Alice Wright wins West Midlands Virgin Mini Marathon trial race
Worcester AC’s Alice Wright will lead the West Midlands challenge at this year’s London Mini Marathon on Sunday 17 April after convincingly winning the West Midlands Trial race at Stourport Cycle Track in a time of 17 minutes 38 seconds by a minute from her club mate Jenny Nesbitt writes Tom McCook.
The 16-year old (pictured left, photo by Martin Humby) who has been coached by the former England Junior Cross Country international Dave Walker for four years has developed into one of this country’s promising young endurance runners in the last couple of years.
In March 2009, Alice won individual bronze medals at both the English Schools' Cross Country at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire and the Schools' International at Bangor in North Wales. Twelve months ago, the talented teenager from the village of Abberley repeated these positions in the same two competitions in Manchester and Truro respectively.
The “Pocket Rocket” made a significant break through four months ago when she won the first of the winter’s McCain UK Cross Challenge at Liverpool’s Sefton Park by the narrowest of margins. Even though the timekeepers awarded both Wright and Thurrock AC’s Jessica Judd identical times of 15 minutes 16 seconds, the Worcestershire runner just did enough to snatch the verdict.
Alice reflected on her first ever victory in a race against her great friend and rival from Essex Jessica Judd (pictured right, photo by Mark Shearman) who has won countless national titles. “Our race was held in conjunction with older runners in the Under 20 age group which was a little confusing. I have raced against Jess many times in the last couple of years but so far it is the only time that I have managed to finish ahead of her in a race.”
She continued, “This year began really well with three victories in January. The first one was the Worcestershire Championship which was staged in conjunction with the Warwickshire Championship at Cofton Park at Longbridge. A fortnight later I won the second McCain UK Cross Challenge event in Cardiff with my training partner Jenny (Nesbitt) completing a first and second double for Worcester AC.”
In the third week of January, the 16-year-old endurance runner made a winning international debut for England on the continent in front of more than 5,000 people at the International Juan Muguerza Under 20 Women’s race in the town of Elgoibar in the Basque region of Spain. The pace for the first three kilometres in near freezing conditions was controlled by the pre race favourite Zenobia Vangansebe from Belgium who five weeks earlier has accomplished a Top Six finish in the European Junior Championships in Portugal. Despite being the youngest and the most diminutive competitor in the event, the King’s School Worcester pupil overtook her Belgian rival to win the race over a 4.5 kilometres course by a margin of five seconds in a time of 15 minutes 55 seconds.
Alice’s achievements on the national and international stage were officially recognised on 2 February when she was named as Worcester City's Junior Female Sports Personality at the Annual Sports Awards Ceremony held in the Graeme Hick Pavilion at Worcestershire County Cricket Club. Worcester AC had double cause for celebration when Alice’s Coach Dave Walker was named as Coach of the Year. (pictured right, photo by Martin Humby)
March was also action packed. Alice returned to Cofton Park to finish runner up to Jessica Judd in the McCain Inter Counties championships. She also led Worcestershire to victory in the team competition with excellent support from Cannock and Stafford AC’s sixth placed Midland Cross Country champion Becky Straw, Birchfield Harriers Chloe Richardson who edged out Jenny Richardson by one place and three seconds from an individual Top Ten finish.
By virtue of her two victories at Liverpool and Cardiff followed by her second place at Birmingham, Alice was crowned the McCain Cross Challenge Women’s Under 17 Champion for 2010-2011 by a margin of eight points with an overall score of 106 points. Her Worcester AC club mate Jenny Nesbitt took fourth place with 92 points having missed out third spot by just three points. Alice traded up from the bronze medal position at the last two English Schools Cross Country Championships to the silver medal in a race won by Jessica Judd on 19 March in the delightful surroundings of Nottingham’s Wollaton Park.
She commented, “Whilst I wanted to win, I knew that it would be tough running against Jess and I was pleased to improve on my third places in the last English Schools' Championships. I didn’t get a great start on what was quite a short course but the hill at the end made up for that.” A week later the teenager made the journey across the Irish Sea to represent England at the annual SIAB Schools' International match at Antrim. In a repeat of the previous week, Alice was runner up in the individual race and made a significant contribution towards England Schools retaining their Home Countries team title by a margin of 45 points from their hosts.
Alice is now looking forward to representing the West Midlands at the London Mini Marathon on 17th April. “I enjoyed last year when I finished third. Even though I expect the competition to even tougher this year, I am very much looking forward to this event on what is always a very special occasion.” She continued, “After that, I will start training for this summer’s track season where I will focus on the 3,000m.”
A year ago the West Midlands experienced the joy of having the individual gold and silver medallists in the Men’s Under 17 race with excellent performances from the BRATs duo of Jack Gray and Paul Thompson. Photo right by Mark Shearman (3328 and 3327) Although both these runners are now out of this age group, Coventry Godiva Harriers' Matthew Rose who was a member of the quartet who brought home silver medals from last year’s team competition and is now the 2011 Midland Cross Country champion, will lead the line on this occasion. Rebecca Freeman who will once again manage the West Midlands team is looking forward to the occasion. She commented, “I hope that the weather on the morning of 17th April will be good to us and everyone will be at their best on that day. We have athletes from no less than fifteen different clubs from all over the region including Hereford, Nuneaton, Stratford, Tamworth and Telford in the team this year. I believe that that the Under 17 women led by Alice Wright and with 3 of the 4 athletes from the Worcestershire team who won the Inter Counties team title will be hard to beat.”
Awards photographs by Martin Humby
Action photographs by Mark Shearman
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