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Bourne Grammar School pupil Harry Hewitt wins county cross-country championships

Bourne Grammar School athlete Harry Hewitt is celebrating a magnificent cross-country campaign.

The Year 10 pupil has been crowned a double county champion after winning the Lincolnshire Under 15 title and the schools intermediate accolade where he defeated runners from the year above as well as his own age group.

He became the Lincolnshire Schools champion after victory in the race at Burghley Park in Stamford which qualified him to represent the county at the English Schools national finals in Liverpool last month.

Harry Hewitt in the Nene Valley Harriers vest racing at the National Championships in Nottingham.
Harry Hewitt in the Nene Valley Harriers vest racing at the National Championships in Nottingham.

Harry produced the perfomance of his life to finish 17th out of 331 runners while being the fourth Year 10 pupil to finish in total out of all the counties in the country.

Other highlights were again representing Lincolnshire at the British Inter Counties Championships held at Prestwold Hall near Loughborough, where he finished 16th out of 280 against a quality field made up of the best county runnesr in the United Kingdom.

Harry runs for the newly-merged Peterborough and Nene Valley Athletics Club who he represented at the Southern Championships held in London.

Unfortunately, after getting spiked near the start of the race, he struggled to run properly but still finished a creditable 31st out of 320 competitors – the injury needed nine stitches in it straight after the run at a hospital in the capital.

He also had a successful season running for his school, the highlight being finishing fourth in the English Schools Cross Country cup final in Sheffield – the highest placing for a Bourne Grammar pupil for many years.

Harry only started running when he was 11-years-old and is keen to encourage others to take up the sport as the potential is there to achieve what he’s done in a relatively short space of time.

With the current coronavirus situation, there are no races on the horizon, with the track season expected to be completely decimated.

Harry is using this time to train and is out five or six times a week to keep his fitness up and stay busy during these times.

Harry Hewitt running for Lincolnshire at the British Inter Counties in Loughborough last month.
Harry Hewitt running for Lincolnshire at the British Inter Counties in Loughborough last month.

Harry is among a number of talented athletes from across the area who are benefiting from the merger of two rival clubs.

Nene Valley Harriers and Peterborough AC had been fierce competitors on the athletics scene for more than 40 years.

Market Deeping Olympian Julie Hollman had risen through the ranks at Peterborough AC while Nene Valley has produced many nationally respected distance runners.

However, with athletes from both clubs sharing coaches and a mutual respect and camaraderie existing at all levels, it was decided six months ago to merge the clubs.

And what a memorable six months it's been following the successful creation of Peterborough and Nene Valley Athletics Club (PANVAC).

Club chairman Elaine Larkins explained: “Joining forces has been hugely beneficial.

“It’s been a win-win through the winter and, although the coronavirus pandemic has temporarily changed how we can progress, we’ve even come out of that stronger.”

That’s because the club has called on its large pool of coaching talent – including Karl Eve from Market Deeping - and athletics expertise to create an online training advice section for everyone forced into social distancing and self-isolation.

Elaine added: “It’s tough, but with coaches like Russ Prosser and Karl Eve, plus athletes such as Becki Hall, we’ve created everything from online yoga classes to expert advice on how to build strength and mobility at home in your garden or front room.”

Clubs are all about their records and achievements and already PANVAC has taken some significant steps towards being recognised at a national level.

In the club’s very first league together – the North Midlands Cross Country League – there were more than 70 athletes in action and the club boasted the overall winner of the men's title in Bourne’s Alex Hampson while Spalding’s Molly Peel was the under 17 champion.

Although the Southern Area 12-stage road relay, the traditional start to the spring season and a race that has seen many an Olympian take part, was postponed the club is looking forward to getting back into action when Government guidelines allow them to.

For several years, the two clubs have struggled to field even one team between them, but this year more than 50 names had been entered, meaning A, B and even a C team would have towed the line.

Club president and former long distance ace Ray Church commented: “It's frustrating but very exciting for the autumn road season.

“We’ll be a real powerhouse locally and a club to watch at area championship level in events like the Southern six-stage road relay.”

There’s also been exciting news when it comes to kitting out the club – no mean feat with more than 500 members.

The clothing manufacturer Kukri selected PANVAC as ‘one to watch’ in the next 12 months and has stepped in to provide vests, t-shirts, tracksuits and more.

Elaine enthused: “Of course, that’s all on hold and for now it’s all about everywhere as a whole staying strong and remaining fit and healthy. Hopefully we can help.”

Although the 2020 track and field season is likely to be wiped out, PANVAC athletes young and old have a lot to look forward to in future years.

Both clubs have tasted success in the Eastern Young Athletes’ League and, with forces now combined, PANVAC will be a team to watch.

The senior teams at both clubs had long punched above their weight in national competitions and the exceptional squad of older athletes will place PANVAC among the favourites in the Eastern Masters Track and Field League.

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