LOREN Bleaken is still coming to terms with the fact that she is a World Junior Championship medallist, writes Kevin Fahey.
In only her first season as a 400m sprinter the 18-year-old former Hardenhuish School student helped Great Britain win silver behind the mighty American quartet in Eugene, Oregon, last weekend.
Bleaken’s impressive run for her 400m in the heats saw her retained for the final where she delivered again.
Speaking to the Gazette on her return to the UK the Marshfield resident said: “It still hasn’t properly sunk in yet,” Bleaken explained.
“I am just so happy with winning a silver medal. I am really feeling over the moon.”
Just a year ago Bleaken, who is still receiving support from Chippenham Rotary Club, was representing Britain over 800 metres at the European Junior Championships in Italy.
On that occasion she was knocked out in the heats and while that had no bearing on her decision to switch down to the one-lap event Bleaken clearly has no regrets at the move.
The switch also involved changing coaches from her long-time mentor Adrian Clover to the vastly experienced Malcolm Arnold.
“It is much harder to move down than up but it is something I wanted to do and it was always better to do that sooner rather than later,” added Bleaken.
“A lot of credit must go to Malcom Arnold this year as he has done an amazing job with me and got me to my peak at the right time.”
That was evident as Bleaken recorded her fastest ever spilt time of 53.5secs in the heats and, unlike two of her team-mates, ensured that she was retained for the final.
“We won that heat really well by a clear margin and that gave us so much confidence and self-belief going into the final,” added Bleaken.
“The girls then ran out of their skins in the final to get the silver medals. It was just brilliant and I am so very happy.”
Elsewhere Yatesbury 1500m runner Gemma Shepherd has been selected to represent Team South West at the Sainsbury’s UK School Games in Manchester.
The 16-year-old Sheldon School student has made the squad for the four-day multi sports event, which is being held from September 4-7.
“I am really excited about it,” said Shepherd.
“I did the UK School Games last year and it was great fun and I really enjoyed it. The competition is tough but I was third in 2013 so hopefully I can match that or do even better and run a fast time.”
Shepherd’s selection is a reward for finishing fourth in the final of the inter girls’ 1500m at last month’s English Schools’ Championships in Birmingham, where she ran a season’s best time of 4mins 29.95secs, just 0.73secs off her lifetime best.
She added: “I really want to run a PB this summer and hopefully I can do that in the next few weeks,” added Shepherd.
Shepherd, will be joined in the squad by Matravers School student Will Kennedy.
The 16-year-old, from Westbury, has been named in the 4x100 sprint relay squad.
- County sprinters Will Kennedy, Owen Harnett and Adam Gordon were in action for Team Avon in the final match of the UK Youth Development U20/17 League Midland Premier One division, in Swansea.
Kennedy was runner-up in the U17 men’s 200m and third in the 100m, with Lavington School’s Harnett third and fourth respectively in the B races.
Adam Gordon, of St Augustine’s School, was second in the 4000m B race and St Laurence School student Sam Rockett finished third in the U17 800m.
St Laurence School multi-eventer Grace Davies-Redmond was third in the U20 women’s 400m, first in the B high jump and third in the under 17s javelin.
Box-based Amelia Hempleman-Adams set a season’s best of 1.66m to in the U20 women’s high jump.
Polly can make Rio
COACH Colin Baross reckons that Urchfont’s Polly Maton is a ‘special’ talent and isn’t afraid to describe the young sprinter as a potential Rio 2016 contender, writes Dan Barnes.
Maton, who trains under Devizes-based coach Baross, earned her first-ever international call-up, being named in the Great Britain team for next week’s IWAS (International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation) World Junior Games.
The 15-year-old Dauntsey’s School pupil, was born missing part of her right arm and competes in the T46 classification.
She will take part in the 100m, 200m and long jump at the World Junior Games and her coach is certain the youngster has what it takes to make her mark on the international stage.
“She’s definitely very special,” said Baross. “She doesn’t always believe that she can do everything she sets out to do, but I really think that she can go all way to Rio in 2016. That should be her goal and I believe that she can do it.
“She doesn’t see herself as a disability athlete and she spends a lot of time running against able-bodied athletes, just like she did at the South West Schools Championships (in April). She also won the (multi-classification) 100m at the Bedford International Games (in May).
“(The World Games) will give her a first international vest and it will hopefully mean that she gets an international classification, because they’re separate from the classifications in the UK.”
MORE SPORTS NEWS, PICTURES AND REACTION IN THIS THURSDAY’S GAZETTE AND HERALD. FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @gazsport