16 year old local sprinter Rachel Bennett has enjoyed another successful year of competition. Rachel started her indoor season back in January at Sheffield’s E.I.S indoor arena where despite the tough winter weather hampering her training, she started as favourite in the Northern athletic championships u17w 200m final. Rachel did indeed cross the line over 0.5s ahead of her nearest competitor only for the title to be ripped from her grasp as she was disqualified for a lane infringement on the tight indoor oval track. Nevertheless Rachel put the disappointment behind her by travelling up to Glasgow for the Scottish National u17 indoor champs where she again competed over 200m. Rachel had learned her lesson and comprehensively took the title home to Newton Aycliffe after 3 tough rounds in one day. Rachel went on to contest the North East combined counties u17w’s 60m champs in mid February where she would come up against the Scottish national 60m champion.

Rachel came through in fine style powering her way to the title in 7.85s. A tough winter of competition would come full circle at the end of February when Rachel returned to Sheffield to contest England athletics u17 National indoor championships. The U.K’S best age group sprinters had all entered and with heats, semi’s and the final all scheduled for one day it was a tough end to a long indoor campaign. Overcoming her fatigue Rachel did magnificent, qualifying for the final.

A tough task was made no easier for the tall, rangey athlete, having been drawn in the tight lane 2 for the final. Nevertheless Rachel gave a combative performance to remain in medal contention until the very end finishing just out of the medals in the unlucky 4th position.

Injuries in April disrupted Rachel’s outdoor prep and conditioning leaving her to forgo her favoured 200m for the shorter 100m distance over the early summer months. She returned to competition in mid May and added the North East county’s u17w 100m title to her collection, recording 12.32s into a headwind. Rachel would next step up an age group to contest the Northern u20w’s 100m at Manchester’s sports city in June. Still not 16 years old and still undertaking her G.C.S.E exams, Rachel’s performance exceeded her years as she won the silver medal in 12.28s (-2.2 windspeed, an excellent time into a strong headwind). This run earned her an England vest in July’s Welsh u20 international. The next weekend was the Northern schools championships where selection for the English schools championships would be decided. Rachel was victorious in both the intermediate girls 100m and 200m titles for her home county of Durham schools at the Gateshead International Stadium, thus gaining her selection in the event of her choice.

Unfortunately another muscle injury would mean Rachel was unable to contest these championships and thus forgo any chance of selection for the U.K school games in September. However, Rachel worked hard in rehab which enabled her to don her 1st England vest at the Welsh international during late July. Although short of training Rachel enjoyed contesting the womens ‘A’ race against Olympians and GB athletes.

Still searching for her best form after her recent injury Rachel had 2 comps left in her season. The NA u17 champs at Liverpool’s Wavertree stadium took place in gale force headwinds. A rusty performance in the heats and a strong challenge from the national u17 combined events silver medallist meant Rachel was short of confidence heading into the final but gave a much improved run to narrowly miss taking home the gold medal.

Her final meet of the season meant a trip to Bedford for the England athletics u17 National championships but 1st Rachel had the important task of collecting her GCSE results. She proved it’s not only athletics that she excels in by gaining all 7-9 grades ensuring a happy athlete made the journey to Bedford. As usual for this meet the U.K’s best age group sprinters had again all entered and 3 rounds in one day would be required to crown a champion.

Ranked 14th going into the race Rachel once again showed her resilience to outperform her ranking to qualify 4th fastest for the final in a pb of 12.09s. In the final Rachel came through strongly to contest a photo finish for the minor medals; however she was destined to again place 4th, just 2/100ths from the bronze and 6/100ths from the silver.

Any genuine sponsors interested in supporting Rachel with training and competition costs for the upcoming year can get in touch via her coach who will give any further info that may be required, Email darrenhirst71@btinternet.com.