Since 2019, my son has dreamed of getting to the English Schools athletics national finals. And the chance keeps getting taken away from him.
We realised he was quite good at long jump in year 7. He remained quite good in year 8 and year 9. In year 9, he even made it to English Schools regionals.
Then in year 10, we realised he was really good at long jump. Suddenly a whole world of possibilities was opening up for him. He realised he had a very realistic chance of breaking school and club records. He came second at English Schools regionals with a jump of 6.51. He made it to the team for English Schools nationals, but then disaster struck.
He fractured his pelvis.
But it was OK, he would go the following year…
But then Covid came along. There were no English Schools athletics competitions in 2020. There were barely any competitions at all.
He competed in long jump twice in the 2020 outdoor season. He got a new PB, but he missed the club record by 3cm. (He did pick up the indoor triple jump club record on the way though!) There was no chance of picking up a school record, because you have to have sports day for that.
But he would get the chances again in 2021. Although he would be in an older age category, competing with year 13s as well as his own year group.
So two seasons have already gone wrong for him and here we are in 2021 and things still aren’t normal. Those dreams and those goals are still really hard to reach.
There will be a school sports day, but no field events.
So the record he could have broken in year 11 and/ or year 12, he will now only get the chance to break in year 13.
English Schools national finals will be taking place this year, but without the usual qualifying rounds (district, county and regional competitions). Instead, county teams can select a total of 32 athletes to compete (including boys and girls across three age categories and all events) in the national finals. But there are no guarantees they will be actually able to compete.
To qualify for the under 20s national finals, my son will need to jump 6.70 before 19th June.
I think he can do that. He jumped 6.63 in two competitions last year, with no training and no previous competitions. He has a number of competitions booked before 19th June.
But unfortunately reaching that qualifying standard and being picked by your county team is no guarantee of a place at English Schools national finals.
To comply with Covid rules and keep the numbers down, organisers will only take the top 16 athletes nationally in each age category and each event.
My son was inside the top 16 in 2020, but there were fewer chances for everyone to compete, and he was in the upper year of the under 17 age category. Now he’s in the lower year of the under 20 category.
Will he make top 16? It’s not impossible, but there’s no guarantee. If all he had to do was achieve 6.70, I would say he would definitely be at the English Schools national finals. But to be in the top 16 nationally is a long shot.
It’s out of his hands. All he can do is do his very best and hope that there are no more than 15 year 12s and 13s in the country who have done better than him.
To be robbed of his chance to compete at the national finals for a third consecutive year just seems cruel. But it might be that year 13 next year is his one and only chance…