Harriers enjoy medal success

IPSWICH Harriers Athletics Club is hoping to encourage young footballers who are not kept on by professional clubs to change their sporting career path towards athletics.

Stuart Watson

IPSWICH Harriers Athletics Club is hoping to encourage young footballers who are not kept on by professional clubs to change their sporting career path towards athletics.

Harriers coach Ricky Hanley is ready to form links with a number of Ipswich's semi-professional clubs after witnessing the success of a similar programme in London.

Hanley said: “For a lot of kids football always comes first as their growing up but then, as they get older, quite a few tend to drop out. In London they have found that athletics is a good way for them to continue to excel at sport.

“We don't want to see these youngsters dropping out of sport altogether and taking the wrong pathways in life. Athletes don't usually peak until 28-years-old so it is never too late to start in the sport in your late teens.”

One shining example of how a former footballer can utilise their skills on the track has been Rhys McDonald who has gone from a lower league football academy to representing his country in athletics.

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The 16-year-old was playing for Cambridge United a year ago but then decided to give athletics a try, joining the Ipswich Harriers.

Unsure as to what his strongest area would be, McDonald started in a broad range of disciplines before eventually settling on triple and long jump.

Just 12 months later the former Northgate High School pupil achieved qualifying jumps in both events for the recent English Schools Championships at Gateshead.

There, competing in the long jump, McDonald claimed the silver medal with an effort of 6.57m. That jump meant that he qualified to represent England for the first time at last weekend's England School's Home International at Bedford.

Hanley said: “A year ago Rhys came to us and said he fancied trying something different so we sat down and tried to work out a plan for him.

“He's only just started. If he can achieve that in his first year then who knows what he can do. Hopefully we can help him progress a step further now.”

PROMISING young high jumper Charlotte Shelley claimed gold at the English Schools Championships to continue her exciting progress.

The 13-year-old, who started the year jumping 1.55m, took the win at Gateshead with an impressive effort of 1.66m.

The Ipswich Harriers athlete's rapid improvement comes after she became the youngest person ever to be selected for an elite national high jumping clinic at the start of this year.

Continuing her training at Ipswich Harrier's home of Northgate Sports Centre on a Tuesday night, Shelley travels to Brunel University every Thursday night for specialist training with South of England high jump coach Carol Jackson.

Shelley is by far the youngest athlete on the programme, the rest of the group of around 20 all aged between 16 and 20.

Hanley said: “For me, as a coach, this is what it's all about. We worked hard to find someone who could taker Charlotte onto the next level and it has paid off.

“It has taken a massive amount of commitment from her parents to drive her up to Brunel every week, but the rewards have been great.”

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