It couldn’t have passed many of our members attention that just a few weeks ago the club celebrated arguably our best ever English Schools Track & Field Championships, held at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium on 12th and 13th July. Out of 24 athletes selected for Northumberland, the club had 5 representatives. Not only that but we came away with two gold medals from James Wordsworth (Inter Boys Discus) and Josh Blevins (Junior Boys 1500m).

The English Schools Championships is seen as the pinnacle of any young athletes athletics career. It is the Championship that all the best athletes in the country target and has been a springboard for almost every successful senior athlete that the country has ever produced. You name them, they would have competed at the English Schools – Farah, Ennis, Rutherford, Foster, Cram, Backley, even Geoff Capes (who’s grandson won the Junior Boys Shotputt!). 

Another website report will cover all of our athlete’s achievements but for the time being we put some questions to James and Josh about the Championships, their training and preparation and what it was like to be crowned English Schools Champion.

First of all lads, well done! I guess the first question has to be, what is it like to be standing on that podium with your name being announced as ‘2019 English Schools Champion’.

Josh: When I stepped up on the podium it felt unbelievable and for a moment felt a bit surreal if I am honest as I couldn’t believe what I had just achieved.

James: I was very proud, and relieved that myself and Neil’s hard work had paid off. But knowing I had to refocus for SIAB (Schools International) the weekend after.

Above: Josh and James receive their gold medals and certificates

With regards to the event itself, the English Schools is known to be the most high profile competition that a young athlete will compete in. What was the atmosphere like for your event, as you expected?

Josh: It was much more intense than any other event that I have ever done as the noise that was generated from the crowd created an exciting intense atmosphere.

JamesThe atmosphere was very good, there was a really big crowd watching us throw. Much better than last year.

Deep down, did you expect to win? How had training gone leading up to the Championships.

Josh: I train hard and every time I enter a race, I believe I have a chance to win. I stuck to the training plan my coach Lee Morgan set me and I felt in great shape leading up to the English Schools Championships.

James: I expected to medal but the win was very nice, considering the circumstances of the first four throws.

James, during the Championships you threw your second longest throw (although you have since gone even longer). Josh, you ran a huge 4 second PB in the final. How were you able to bring out your best performances on the big day?

Josh: It’s all down to the preparation and the great squad I have around me, that gives me encouragement and the belief that I can achieve my goals.

James: Whilst scaring everyone in the audience, I just had to relax. After all of the hard work and extra sessions Neil had put on for me after my exams. I knew I had the potential to win.

The Northumberland squad was quite small – 24 athletes. How was team spirit within the group?

Josh: Two out of the 24 athletes selected were already from my training group (Zak Old and Holly Waugh) so this helped me a lot as it was my first Championships. When I joined up with the other athletes they made me feel welcome, we bonded very quickly and formed great team spirit over the whole weekend.

James: Team spirit was high. Everyone was buzzing for both days after the success we had! The bus home was ecstatic, because it was the result Northumberland had in a while!

North Shields Poly had 5 athletes representing Northumberland out of the 24 selected, with 2 gold medallists. What would you put this down to in your opinion?

Josh: In my opinion I would put it down to hard work/dedication but most of all great leadership from both Neil Ellerby (James’s coach) and Lee Morgan (my coach), who in my opinion are great assets to the club.

James: Amazing coaches and an amazing club backing us all of the way!

Above: NSP had 5 athletes at the English Schools.

You both left it late to clinch victory. James, having the winning throw in the 5th out of 6 rounds and Josh, in a sprint finish in the final 80m. During your events were you still confident that you could take victory?

Josh: During my race I got myself into good position that split the field up and left me in 2nd place behind Lewis Sullivan (the double English Schools and SIAB Cross Country Champion). During the final stages of the race, with about 200m to go, I sensed Lewis was starting to tire because he glanced over his shoulder to see where I was. This then gave me the belief that I could produce one last surge to drive past him and take victory.

James: My family were panicking I was going to come 7th after round four, I however was still confident!

What happens now? What are your plans for the upcoming winter season?

Josh: First of all I am having a well deserved rest, then I will be doing a few road relays/races after the holidays. After that I’ll be looking to get back into winter training which will involve sessions that are more endurance based.

James: Not quite winter training yet, still have to compete in Northerns and Nationals. But during the winter Neil and I will be attending England Throws Camp and increasing the workload.

Quickfire short questions and answers:

What did you eat the night before your competition

Josh: Chicken curry, rice and naan bread.

James: I had lasagne the night before I competed.

Who was the first person to message you after you had won

Josh: It was my Aunty Tracey as she was at home watching it live on her laptop.

James: My grandad was the first person I texted

How many times have you watched your performance on

Josh: I think I’ve watched it about 3-4 times (yeah right, multiply that by ten – Lee Morgan)

James: Many many many times for analysis.

If you weren’t an athlete, what would you be doing

Josh: I’d be doing my best at becoming a professional footballer

James: I would have continued with my rugby

What is your favourite training session

Josh: Doing hill reps at the Rising Sun during the winter, with the rest of the squad.

James: My favourite session is gym and hurdles and sometimes throwing when it’s not raining!

Report and interview by Lee Morgan