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Jack Longhurst holds his nerve after dramatic jump-off
8:00pm Friday 13th July 2012 in Sport
JACK Longhurst prevailed in a dramatic jump-off in the junior boys’ pole vault final to win his first English Schools gold medal.
The FitzWimarc School pupil was locked in a tie with Wiltshire’s Nikko Hunt after all the vaults had been completed, with neither making it over 3.55m.
But the 14-year-old came up trumps in the sudden-death duel which took place in front of a screaming crowd of Essex athletes and supporters.
“We both failed the first height of 3.65m, then he missed at 3.60m and I thought to myself, ‘I have made this before, I know I can do this’,” Longhurst said.
“I had injured my back before the championships and was worried about that, but I brought my stance back and really went for it.”
The vault was successful and the cheers from the Essex camp were something Longhurst will never forget.
“I have never had that much support before,” he said. “I barely get a name call when I’m competing usually, but this time everyone was cheering me on. It felt so good.”
Longhurst went into the competition as the top-ranked under-15 vaulter in the country, but he said his back injury was giving him cause for concern.
“In training I had been going over 4m regularly,” he said. “But my back went beforehand and I wasn’t too sure how I’d do.
“I was hoping the adrenaline would get me through and it probably did, but I feel I could have done better.”
Longhurst is the latest in a line of top FitzWimarc pole-vaulters.
Last year’s intermediate boys’ gold medallist Mitch Etheridge and this year’s fourth-placer in the senior boys’ Liam Yarwood both came through the Fitz ranks, while in PE teacher Kate Cowley, they have a vaulter who competed at this year’s Olympic trials.
On top of that there is former pupil Kevin Hughes, who went to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, who coaches the likes of Etheridge and Yarwood.
“Mrs Cowley has been helping me a lot and has convinced me to join a club (Longhurst will soon join Chelmsford AC ) and Kevin Hughes has given me advice to.
“And Mitch and Liam are always giving me helping me out, including at the English Schools where they were competing too. It’s good, we’ve got the best equipment at Fitz.”
And the gold medal went a long way to making up for his disappointing time at his first English Schools last year.
“I was absolutely terrible,” Longhurst laughed. “I came in at 2.80m and only at one clearance. 3.20m was my PB at the time. I think a combination of nerves and trying to change things on the day was to blame. But it helped me having had that experience this time round.”