A TEAM of seventy-five young Welsh Schools athletes did not have to travel far over the weekend for the traditional showpiece event of the Schools Track & Field calendar. Hosted here in Wales this year, all roads led to the Swansea University Sports Village on Saturday Jul 20) and welcomed athletes, officials, coaches, team managers and spectators from the Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland nations.
Looking to take advantage on home turf in front of a very loud vocal crowd that were in attendance, Selectors had chosen a team of 75 athletes (38 boys and 37 girls) from across Wales. The majority shone at the Welsh Schools National Track & Field Championships in Cardiff earlier this month, where the middle champions were automatically selected a fortnight ago.
The majority of athletes selected were from the middle age grouping (years 10 & 11 in under 17 category) with a handful of outstanding juniors (under 15s) given the opportunity to gain experience of this level of competition for the first time.
The team made up of 57 South Wales athletes were joined by 18 from Mid Wales and the North, who met up at Swansea University Singleton Campus on Friday Evening. This was for the pre-event dinner and the team meeting with an overnight stay at the nearby Singleton and Bay Campuses before battle commenced on Saturday morning (Jul 20) from 10:30am. The Hammer field discipline for girls got it all started after the traditional photographs were taken in the drizzly early morning conditions.
It turned out to be a very high standard of competition with a large number of champions from their respective country in attendance. Two championship best performances were broken for example and saw records go in the girls’ hammer and shot put. Congratulations must go to North Walian Osian Perrin who broke the Welsh under 17 3,000m record on Saturday after a fantastic final lap sprint with the English athlete. His time of 8.23.64 broke a record that stood for more than 40 years.
In 2019, Welsh Schools surpassed its total of seven at Grangemouth and in Swansea, where they picked up 5 silver and 6 bronze medals – making a total of eight individual medals and three sets of awards picked up in the boys and girls relay. In addition, there were several new personal bests recorded and close fourth places.
It was the perfect opportunity for Welsh youngsters, in particular those making their debut in a Welsh vest, to test themselves against the best at this top level and compete against athletes they would have not come across before in league fixtures.
It wasn’t all about on the track but also off it – it was great to see all the athletes from different clubs across Wales making new friendships and supporting one another. Great team spirit was also clear to see at the end of competition, where all the nations came together to form one big picture at the finish line. They will sure treasure these memories from SIAB for years to come as they continue into the under 20 age group.
This was a team competition with four countries competing against each other – Welsh Schools, English Schools, Irish Schools and Scottish Schools. Medals were presented in the centre of the track to the top three and presented by members of Welsh Schools and the SIAB International Athletic Board.
Six club athletes in Carmarthen were part of the 2019 squad as well as another nine athletes from the Dyfed District. This included six Pembrokeshire Harriers and one Llanelli AC young stars. Each one excelled as they ran, threw and jumped against high quality opposition.
SIAB is set to return in July 2020 when English Schools will look forward to hosting where they will welcome the Welsh, Irish and Scottish next time round.
Next up is the Welsh Athletics Outdoor U20 International on Wednesday Jul 24) at the Cardiff International Sports Stadium and will see Welsh Athletics and Welsh Schools teams go up against the likes of England South, England Midland, England North, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Guernsey in this end-of-season International. The event will be streamed via Vinco Sport on runjumpthrow.com
Photos: Nathan Jones