THE second day of the English Schools Championships is one the Head family won’t forget in a hurry.
The Grays family are creating quite a dynasty in hammer throwing and brother and sister, Thomas and Katie, enhanced that with stunning displays.
In her first ever English Schools, Katie won the junior girls hammer with a personal best throw of 54.96m while Tom, in his final time at the championships, threw a huge 68.80m to win silver in the senior boys event.
The distance was more than four metres further than he had ever thrown before and he was only denied gold by Great Britain junior international Taylor Campbell who threw a massive 74.42m.
It was the third silver medal in a row Head – who was named captain of the Essex team – has won at the English Schools, but now with his schools career over, he has run out of time to emulate his dad and now his sister in winning a gold medal at the biggest event in youth athletics.
“I’m the only one without a gold medal now,” laughed Head. “My dad got one back in the day and now my sister has got one!
“But I’m just so happy. It’s been coming for a while. I got glandular fever from March to May and it’s taken a while to fully get rid of that.
“But it has all come together at the right time and it showed the work me and my dad have put in over the winter has paid off.”
The dad of and coach to Thomas and Katie is well known to athletics fans. Paul Head went to the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and won a silver and bronze medals at two of the four Commonwealth Games he competed at. And, of course, he started it all by winning a gold medal at the English Schools Championships.
He would have been a proud man as he watched on Saturday, first Katie win gold and then Thomas pulling a life-time best out of the bag in the same circle just hours later.
It is by a stroke of good fortune that the two Heads were allowed to be in the same Essex squad together. Until this year, the junior girls hammer was, bizarrely, not a championship event at the English Schools.
But that changed just in time for Katie to join Tom in their first and last Essex team together.
“It was fantastic that it happened this year and I had my little sister to look after,” said Tom. “She did fantastic.”
Katie certainly did perform fantastically.
She was ranked number one in the country going into the event but said she didn’t feel the pressure of that. Instead she felt the pressure of trying to break the all-time British record.
That record stands at 55.37m with Katie’s winning effort in Birmingham going out to 54.96m, an agonising 41 centimetres short.
“I felt like I did put a bit of pressure on myself,” she said. “I really wanted to break that British record but I’ve got plenty of time to do that before the end of the summer.
“It was an amazing experience. Tom has always said what a great atmosphere English Schools is and he was definitely right.”
Thurrock’s other gold medallist of the championships was Khai Riley-La Borde who defended his senior boys 110m hurdles title.
The Palmer’s College student jetted off to America this week to represent Great Britain at the World Junior Championships in Oregon and he admitted afterwards he had that trip in the back of his mind.
“I felt a little niggle in my calf in my heat and I really didn’t want to push it too hard with the World Juniors coming up,” said Riley La-Borde. “I don’t think it’s anything too serious but I didn’t want to risk it.”
Khai Riley-La Borde with his English Schools gold medal
Riley La-Borde looked brilliant in his heat, clocking his second fastest time ever of 13.73s and was still able to run within himself in the final and get the win in 13.90s.
“I just wanted to get the win, that was the most important thing,” he said. “The time wasn’t the priority.”
Tilbury’s Robbie Clarricoats had disappointment in his 110m hurdles heat, with his time of 14.78s not good enough to make the final.
However, he made up for it by joining forces with his former William Edwards School mate Riley La-Borde, George Hadler and Joseph Dewar to win gold in the senior boys 4x100m relay.
Aveley’s Modupe Shokunbi came home from the championships with her second medal in as many years.
After winning a silver in last year’s junior girls 100m, Shokunbi stepped up into the intermediate girls category and won a bronze, finishing the final in 12.07s. She ran even faster in the heat, dipping under 12 seconds for the first time as she clocked 11.57s.
Chafford Hundred’s Femi Seki was just outside the medals in the junior boys 200m as he finished fourth in 23.27s while William Edwards School pupil William Adeyeye (12.78m) was sixth in the junior boys shot.
Chay Clark battled her way through to the 400m hurdles final where she finished seventh in 64.61s while Duane Jibunoh was eighth in the senior boys discus with a throw of 46.28m.
There was disappointment for Thurrock Harriers’ Gemma Holloway who was forced to drop out of the senior girls 3,000m.
Modupe Shokunbi. PIC BY TONY BENTON