Sally's hopes soaring

One of Britain's great hopes for the 2012 Olympics will be getting an early taste of championship action in Gateshead this afternoon.

One of Britain's great hopes for the 2012 Olympics will be getting an early taste of championship action in Gateshead this afternoon.

Although only 15, Morpeth's Sally Scott is already carving out an impressive reputation in women's athletics and will be looking to further that in the English Schools Athletics Association Championships, which take place at the International Stadium today and tomorrow.

The pole vaulter will be jumping in the intermediate event but has already made her mark at senior level, finishing second in January's North of England AA Indoor Senior Championships with a jump of 3.40 in Sheffield - the joint sixth highest mark of all time by a British woman indoors.

This, though, will be her debut at the ESAA Championships, an event which has launched the careers of most top British athletes, including North-East Olympians Jonathan Edwards and Chris Tomlinson.

"This is my first year so I'm quite excited," Scott says of the prospect. "It's a new experience. I always get a bit nervous when I compete but I should be all right for this."

Scott's enthusiasm for the event comes partly from her dad and coach, Jamie - a former Newcastle United footballer and pole vaulter in his youth - and the unique challenges it poses.

"My dad did it when he was little and we saw an advert in the paper one day so I just went along and did it and I thought it was really good.

"I really enjoyed it because it's so different to any other sport. It's like nothing I've ever done before. There's so many points to it that you have to try something new every session."

Scott will be 21 when the Olympic Games return to these shores and, like most young athletes, has been inspired by the challenge.

"When the bid was first announced it made me want to do well for my country in my own country," she says.

Tynedale's Tim Parkin, 14, will be hoping to make it a Durham double in the pole vault. Fifth last year, Parkin - like Scott a member of Gateshead Harriers - returns this year as AAA Under-15s champion and hopes his extra experience and home advantage will prove telling.

"Last year it was at Birmingham and I had to travel down," he says, "so it will be good to compete in front of my home crowd.

This being a competition for schoolchildren, it has not come without its distractions.

Phil Collins, a 16-year-old high jumper from Darlington, is one of the favourites for the inter boys high jump title. Collins won the junior event in 2004 and was a year younger than many of the leading contenders last year, when he finished fourth.

"This is my third English Schools championships but I have been finding it hard to train before it because I have other things to do, like finishing my GCSE exams," he points out. "Hopefully I will be ready when I compete, though.

"I love competing at Gateshead even though I have been here so many times."

The first events get underway at 10am.

Northumberland team: Junior Boys (13-15 years-old on August 31) - Cailean Stewart, Matthew Hazelwood, Adam Rowland, Liam Baister, Tim Parkin, James Spinks; Intermediate Boys (15-17 years-old): John Summers, Lee Milburn, Matt Williams, Ross Murray, John Gibson, Niall Flannery, Karl Taylor, Graeme Fairbairn; Senior Boys (17-19 years-old): Andie Stokoe, Richard Harrison, Simon Dale, Jonny Young, Nick Swinburn, Ross Dixon.

Junior Girls: Jenny Ellis, Rebecca Liddell, Emma Pringle; Intermediate Girls: Rachel Davidson, Stacey Smith, Gina Rutherford, Laura Weightman, Natalie Young, Lauren Dewdney, Lori Douglass, Sally Scott; Senior Girls: Phillipa McGregor, Jenny Graham, Mary Ferrier, Delyth James.

DURHAM TEAM: Junior Boys - Paul Andrews, Christopher Gaffney, Cory Dugdill; Intermediate Boys: Matthew Greenwood, Carl Smith, Matthew Smith, Phil Collins, Philip Brown, Stephen Reynolds, Andrew Simpson; Senior Boys: Andrew Stanton, Andrew Coffer, Sean Hall, Graeme Level.

Junior Girls: Faye Bowles, Sigourney Bell, Stephanie Loraine, Kate Avery, Emma Toogood, Chloe Gill, Tyne Breen; Intermediate Girls: Kate Ross, Rebekah Wilmshurst, Nicola Pearson, Laura Welsh, Samantha Coleby, Vicki Holmes, Laura Watt, Rebekah Pottingger; Senior Girls: Kirsty Thomas, Lauren Arthur, Lorna McMichael, Melissa Carr, Kirsty Hutton, Katy Wilson.

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