Longridge pair will be class act at championships

WHEN it comes to athletics Longridge Towers' Guy Learmonth and Andrew Crichton are in a class of their own.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 7th July 2010, 12:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th July 2010, 12:45 pm

With both athletes set to represent Northumberland in the Aviva English Schools Athletic Association Track and Field Championships at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham this weekend, it will be a proud day for Longridge.

To have one pupil selected to run in these elite championships is a feather in any school's cap, let alone two. And the fact that Andrew and Guy are in the same class makes it even more remarkable.

"We can't take credit for their training, they both have individual coaches, but it's a great achievement for us," said head of PE at Longridge, Andrew Phillips. "I'd be interested to know if any other school has done it. We're obviously very proud of them."

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The talented duo will travel down to Birmingham with the Northumberland team on Friday. Guy will compete in the 800 metres, whilst Andrew, who is from Dunbar, is set to take on the 1500m.

The class-mates really are a class act, and Scottish U20 champion Guy is looking to go all the way: "I'm hoping to get the gold medal anyway," he said this week, looking ahead to the weekend's championships.

"It has been an up and down season, I still feel like I haven't really got going yet, but I feel like a lot of weight has been lifted off my shoulders now. I just have to go and relax and run how I know I can."

In recent weeks the pair have been juggling their athletics commitments and training with their A-level exams, but with those now behind them it's full steam ahead for the track. "I finished my exams a couple of weeks ago so it's good to have got them out of the way as well," Guy added.

"This is the third time I have been at the English Schools, but it's Andrew's first time in the track champs.

"I think it's going to be good for both of us, and the school as well."

Ranked third U20 in Scotland for the 1500m, with a personal best time of 3.56.18 set in Grangemouth last month, Andrew is also hoping to cause an upset.

"I've been at the cross country schools three times but this is my first time at the track event," he said.

"I'm just going to do my best and see how I get on. I want to try and get into the final because that's on telly and everything, and then see what I can do from there."

Both boys began training with Paxton's Henry Grey, who still coaches Guy, while Andrew now trains with David Campbell in Edinburgh. "I used to do mainly cross country but since I have been training in Edinburgh my track's improved a lot," Andrew explained.

"It was a lot of travelling - I'd go up to Edinburgh after school so I wasn't getting home until 10 o'clock at night, all my work had to be done in school. I've finished my exams now though so I can just go straight from Dunbar to Edinburgh, it's a lot easier.

"I used to train with Guy, we're in the same class and we're good friends so it's great to be on the same team," he added.

An event in which both boys would have been almost certain of success was their school sports day, which was held on Tuesday. But Mr Phillips explained that neither athlete featured on the day: "I forbid both of them to take part in sports day, just in case they did something!" he said.

"Guy is obviously doing brilliantly, he's making a real name for himself in the sport, but they both started out playing rugby," Mr Phillips explained. "Guy was a very good player and it could have gone either way for him, but he chose athletics. It was a big loss to me rugby-wise, but as a school we're quite flexible and we're happy to support their choices."

Andrew also has a similar background, having played rugby at school. "He was a good rugby player too, then he suddenly got into his running," Mr Phillips said. "He shows the same sort of commitment and aggression in his running as he did in rugby, and it has paid off. He's mostly done cross country but when he got a new coach he suddenly got some leg speed."

The Longridge athletes will have some school support when they represent Northumberland at the weekend. "Tim Manning (head teacher) and myself will be setting off at 4.30 on Saturday morning to support them at the Alexander Stadium, but we're very happy to do that," Mr Philips said, adding: "I'm glad they're going for different distances, that's healthy, their friendship can stay intact. They're both so competitive!"