In a magnificent all-round display, Bedford School boy Stephen Simmons beat off stiff competition to take first place on the podium at the National Schools Octathlon on the weekend of 21 and 22 September. Not only is Stephen now ranked number one in England for the U17 age group, but his amazing set of performances have placed him as the 19th best U17 Octathlete of all time.
Despite strong winds on the first day and heavy showers on the second, Stephen remained focused on each of the eight track and field events, determined to make each one count. He did so with devastating effect, setting lifetime personal best performances in seven of them.
It is difficult to pinpoint Stephen’s most outstanding performance, but after a personal best long jump of 6.61 metres on the first day, another personal best of 43.20 in the Javelin and then shaving a whopping two seconds from his personal best in the 400 metres with 51.67 seconds, Stephen finished day one in the lead.
However, it was Stephen’s opening event on the second day that you might say was his stand-out performance winning the 100 metre hurdles by running his slickest, cleanest race ever and recording 13.18 seconds on the clock. Another personal best in the shot with 13.03 metres and he made high jump look so easy with technically perfect jumps from the start, jumping 1.80 metres. This saw him go into the last event of the 1500 metres with a lead of 42 points - but it was not won yet.
Stephen stuck rigidly to a pre-determined race pace, he let his rivals go up to 10 metres ahead, before reeling them in over the last 500 metres to finish in another personal best of 4 minutes, 54.74 seconds securing Stephen a handsome victory by 89 points.
Not only did Stephen win the gold medal and gain selection to represent England in the Home Schools International Pentathlon in November, but he will rank number one in the UK for 2019.
Stephen’s coach, Mr Dennis Johnson, commented, “Stephen’s mental approach was spot on throughout, concentrating on one event at a time and not getting over-excited at success in any event - just focussing on the next event to come. Even the deluge of rain that engulfed day two did not disturb him.
He has worked so hard over the past 10 weeks that he deserved to succeed and it was very satisfying for me to see him achieve his goal.”
Stephen started athletics training when he was 11 years old at Bedford International Athletics Stadium, after one of his father’s friends suggested he give it a go. Director of Rugby at Bedford School, Mr James Hinkins has been following Stephen’s progress since he started at Bedford School and supported him by allowing him to train with his coach during games lessons. Mr Hinkins said, “Stephen has a very measured approach to training and performing. He worked incredibly hard outside of school to get himself in the best possible shape for the National Octathlon finals. His incredible scores are testament to the work he has put in and he now has the ultimate reward of competing in an England vest.”
We wish Stephen the very best of luck in the International Indoor Pentathlon in Glasgow in November.