ATHLETICS: Rugby & Northampton AC

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Club records and personal bests tumble in new Youth Development League

Rugby & Northampton Athletic Club made a strong start to the new Youth Development League season by finishing second in 2014’s opening meeting.

R&N’s under 20 and under 17 athletes kicked proceedings off at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium by leading the event until the halfway point before host club Birchfield Harriers took over and eventually won with a 40-point margin.

Taking second spot was one of the ingredients that made up an excellent day for R&N with club records and personal bests tumbling.

The men’s sprints were particularly fruitful events with Caleb Downes, in his first year in the under 20 age category, breaking a pair of club bests with 10.84 in the 100m and 21.87 in the 200m.

Rico Ewer and Tom Cheyne, competing in the under 17 men age group, carried their brilliant indoor form to the outdoor events to bring in almost a maximum points haul over 100m and 200m. Ewer won both A races in times of 11.09 and 22.5 respectively, while Cheyne came first in the 100m B race in 11.34 and was narrowly beaten over 200m.

R&N’s athletes put in some strong performances against some formidable opponents in the A races with Brett Mason winning the 400m hurdles in 57.9 and Adam Wright standing out with a personal best of 1:56.25 in the 800m.

Heather Paton posted 14.85 in the under 20 women’s 100m hurdles with the good results continuing thanks to Lily Carmichael a front-running winner in the under 17 women’s 800m with a time of 2:23.62. Carmichael then closed the day with an excellent lap of the 4x300m relay and her effort was followed up by team-mates Flora Courtney, Hannah Shepherd and Libby Lea to allow R&N to earn a tremendous second in 3:04.03,

Shepherd was R&N’s only female competitor in the under 17 women’s field events but she won the triple jump with a leap of 9.93m to further strengthen her claims as the female athlete of the day after her relay leg and second place in the 300m hurdles A race.

Megan Moran picked up the only A string win in the under 20 women’s events with an excellent throw of 36.77m in the javelin, despite difficult conditions, while Megan Exley made it a clean sweep by winning the B event.

R&N’s male hammer throwers were definitely the team of the day by taking 23 of the 25 points on offer. Nick Scales came second in the under 20 men’s A competition with Jonjo Fanning, throwing in an older age group than usual, winning the B contest. Paddy Price won the under 17 men’s event with a good season-opening throw of 43.7m.

Fanning then completed an excellent day by finishing second in the under 20 men’s javelin competition, again at the higher age group, with a solid 38.94m.

R&N had athletes competing across many disciplines to keep the scoreboard ticking over with everyone contributing to the team’s final total of 625 points on the day.

Freddie Taylor, new to the Youth Development League, showed his potential in the long and short hurdles events to finish second in both under 17 men’s A races, while Kiona McLennon achieved a personal best of 27.97m when taking second spot in the under 17 women’s discus having also placed third in what was a very high standard in the shot put.

Laura Simpson posted a promising personal best in the under 17 women’s 300m before the highlight and grand finale of the afternoon came in the under 20 men’s 4x400m relay.

The R&N team of Brett Mason, Ciaran Wardle, Hizam Sheekh and Adam Wright broke the club record, which was set in last year’s UK Finals, with a time of 3:25.39 having finished first after fending off the challenge of a strong Birchfield unit.

The final team standings saw Birchfield Harriers win with 667 points, R&N come second on 625 and Notts AC finish third on 568. Team Avon (541), Team Oxford (515) and Swansea Harriers (401) made up the top six.

R&N made an excellent start to the new season but they know that there is room for improvement ahead of the second round in Oxford on June 1.

The under 15 and under 13 teams begin their league season on Saturday at Swansea with the incentive of improving on their magnificent third place in the 2013 National Final.