A few weeks ago, my son who was already doing incredible things as an athlete took it up to the next level. He only went and came second in a regional competition with a massive new long jump PB of 6.51 – smashing the qualifying standard to make it through to the national competition.
We just couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe that he had jumped that far and couldn’t believe that he had reached national qualifying standard. Especially as he is in the younger half of his age group (athletics age groups consist of two years, unlike football and rugby which only consist of one).
But unfortunately reaching the qualifying standard didn’t 100% guarantee the he would get to the nationals. The county has just 32 places at the national competition – not 32 places in my son’s category of intermediate boys, but 32 places across six categories – junior, intermediate and senior in both boys’ and girls’ categories.
We had a tense week of waiting until we knew for sure that he was on the team. The national competition was in Birmingham. We’d imagined ourselves driving there as we have to all his other competitions – arriving an hour before his event, signing in, getting his number and doing a warm-up ready to start. Then we would leave shortly after his event was over.
But that’s not how it works with nationals. In the national competition they travel as a team, stay together as a team, eat as a team, support each other, then travel home again as a team. The competition was over two days and they were travelling up together by coach the night before, then staying over for two nights. For a cost of £130, they would have travel, accommodation and all meals provided.
Once we’d got over the initial shock of the cost of it and the big change to our usual arrangements, we were all excited. This made the national competition so much bigger than any of us had imagined. My son was going to feel like a real athlete with a real team. It’s not Team GB at the Olympics, but it’s as close as a 15 year old boy is going to get. What an honour, what an experience.
A few days later, we found out that his event would be on the Friday morning. We’d planned to book tickets the following Monday (yesterday!) and I was going to email my clients to tell them I wouldn’t be working that day. My parents were going to go along and my daughter was gutted that it was in school time.
At the next weekend’s competition, everyone was talking about my son qualifying for nationals. So many coaches, some of whom he’d never met before, were chatting to him and congratulating him. He was like a celebrity.
And then it all went wrong in a horrible way. You can read all about that here. But nothing will ever take away the fact that he had qualified for nationals and he was ON THE TEAM.
I’m very pleased that he got a special mention at his school’s sports evening for making the team. They said it’s incredible to even make the team, but even more amazing to do it a year early.