Hyndburn Athletic Club
TWO OF Hyndburn Athletic Club's rising stars have their sights set on the 2012 Olympics - and the training partners are on the right track for success.
It is a big year for both Robbie Schofield, 14, and 13-year-old Leigh Lennon as they look to add to their trophy cabinet and make an impact on the athletics world.
Leigh, whose hero is Olympic double medallist Kelly Holmes, became the fastest 13-year-old ever in United Kingdom over 400m indoors with a time of 61.35 seconds when she competed at Sports City in Manchester last week.
Speedster Leigh, who has just got sponsorship with Eclipse Sport, got the running bug a few years ago after being called on at the last minute to take part in the Blackburn with Darwen Primary Schools Cross Country Championships after another Year Six pupil dropped out.
Leigh did well, joined Hyndburn AC and started to show her promise.
"She does hate cross country running but she acknowledges it is essential to her development," admits dad and coach Don.
Hating it or not, Leigh has been a star on the muddy cross country courses over the last three years, winning Blackburn with Darwen cross country and Lancashire titles.
And this winter was no different as she raced to victory in the local schools cross country, finished eighth in the county championships to win an inter-county place and finished fourth to seal an English schools place where she will compete in Norwich with Robbie this weekend.
But she has also proved a star on the track where she hopes her future lies.
As an Under 13, she clinched the Lancashire title over 1500m and finished second in the 800m and also gained a top 16 ranking in Gb in both the 600m and 1200m.
She then moved up an age group to the Under 15s but rose to the challenge, finishing second in both the county 800m and 3000m posting times of 2 minutes 26 seconds and 11.21 ranking her 16th in GB for the 3000m.
While the cold and frosty cross country courses have dominated the last few months, Leigh had an indoor break for the North of England Indoor Championships in February.
It proved to be a good experience as smashed her personal best of 2.26 for the 800m twice in three hours - 2.22.92 in the heat and 2.22.97 in the final. The last time earned her a coveted bronze medal.
And Leigh then went one better at the AAA's Under 15s Championships in Birmingham when she won a fantastic silver medal. In the heats, she once again broke her PB to 2.21 and this qualified her for the final as a fastest loser. And she ran the race of her life to cross the line second in 2.18.65.
"With Leigh only training twice a week, with the odd extra day added when needed, she feels she has the ability to make it all the way to the top, with inspiration from Kelly Holmes and local athlete Laura Funnicane," said Don, who won the UKA Development Coach of the Year for the North West.
Robbie started running aged 10 and joined Hyndburn AC a year later but it was only in 2002/03 that he started to show his ability to compete against the best.
He started to shine at local schools level when he won the Lancashire Year Seven cross county title and, on the track, Robbie clinched both the 800m and 1500m titles at the Lancashire County Track Champion-ships just missing out on the county records.
In 2004, Robbie moved up to the Under 15 ranks, competing against the older boys, but he continually broke his personal bests for both the 800m and 1500m throughout the summer.
This winter, Robbie has once again showed his mettle finishing seventh in the Lancashire County Championships and so earning the right to represent his county at Nottingham at the inter-counties.
However, Robbie has given precendence to the English Schools on Saturday after he won the county schools. Robbie's aim is to finish in the top 15 in Norwich and then get ready for the track season.
Meanwhile, in the Under 17 Boys section at the Birmingham AAA's, although just missing out on the final, Adam Hurley and Nathan Riding both set PBs in their 800m heats.
At a more local level, Hyndburn Ac's Damian Rawcliffe won the Under 15s Athlete of the Match in the Lancashire Sportshall League at Hyndburn Sports Centre.