I've now been the starter for two different country schools championships. The contrasts are interesting. At least I think they are.
Gloucestershire Schools was held in Cheltenham - as I recorded last week. This last Saturday it was Avon's turn. Avon is a more populous county so it's to be expected that more young athletes will turn up for their county meeting. But it was clear that Gloucestershire suffered from holding it on a Sunday. The organisation was all done by Cheltenham and County Harriers and I actually identified no actual teachers. That doesn't mean there weren't any there but the officials I saw working were the usual suspects for a Cheltenham meeting.
By contrast, at Yate this Saturday there were several teachers present and working. In addition there were a number of young people helping with officiating as part of their PE curriculum. Regular officials often have quite harsh things to say about PE teachers, and it would be wrong to claim that they are all wonderful, but at least they were there in substantial numbers. Some annoyingly didn't stay all day, leaving someone else to pick up their duties, but most worked hard and helped make the meeting a success.
None of them, however, worked harder than Lesley. Our dining room has been Avon Schools HQ for at least the last fortnight as she prepared every aspect of the meeting to make sure that it worked smoothly and the county's young people got the best experience of championship athletics possible. And I think the work paid off, because despite the occasional hiccup nearly all athletes did themselves justice.
Two Yate athletes who deserve special mention are Ellie Leather and Josh Snook. Both gained English Schools qualifying times, running completely on their own. It's really hard for athletes to give of their best when no one is beside them forcing them to run faster. It will be interesting to see how they do next weekend in Exeter when they have the whole of the South West to compete against.
And the work goes on. Selection meeting - letters to the selected athletes - entries recorded and dispatched - all of it passes across our dining table......