Last weekend, athletes, coaches and team managers descended on Loughborough University for the School Games National Finals. The event brings together several sports to create a mini-Olympics feel across four days complete with an opening ceremony and athlete’s village.
Within triathlon, the Home Nation regions (ten English regions, Scotland and Wales) select four athletes (two males and two females) for their team from the qualifying races at Llanelli and Mallory British Youth and Junior Super Series events. The Welsh team this year was made up of Anna-Rose Merchant, Lucy Jones, Ifan Bowen and Finley Bruce and supported by Welsh Triathlon’s Development Coach Vicky Johnston as their Team Manager.
Athletes race across three days of activity with a big focus on skills. Day 1 saw the athletes compete over heats and finals in a pool-based, open water style aquathlon. The Welsh team just missed out on qualifying for the A final but went on to perform very well in the B final with Anna-Rose taking the win and Lucy Jones 4th in the female final. In the boys B final, Finely finished 3rd after a storming run with Ifan not far behind in 7th.
On day 2, athletes were focussing on the bike with a skills test and a circuit race. The combined times of your aquathlon race and bike skills test then dictated your start time for the circuit race with the first across the line being the overall winner of the School Games. Once again, the Welsh athletes performed very well to secure very respectable finishing positions. Finely Bruce snuck into the top 15 with a 14th place finish and Ifan Bowen just inside the top 20 with 19th. On the girl’s side, Anna-Rose just missed on the top 10 with 11th and Lucy Jones inside the top 15 with 14th.
The final day of activity was a Mixed Team Relay where each athlete completed a mini triathlon before handing over to their teammate. Ifan got the Welsh team off to a great start, handing over to Lucy who kept us in a solid position before handing over to Finley. After a good leg from Finley, Anna-Rose took the final leg to finish in a great 8th place.
The School Games was a great experience for aspiring young athletes and a chance for them to experience a multi-race, multi-sport event. A big well done to the four athletes who represented Wales!