English Schools' Combined Events Final– Bedford, 19/20 Sept


Alice Hopkins suffered a really bad knee injury at the Radley AC Champs on the 13 Sept. The injury was so bad it was Tuesday before she could walk and at this point all hope of competing at this years ESAA combined events final went straight out of the window. After 2 intensive physio sessions and a basic training tester on Thursday she decided, unbelievably, it was going to be possible to compete.

A great deal of Ice and more physio would be needed to even get to the start line on Saturday but her determination to compete ensured that when the gun went at the start of the 80 mt hurdles she was able to perform at her best. A very respectable 11.65 sec clocking saw her 3rd best after the first event. The high jump followed and despite the bad knee being on her take off leg she still managed 1.56mts, only missing 1.59mts with the lightest of touches on the bar. She was now down to 6th overall but all the competitors, including the ESAA high jump winner had a relatively poor performances and so the gap to the top 4 places was only 30 pts. These were soon made up as Alice had her 3rd best shot of the season throwing an impressive 11.23mts to move back into 3rd place. The best was yet to come however as she blasted out her best 200 mts ever (26.42 sec) to beat all her rivals and win her heat by a clear 5 mts. This was good enough to see her finish day one in first place – a truly spectacular comeback and with her favoured long jump to look forward to on day two hopes were high of a podium place.

Day two started unbelievably early with athletes having to arrive by 7-30 to start the long jump competition at 9 o’clock sharp! Alice has developed impeccable board awareness so she started well opening with 5-28 mts. This would normally have been an average jump this season but with the knee injury and this being her take off leg it was exceptional. The combination of the time of day and the injury meant she could only add 3 cms to this and so finished the competition with 5-31 mts which saw her drop into 2nd place. The javelin had been the culprit, causing the injury at the Radley Champs, and so it was with some trepidation that she entered the 6th discipline. A painful second attempt was to be her best result (22.42 mts) with a good throw over 26 mts failing to meet the required ‘nose first’ contact demanded of the event. This meant she was relegated to 5th place and would need a miraculous 800 mts to get back into medal contention. Despite her knee and a debilitating cold she took to the task with a tremendous fight beating her nearest rival but not by enough time to change positions. A time of 2min 41.81 sec, saw her finish the whole heptathlon in 6th place. A remarkable achievement in the circumstances and with the knowledge that the score she had set to win the Southern Title in July would have been enough for a podium place. She does however still get a reserve place for the ESAA International in December.

Ice baths all round for a young lady with nerves of steel and an icy determination to succeed. Onward to 2016 and beyond.

Pete O’Keefe