Harries to fly Chichester flag st Commonwealth Youth Games

Toby Harries and fellow Commonwealth athletes
Toby Harries and fellow Commonwealth athletes

For 16-year-old Toby Harries, a change of sporting direction has paid off – the young athlete has been selected to represent England at next week’s Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa.

Harries, who is from Chichester, played rugby with south-east England but has decided to focus on athletics this year.

Harries’ potential is shining through and the switch from rugby to athletics has proved successful for him: he recently came sixth in the 200m at the World Youth Games.

He is coached by Jon Bigg, husband of former 400m hurdles Olympic champion and world record holder Sally Gunnell.

“It was a massive change of direction for me, going from rugby to athletics, but I love running and I feel that I am progressing well,” said Harries.

“I am receiving the best coaching and training and feel confident heading into the Commonwealth Youth Games – it should be a great event for all.

Being on an international stage in a multi-sport environment is a massive learning curve.

Toby Harries

“I have had a lot of support from Team England, we all have, and we are delighted with our kit and the travel arrangements and really can’t wait to get over there and settle into camp.

“Being on an international stage in a multi-sport environment is a massive learning curve and being so new to the sport, I am lucky to be selected so need to make sure I focus as it will prove vital for my progression as an athlete.”

The fifth Commonwealth Youth Games will take place in the Samoan capital city of Apia, startting this Saturday. England have attended all previous Commonwealth Youth Games, always finishing in the top three.

Around 1,000 athletes aged 14 to 18 will be competing for 107 gold medals in nine sports over five days of competition. England’s travelling delegation includes 60 athletes representing eight sports (archery, athletics, boxing, lawn bowls, rugby sevens, squash, swimming and weightlifting), plus coaching and support staff.

Some of England’s highest-profile sports stars have appeared at the Commonwealth Youth Games including Jessica Ennis-Hill, Beth Tweddle, Danny Cipriani, Zoe Smith and James DeGale.

The Games have provided a number of England’s emerging talent with their first exposure to an international, multi-sport environment.

This weekend sees the culmination of the Sussex athletics league for the under-13 and 15 squads from across the county involving the top ten major clubs in Sussex.

Starting in its present format in 2000 this will be the 16th running of the under-13 event in which many stars of the future have gone on to national and international honours.

World championships 1,500m finalist from Beijing Charlie Grice cut his teeth for the Brighton club just nine years ago and more recently Chichester had Toby Harries lining up in the sprints in what was his first venture into club athletics – not imagining that he would be jetting off to Wworld and Commonwealth championships just a few years later.

Chichester’s 2015 crop of youngsters are just as keen to make their mark and will be trying to maintain the club’s proud record of never having finished outside the top half of the ten-club field in the event’s history.

Having won the first final in 2000 and then two out of the next three, Chichester sit at the top of the all-time points table with the other powerful clubs in the county – Crawley, Brighton and Horsham – trailing in their wake.

This year’s event is on Sunday at the K2 Stadium in Crawley, beginning at 12.30 pm

Top five under-13 clubs 2000-2015

1 Chichester 134pts

2 Horsham Blue Star 132

3 Crawley 127

4 Brighton & Hove 117

5 Lewes 90

The Sussex under-15 final began in 2010 but since then has firmly established itself as one of the most eagerly-anticipated fixtures of the year for the age group.

The first final was memorable in two respects – it was an evening match in which the Lewes floodlights went out just as the relays were about to start; then when the lights came back on the match result depended on the final event, the 4x300m relays with just five points separating the top three clubs at the end of the match.

Chichester have been runners-up twice since 2010 and will be trying to match their third place from last year with Crawley and Brighton & Hove likely to provide the strongest opposition.

The match is tomorrow (Friday) at the Withdean Stadium, Brighton (6.15pm).

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