As the curtain falls on the first ever Commonwealth Youth Games to be held in the Caribbean, Team England’s athletes can look back on the week with pride. There were PBs, Championship records and medals a plenty, and the final day of the track and field competition was no exception.
The first athletes on the track were Alice Bennett (coach: Shane Smith, club: Kettering Town Harriers) and Phoebe Gill (coach: Deborah Steer, club: Colchester Harriers) in the women’s 800m final. Phoebe led from the gun and with 350m to go put in a surge to create a gap on the rest of the field. Her lead only grew in remainder of the second lap meaning it was all about the clock. She ran a stunning 2:02.30, a PB and a Commonwealth Youth Games Record. Alice Bennett also ran well to finish in 6th in a time of 2:08.29.
Phoebe Gill’s performance was not only a Games Record but it was also the fastest time run by an U17 British athlete since 1977. Afterwards, Phoebe spoke about the race:
“It was such an amazing race. I was a bit worried at first because it was so hot and being from England we’re not really used to that weather. I was against such a phenomenal field of athletes and I think we all pushed each other and I’m really happy with how it came out.”
Meanwhile, in the men’s 800m final, English interest came in the form of Miles Waterworth (coach: Bruce Warren, club: Brighton Phoenix). The men’s final also turned out to be a fast race with the Kenyan athlete setting the pace early on. Miles positioned himself well and by the bell he was in second place. With the pack chasing him down, Miles held his nerve and fought off the charging Scottish athlete to take the silver medal in a time of 1:52.21. Miles spoke about his performance:
“I’m extremely grateful to be here first of all. That was a big aim. Then when I found out about these Games around nine months ago, I wrote down on a piece of paper that I wanted a medal at the Youth Commonwealths, so to be here today with a medal, I still can’t quite believe it, it’s really amazing.”
Women's high jump
After securing a brilliant silver medal in the women’s 100m hurdles the night before, Thea Brown (coach: Joanne Harding, club: Sale Harriers Manchester) was back in action, this time in the women’s high jump. Thea stayed calm throughout the competition with her clearance of 1.78m guaranteeing her a silver medal. With neither Thea or the Australian athlete, who also jumped 1.78m, clearing 1.81m, Thea was knocked into second position on countback. Another brilliant performance by the Sale Harriers Manchester athlete.
Men's T38 Long Jump
Vincent Forkner (coach: Jo Abel, club: Huntingdonshire) was also back in the Hasley Crawford Stadium for the second time this week. After finishing 4th in the men’s T38 100m, he was hoping to put in another strong performance in the men’s T38 long jump. Vincent’s first jump of 4.15m turned out to be his best of the day and was good enough for 5th place in the Commonwealth.
After cruising through the 200m preliminary and semi-final rounds yesterday, Rusciano Thomas-Riley (coach: Ronnie Williams, club: Coventry Godiva Harriers) was raring to go in the men’s 200m final. Rusciano started strongly and ran a brilliant bend to put himself in contention for a medal. Positions began to chop and change and with 50m to go you could have put a blanket over the entire field. Rusciano held his form to finish in bronze medal position in a time of 21.59.
Having waited all week, England’s distance athletes were ready to take on the longest event on the programme, the 3,000m. Eliza Nicholson (coach: Phil Kissi, club: Herne Hill Harriers) and Jess Bailey (coach: Matthew Long, club: Leven Valley AC) started well, staying out of trouble in the initial stages of the race. By 800m, the hot pace set by the Kenyan athlete meant that the field was already strung out. Eliza and Jess stayed strong and by the halfway mark were in 3rd and 5th respectively. With two laps to go, both English athletes still looked full of running. Eliza was sticking to her task of maintaining a medal position and Jess Bailey was chasing hard. By one lap to go, Eliza had closed the gap the Ugandan athlete had put on earlier in the race. It promised to be an exciting finish! Eliza gave everything but was just pipped by the Ugandan athlete. She was still rewarded for her efforts with a brilliant bronze medal and a time of 9:26.00. Jess finished in 4th in a time of 9:38.08.
Afterwards, Eliza spoke about what the Commonwealth Youth Games experience has meant to her:
“I only started running two years ago and last year I didn’t even believe I’d be here so to win a medal really means so much. Being part of Team England has been absolutely amazing, I’ve met friends for life. It’s been quite daunting because this was the last event before the relays but seeing all my friends achieve so highly has really pushed me to perform and do what I did today.”
Brandon Pye (coach: Lynn Cooper, club: Houghton Harriers & AC) was next to run seven and a half laps of the track. Brandon ran superbly in the hot conditions to finish in 6th with a time of 8:30.87. This was only Brandon’s third ever 3000m race!
Tom Rutter (coach: John Waugh, club: Hertford and Ware) was the next field athlete to compete and was keen to add to Team England’s medal tally. His first-round throw ensured he did just that. Tom threw the javelin a fantastic 67.54m, adding almost half a metre to his previous personal best. His throw also earned him a stunning silver medal.
Afterwards, Tom gave his thoughts on his medal winning performance:
“It feels incredible. I’ve been waiting so long to compete for England in an international experience and to finally do it and win a silver medal is just absolutely mind blowing.”
The evening session concluded with the highly anticipated mixed relays. After strong individual performances across the board in both the 100m and 400m, English hopes were high for both the 4x100m and the 4x400m providing the teams could get the baton round safely.
First up was the 4x100m team of Mabel Akande (coach: Denise Timmis, club: Lincoln Wellington AC), Teddy Wilson (Tamunonengiya-Ofori Ossai, club: Be Fit Today Track Academy), Noah Hanson (coach: Carl Graham, club: Newham and Essex Beagles) and Thea Brown (coach: Joanne Harding, club: Sale Harriers Manchester). Mabel got out of the blocks well and handed over to Teddy who powered down the backstraight. By the time Noah had the baton Team England were firmly in the lead. Noah handed over to Thea who ran strongly but was being chased down by the male Nigerian athlete on fourth leg. In the end, Nigeria just passed the English quartet but they still secured the silver medal in a time of 42.68.
Finally, it was the turn of the 4x400m squad of Alex Beck (coach: Mark Upton, club: Winchester and District AC), Charlotte Henrich (coach: Carlo Monticolombi, club: Invicta East Kent AC), Stanley Chevous (coach: Lee Bowker, club: Ipswich Harriers) and Stephanie Okoro (coach: Tony Benton, club: Havering AC). Alex ran a strong first leg to hand over to Charlotte in 3rd. Not content to sit in this position, Charlotte quickly took the lead and held on all the way, handing over to Stanley in 1st place. Stanley maintained this position all the way, extending the team’s lead over all teams other than Guyana. As Stanley handed over to Stephanie it was neck and neck. Stephanie battled brilliantly against the Guyanese athlete but in the end the team narrowly missed out on gold by 0.22 seconds. Nevertheless, it was another stunning silver to add to a fantastic overall medal tally for Team England.
As the sun sets on the 2023 Trinbago Commonwealth Youth Games we can look forward to more action from our young athletes with the England Athletics Age Group championships and Para-Athletics Age Group championships) which will take place in Birmingham – last year’s Commonwealth Games stadium – on 26-27 August.