By Scott Mills
Following the recent successes by many of the Academy’s athletes in the 2017 London Marathon, it was always going to be a tough act for Jenny Archer’s team to repeat so soon after, especially at the British Wheelchair Racing Association track meet at Stoke Mandeville.
For a venue that is known for its Paralympic history and its usual weather of wind, rain and the occasional outbreak of sunshine, the meet was always going to be a potentially tough one for the academy especially when they had been without a track to train on throughout the whole of winter.
However, in the true grift, determination and dedication drilled into them by their coach Archer and her assistants, the athletes were determined to do the black and white tops of their team justice.
With the 100m sprint kicking the day off in ferociously fast fashion, our Portuguese club member, Joao Correia who had travelled from his homeland to compete, got the academy off to a flying start as he recorded a new personal best- a true result of the hard work he has been putting in on and off the track over the winter months.
As Correia crossed the finish line, there was a moment of ‘what if’ amongst the Weir Archer faithful that had gathered in the corner of Stoke Mandeville athletics track, as the thought of another potentially successful weekend crossed many minds.
As the day continued, off of the track, Archer had been making frequent phone calls to her assistant coaches Kim McLean and Scott Mills to provide her with minute to minute updates on how the academy was doing- a true testament of how hard Archer works and looks out for the academy even when she is resting and recovering.
With Correia laying down a marker for the Wolfpack, both senior and junior athletes made sure they followed suit to not only make their coach proud but to also have something to show for the sweat lost in those painfully hard training sessions during the winter period.
It was also great to see boxing legend Frank Bruno MBE lending his support to the Weir Archer team, giving up some of his time to wish the academy luck for the weekend.
Following Correia and leading by example was the ever dedicated and exceptional club captain JohnBoy Smith who managed to record three personal bests throughout the weekend.
Despite recovering from illness and nearly dropping out, Smith even dug deep to record a PB of 11 minutes 21 seconds in the 5,000m where on the advice of his coaches he took easy to avoid having his results scrapped if he did not compete in the event.
Several other senior athletes also followed, with Will Smith, Hilmy Shawwal, Sheikh Shiekh, Jamie Carter and Joe Tucker-Lawrence performing exceptionally well over both days.
Victories from Mickey Bushell MBE and Jabari Knight in some of their events also came in, even with the ever-casual Bushell attempting his best puffer fish impression during the 400m race.
Also in red-hot form was Dillon Labrooy, who recorded several personal bests just after a few days before where he was training under the watchful eye of his mentor David Weir CBE in the monsoon-like conditions in Richmond Park.
Amongst the chaotic success on the track, the cheering from certain members of the academy’s fantastic support wasn’t so superb.
Putting in some great performances throughout the day was Stuart Bloor, but in this case when he wasn’t racing, his wife Kirsty mistook another racer for her husband and began to passionately shout ‘Go on Stu’ at a complete stranger for the entire length of the 1500m race.
The juniors also proved their potential yet again by continuing to put out some dominant displays in their races.
Both of our girls, Yasmin Somers and Olivia Gallagher were displaying their talent with personal bests across the board, particularly in the 400 and 100m races.
Also racing well was our ever-inspiring Eden Rainbow-Cooper, who also helped to motivate her teammates throughout the day.
With his ‘the body aches when the mind breaks’ mentality that he had developed during all the hard roller sessions his coaches had put him through, once Matt Cooper managed to fix his compensator he also recorded a three second PB in the 400m, as did James Freeman who also did fantastically well in the 100m.
Always pushing himself to his limits on a daily basis was Graham Spencer and by recording many personal bests across the weekend, he was also showing his class even winning the 800m, which was followed by a one minute PB from Morgan Woods.
So soon after being newly classified in Dubai and representing GB was Jamie Edwards, who continued on his ladder of progression with a three second PB in the 100m.
So with the season off to a flying start, the success in London continued into the clubs first competitive track meet of the season- an outstanding display considering a trackless winter.
However, with success on the track comes success off of it and it would not have happened without the amazing support from all of the Academy’s friends and families that had turned up to show their truly magnificent support throughout the weekend.
A huge thank you goes to everyone who has supported the academy and in particular to Tania Gallagher.
With our new website having been launched, Tania had worked tirelessly hard for months on end, dedicating her own time to help create and design the website for the academy, so it was an honour to present her with flowers to show our appreciation for everything she has done.
So thank you Tania and the academy will now look at this as a platform to push on from for the rest of the season.