talent had only been glimpsed as she ran away with the Dorset and then the South West 1500m titles. Possessing a fearsome turn of speed (a noticeable feature of all our medal winners on the track where strength alone is rarely sufficient in championship races) she coasted through the heats and looked comfortable even though she ran a personal best time. In the final she kept herself in contention throughout and was in second place until the final thirty metres. An improvement in her personal best of ten seconds in the cauldron of a national championships is testimony to the magnificence of her achievement.
Dorset won the overall C (Minor) Counties title for the first time ever, but by the narrowest
of margins, half a point ahead of Lincolnshire.
Although every athlete who achieved a point contributed, the fact that
Claire Dewsbury cleared 1m 63 on her second attempt in the Senior Girls' High
Jump and did not need a third trial at that height was enough to earn her equal
seventh place. Had she cleared it on her third attempt, she would have finished
eighth and Dorset would not have won the title. By such narrow margins are
titles won and lost.
The fact that fifteen members of the small contingent of
twenty-five finished in the top ten in the country speaks volumes for the
stirling efforts of coaches throughout the county. Long may their efforts
continue and their enthusiasm and expertise inspire performances such as those
we were privileged to witness this year.
Thanks also go to the team managers who worked tirelessly
over the three days: Kerry Hayman (Highcliffe), Kirsty McMeeking (Parkstone GS)
who can be well satisfied with her first year as Dorset Schools Secretary,
Geraldine Sircus (Thomas Hardye) and Keith Hayman (Bournemouth).
See you all at Nottingham on 12th/13th July 2002.