ACCRINGTON runners Robbie Schofield and Leigh Lennon both celebrated bronze medals at the Sainsbury’s English Schools Track and Field Championships at the weekend.
The pair, representing Lancashire, competed at Gateshead and - at 17- were the youngest in the senior age group.
But they both came through the qualifying round in third place - as fastest qualifiers - to reach the 800m seniors final.
Robbie had the better race conditions, with his final taking place in bright sunshine. The Clitheroe Grammar pupil stuck to his race tactics his coach Don Lennon planned.
"I told him to stay at the back of the field on the first lap and to move up the field at the 300m mark," said Don. "Robbie did just that and placed himself in a perfect position of fourth place ready to strike down the home straight."
Coming down the final 80m, Robbie was able to charge into third place and hold on to this position to cross the line in a new personal best of 1:52.64.
"It was fabulous performance by him. I told him not to go off too fast and he stuck to the plan. It was brilliant," said his coach.
Weather conditions changed by the time Leigh's race came around later in the afternoon with strong winds.
Leigh, a student at Accrington and Rossendale College, was able to go with the leaders working her way into third place on the first of two laps. By the 600m mark, three girls had broken away, including Leigh.
"But the wind proved to much for Leigh’s slight frame around the top bend although she managed to summon up that little bit extra down the final 100m to come home clear in third," said Don. "All the girls were outside their personal bests because of the conditions."
Both winner Rachel Stringer and runner-up Stacey Smith have already reached 18 so will be unable to contest the schools in 2009 while Leigh will compete one more time along with Robbie.
Dame Kelly Holmes, who is training Leigh as part of the "On Camp with Kelly" programme, said: "I would like to congratulate Leigh on her performance as winning any medal is a great achievement in what is a competitive event."
For both Robbie and Leigh this is the second bronze in the last two championships with Leigh also winning a silver in 2005 as a junior girl.
"We were proud of them both as they were the youngest in the finals," said Don. "We told them to enjoy it and they did."
Both Leigh and Robbie are trying to get the qualifying times for October’s Commonwealth Youth Games in India and, while missing out last weekend, they will have at least another three races to do it before the August 11 deadline.
Robbie needs to run 1.51.5 while Leigh needs to knock around three seconds off her personal best and get 2.06.
"Leigh trains with Robbie and the rest of the lads and it has really brought her on," said her coach.
"And, after going ‘On Camp with Kelly’, Leigh is a lot more professional with her attitude to racing and her training has changed. We just need to improve her nutrition!
"But both runners they have had to sacrifice an awful lot when growing up. They have had to forgo a lot of nights out with friends at certain times when they have been racing at the weekend and really concentrate on their running.
"They could both have gone in other directions but they have stuck with it and are coming out of that spell now. They want to be the best and they should see the benefits when they are 20/21. They are working really hard."