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UK Athletics

Steeplechasing in pursuit of dreams

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More help and encouragement is on the way for the growing band of UK females taking up the steeplechase following an inspirational day at the UK Athletics Endurance Centre at St Mary’s University Twickenham.


UK Athletics sponsors Aqua Pura are supporting a 1500m steeplechase development race for Senior Women, Under 20s and Under 17s at the first of this year’s open meetings staged by Team Southampton. The race will take place on Wednesday 23 May (8.00pm) at Southampton Sports Centre.


“It will be a great opportunity for newcomers and athletes who have attended the regional coaching sessions to race the event over the shorter distance,” says the race organiser Geoff Watkin, who will accept emailed entries at kinwat@hotmail.com and can be contacted on 01983 611772. “This will be an ideal warm-up race for athletes looking to run a quick time over 2000m at the St Mary’s Relays meeting at Twickenham on 6 June.‘

The race will also incorporate the inaugural Hampshire Schools AA Championships for Intermediate and Senior Girls with the hope that the women’s steeplechase will soon be included into the English Schools Championships. At present the British bests for the 1500m event are 4:52.5 for Seniors by Jo Ankier (Shaftsbury Barnet Harriers) and 5:13.7 by Bryony Frost (Isle of Wight) at Junior level.


England Athletics East Midlands Region are staging steeplechase development sessions, free of charge, for Under 23, Under 20 and Under 17 females at the UK Athletics Performance Centre, Loughborough University, on Mondays 14 May, 21 May, 28 May and 4 June (6.30-7.30pm). UKA performance coaches John Nuttall and Terry Lomax will contribute technical advice.


“This a great opportunity for some young females and coaches to attend a programme that can develop the necessary skills in order to be successful in the steeplechase,” says Alan Richardson, Coach Development and Education Officer for the region.


Athletes are urged to book early to avoid disappointment because there is a limit of 10 places. It is also a condition that personal coaches must attend the sessions, which will deal with topics including technical barrier work, the water jump and application to endurance.


For more information please contact Alan Richardson by phone on 07824 302921 or email at arichardson@englandathletics.org


These two opportunities follow a fourth successful Aqua Pura Women’s Steeplechase Day at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, on Saturday 28 April.


Athletes made their way to West London from two English Regions and two Celtic Nations. From the South East: Bea Swords (Oxford City), Tanya Taylor and Charlie Gaspar (both Marshall Milton Keynes) and Katie Trewhella (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow). From the East, Kirsty Tideman (Basildon). From Wales, Emily Brown. From Scotland, Nicola Hood.


All athletes were accompanied by a coach or parent, which was great for coach education. And the day was blessed with fantastic weather, which enabled lots of practical work on the track.


Geoff Watkin worked one-to-one on hurdle technique with emphasis on simple lead and trail leg work. Then came walking hurdle drills with good core stability.


Water jump practice initially took the athletes into the long jump pit with Watkin coaching and Stella Bandu using the camera in preparation for afternoon analysis.


They then progressed to the real water jump and Watkin was delighted with the quality of the athletes’ technique, reporting: “Three managed to get over with just one foot in the water.” International Jo Ankier joined the group for this session.


To complete the morning’s work, the group ran a short interval session of 3x800m with hurdles at the barrier positions plus the water jump. Ankier also took part ... “A great end to the morning,” says Watkin.


After lunch Watkin did a Q&A with Ankier going back to her racing and training as a 15-year-old then through her progression of Championships: European Junior in 2001, European Under 23 in 2003, World Championships in 2005 and Commonwealth Games in 2006 plus the European Cup in which she was second. She answered questions on her training and balance of lifestyle while working full time as well as operating as a full time athlete. Athletes and coaches asked great questions.


Watkin showed and analysed women’s steeplechase races from recent major championships while Bandu worked on a one-to-one basis looking at the water jump techniques from the morning with athlete and coach.


They then looked at the competition programme for this summer and the main target races for individual athletes.


To finish there was a Q&A on the way forward with the Aqua Pura project which received very positive feedback with the athletes who have attended regularly feeling they have made progress and looking forward to racing the event this summer.


Bandu and Watkin both felt it was a positive day and were delighted that athletes were accompanied by coaches and/or parents.


Among the messages received since, was this from David Hood: “Just a wee note to say thank you for Saturday’s workshop. We got home just before midnight and were both pretty tired by then but both Nicola and I really enjoyed the day and came away with plenty to think about and work on from both a coaching and athletes point of view. I know that Nicola particularly enjoyed training with other athletes of a similar or higher standard in an event group – something that we just do not have here in Scotland for steeplechase. We would both like the opportunity to be involved in any UKA development squad sessions in the future.”


Emily Brown emailed: “I would just like to say how much I enjoyed the session today, I have not only come away with information about the event and training / technical pointers but also with a lot more confidence in my ability especially over the water jump which has been my weakness ever since falling in at BUSA last year, which was my first race. It was great to have someone like Jo there giving us an insight into her experiences as I could really relate to quite a lot of what she was talking about even though I have only been doing the event for a season. She also gave me some inspiration and belief that with some hard work and dedication it is possible to reach your dreams.”


Brown went some way towards reaching her dreams on her return to the BUSA Championships at Bedford on Sunday 6 May. She won the silver medal in 6:59.48, a PB by more than 10 seconds, behind winner Ruth Senior. And finished fourth in 7:03.25, almost 10 seconds faster than she has ever run the event. Her St Mary’s team mate Jenna Hill took bronze in 7:02.99.