Amber Valley and Erewash AC athlete Niamh Emerson had her first real test of the seven-event heptathlon in the Inter Girls (U17) age group and came through the challenge in impressive fashion.
Success at the Midland Schools Combined Events Championship (one of six regional heats) leads on to a place at the highly prized English Schools Combined Events Finals.
From the off, it was clearly going to be an intriguing battle at the Sutton-in-Ashfield venue with Niamh, who has amassed more of a pedigree in combined events over the last 12 months than a Crufts champ, facing tough opposition from established girls on the multi-events club circuit. Once more, it was her quality in the final discipline, the 800m, that gave her the winning edge.
Day one was unseasonably cold. It was certainly cold enough to see competitors emerge from blankets to do their run, jump or throw, then scurry back to their fleecy cocoons, and was hardly conducive to good performances. Niamh’s first event saw her finish third in the 80m hurdles. In the high jump, she jumped far higher than any of her competitors as expected, given her position as current UK No.1 which gave her a comfortable points cushion in first place before going into the shot.
This was not a high scorer for Niamh and with several of the other girls throwing three or four metres further, she dropped to fourth place. She rallied somewhat with the final event on day one with a fastest time recorded in the 200m to bring her back up to third.
Day two started with a big personal best in the long jump, moving her up to second. Javelin came next, a discipline that has largely not figured in Niamh’s training or competition repertoire up until three or four months ago.
Her first two throws landed wide of the sector and a third throw had to be on the safe side. She lost further ground to fourth place, and going into the seventh and final discipline, the 800m, she had a massive 238 points to make up on the leader, who had not been out of the top three all weekend.
Yet being such a strong and confident middle distance athlete, she set off on the two laps in her totally disciplined and focused style to record one of her fastest times of the season which was enough to claw back the lead by just 31 points.
Twelve months ago, she had won the Junior Girls (U15) pentathlon event and it is an exceptional athlete who can move up an age group, take on additional disciplines, and still win against competitors 18 months older than herself.