Liverpool Harriers’ youngest ever GB (Junior) international was Margaret Cheetham who set many UK Long Jump age group records from aged 11 onwards, including some distances so prodigious that they have been standing for over 25 years & which are so outstanding they may never be approached. This led to her selection as a 14 year old in June 1983 in a match against Russia (actually the USSR at that time), which had two seniors and one U20 per side. Margaret jumped 6.01m in her U20 debut. But, whilst Margaret was still aged 14, she turned out in two further GB Internationals, achieving 6.23m on both occasions; the most noteworthy probably being in the European Junior Champs in Vienna, where Margaret achieved a brilliant 5th place against athletes up to four years her senior (in those days, the women’s junior age group was U19, not U20 as now).
It was also inevitable that the impressive performances by Katarina Johnson-Thompson, early in the 2008 indoor season, would bring her to the attention of the GB selectors when they came to pick the team for the International Combined Events Match against France on 1st & 2nd March 2008 in Paris. Katarina, only just aged 15, not only won the U20 Match (4 Brits & 4 French in each team), but also scored higher than several of the French & British U23 competitors!
Going back to the Sixties, when international matches were as rare as hen’s teeth, especially for Juniors, a 15 year old sprinter from Liverpool Harriers, Wendy Kavanagh (who went on to marry Alan Gerrard a top LHAC 800/1500m runner: 1.51.4/3.49.0), was called up to the GB Senior Team. Wendy became the youngest athlete in British Athletics history to represent her country as a senior. Her match was in Lille, France on 18th September 1966 where she acquitted herself well with a 3rd place in the 100m, also anchoring the 100m relay team to a win. At that time Wendy was running 11.7w/11.8 for 100m (when converted from 100 yards) on shale/cinder tracks, before the invention of all-weather, rubberised surfaces. So much for the ladies……….
It will comes as no shock that the youngest male LHAC International is Steve Smith. But it may be a surprise to learn that he initially skipped U20 selections altogether and received his first ever international British vest as a Senior, two months after his 17th birthday. Steve competed in Finland in June 1990 where he jumped 2.15m for 3rd in a match won with 2.21m. He beat the other GB senior competitor on that occasion.
Of course, Steve did subsequently compete as a junior, winning the European (1991) & World Junior Champs (1992), the latter with 2.37m in World Junior and British Senior High Jump Records, both of which stand to this day. Steve went on to win three medals at senior World/Olympic Champs level.
More recently, opportunities have arisen to represent GB (& England) at U18 level with the introduction of such competitions as the European & World Youth Games. Could we yet have even younger LHAC prodigies competing for their country?
|Youngest GB U20||Margaret Cheetham||14-07-16||GB (U20) v USSR
5th June 1983
|6.01m Long Jump|
|2nd Youngest GB U20||Katarina Johnson-Thompson||15-01-21||GB (U20) v France
Paris, 2nd March 2008
|1st out of 8; 3944 points Pentathlon
GB(U20) 4th UK All-Time; UK Age 15 Record
9.24(PB), 10.10(PB), 6.11(PB), 1.73, 2:23.67
|Youngest GB Senior Women||Wendy Gerrard||15-11-04||GB (Sen) v France
Lille, 18th Sept 1966
|3rd 12.01s 100m
1st (anchor leg) relay
|Youngest GB Senior Male||Steve Smith||17-02-08||GB (Sen) v Finland
7th June 1990
|3rd out of 4
2.15m High Jump