ACCRINGTON middle distance runner Leigh Lennon has continued to make big strides in 2008 - and those 2012 Olympic dreams are alive and kicking.
And coach and dad Don Lennon looks back on what has been a successful year for the talented Accrington and Rossendale College student.
‘Leigh finished 2007 expecting a lot from this year after she won a bronze medal at both the English Schools and UK School games and finished third in the UK Under 17 800m rankings.
And 2008 could not have got off to a better start for her with a surprise call from Dame Kelly Holmes, double Gold Olympic Champion.
Leigh was invited to attend a selection day in Birmingham, along with 13 other talented female athletes from around the country, where Kelly put the girls through their paces working on team work, determination and competitiveness.
Leigh was successful in gaining a place on the ‘On Camp with Kelly’ scheme where Leigh will receive one-to-one mentoring from the middle distance Sydney hero to and beyond 2012.
And Leigh’s indoor season then started with a bang as she moved up an age group to the Under 20s.
In January came the North of England championships in Sheffield where she competed in the 400m on the Saturday and Leigh made it through the heats to claim a place in the final.
There she went into it as the fifth fastest on paper and was the youngest in the final at only 16.
But Leigh was not to be denied coming off the last bend in fourth place and she gave one final push to win on the line in a personal best time of 57.58secs.
On the Sunday, Leigh ran in her favoured event the 800m - it was a straight final - and she went for it from the gun, winning in a new championship record to make it a fantastic double in her first season as an Under 20.
In February, Leigh gained her first International vest as she was to represent England in the conveted Celtic Cup International in Cardiff.
She raced in the 400m and did not disgrace herself coming home second in another personal best time.
In March, Leigh took part in the National Indoor Championships over 800m. She negotiated the heat and semi-final in less than three hours to clinch a final spot.
There she came up against another ‘On Camp with Kelly’ girl in Rachel Stringer who was two years her senior. It was a great race with both girls pushing each other and Leigh finished second with a new indoor personal best.
April came and it was an early start to Leigh’s outdoor track season with a surprise international call-up to race in Malta.
Before that she spent 10 days ‘On Camp with Kelly’ in Loughborough then was warm weather training in Portugal before she went to Malta for five days.
And Leigh did not let the team down by winning her 800m in a personal best time of 2:09.77.
She only spent two days at home in April which, for a 16-year-old, must have made her feel home sick.
The rest of the year Leigh competed in many competitions, winning all her junior league races for her second claim club Ribble Valley AC as well as competing in the UK womens league for her first claim club Newham and Essex Beagles based in London.
At the National Outdoor Championships in Bedford, Leigh made the final and came home in a creditable sixth place.
By the end of the year, Leigh had shown that she was not going to be outshone by her older rivals by finishing fifth in the National Under 20 rankings - one of only three first year Under 20s in the top 10 - and she was 47th in the overall women’s rankings which include the seniors.
Leigh has now set her sights on making an even bigger impression in 2009.
She aims to gain the European Junior standard to compete in the championships in June but her main ambition is to win a place at the World Junior Championships in 2010.
Short term, Leigh aims to finish her English schools career with the gold medal to add to her two bronze and one silver medal.
Her bid to compete at the 2012/16 Olympic Games continues with the support of her family, Kelly Holmes, Surridge Sports who will sponsor her for the next four years, Asics sports shoes and Oakhill Academy, who give Leigh full use of their gym facilities and a part time job to go with it.’