SPEEDY teenager Leigh Lennon made another step in her rapid rise up the athletics ladder by winning a silver medal at the National Indoor Championships.

The 16-year-old was competing in the Under 20s 800m - and was one of the youngest in her age group - but still raced into second place.

And the Accrington girl also got the boost of meeting athletic greats such as Linford Christie and Kathryn Merry as people continue to sit up and take notice of the London 2012 Olympic hopeful.

Leigh came through her heat successfully on Sunday in two minutes and 18 seconds.

And, in the final, she set a new personal indoor best with 2:10:01.

Her coach and dad, Don, couldn’t hide his delight.

"Leigh was the second favourite on paper but you never know on the day," admitted Don.

"But she did really well. The winner, Rachel Stringer, is three years older than Leigh and was a way ahead while Leigh had to hold off the third placed girl on the line.

"She has won two silvers before at this competition at Under 15 and Under 17 level but she has never won it when she has been the youngest in her age group. She is over the moon."

Her indoor personal best is the equalivalent of running around 2.06 outdoors which will make Leigh one of the top young runners in the country.

And former Commonwealth middle distance champion Diane Modahl - who has been coaching Leigh from her base in Norway - saw first hand what a talent she is after watching her at Birmingham.

"Diane warmed up and cooled down with Leigh and people like Linford Christie and Kathryn Merry were coming up talking to Diane.

"She introduced them to Leigh and was telling them to watch her run and they were impressed.

"She told them ‘This girl is going to be good’ and now we are looking forward to a good summer.

"It bodes well for the Under 20 World Championships and the Commonwealth Youth Games later this year."

Leigh, who is studying beauty therapy at Accrington and Rossendale College, also got a top of the range pair of Puma trainers for coming runner-up.

Three other Hyndburn runners also competed at Birmingham.

Ian Yates and Joe Basquill were challening in the Under 17 800m at the event and, although they didn’t reach the final, they both did well.

Ian knocked two seconds off his personal best, racing to 2.00.03 while Joe came was within tenths of seconds of his pb as his time was 2.00.63.

"It is so competitive in the Under 17s event," said their coach Don. "All the runners in the final were between 1.58 and 1.59 but both ran well. This should help them improve their outdoor time during the summer."

Ashleigh Williams was competing in the Under 20s 400m but didn’t reach the final.


* LEIGH will run for Lancashire in the Inter Counties Cross county in Nottingham on 15 March - although she does prefer the track.
* HYNDBURN athletes Luke Kimberley, Sam Yates and Will Capstick all picked up medals as Ribble Valley Under 15s Boys team won the Regional Sports Hall Athletics title at Wigan.

They had already won the Lancashire crown and now will compete in the national finals in Birmingham in April.