On the Hunt for championship bests and European glory

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Amy Hunt winning the 2019 Loughborough International. Photo: Melissa Gresswell/@Lissgphotography

Studying for your A-Levels is a stressful time. Throw in the additional pressure of training for sporting pursuits and it is understandable why many teenagers find themselves drifting away from track and field at this period in their lives.

But 17-year-old Amy Hunt is taking it all in her very fast stride. So far in 2019 she has set PBs in the 60m (7.34) 100m (11.31) and 200m (23.17/23.09w), taking her to 9th, 8th and 8th respectively on the UK U20 all time lists in her first year in the age group. In fact, Hunt only turned 17 a few short weeks ago and in her last 100m race before her birthday became the second-fastest 16-year-old in UK history with a clocking of 11.38 in Birmingham.

“I’m really, really happy with how the season is going so far, but I’m just trying to stay focused and level-headed in order to produce even better performances”, explains Hunt. How she manages to maintain this focus may come as a surprise to many. She currently participates in 3 track sessions and 2 gym sessions a week. Traditionally, exercising in this way would be seen as a way to achieve a break from the strains of academia. Instead, Amy looks at this in reverse: “I find it extremely beneficial to have to manage school work as well as athletics because my education gives me a chance to have a break from the track. This is good for me because I don’t believe anyone can maintain their mental acuity and focus all the time and being solely focused on athletics would, I think, be extremely detrimental to my performance”. Even at such a young age, she is taking a sensible approach to how her future may pan out in a sport where ultimately very few high-flying juniors make a world-beating transition in to the senior ranks. “Ultimately, I have to prioritise education most of the time as I know that a career within this sport is anything but guaranteed and that life does continue beyond athletics”, she admits.

Regardless of what happens in Amy’s future, the methods she is employing for now to balance her time between school and athletics are obviously working. However, I’m keen to understand if there are any major changes she has made in recent times to which she may further attribute her blistering start to the 2019 season. It transpires that the winter was a time of defined change for the Charnwood AC youngster. “The support team surrounding me has changed over winter and I have also made changes to my gym programme, both of which have been extremely beneficial”, she explains. She has also made changes to her nutrition; increasing her calorie intake and incorporating more protein in to her diet, which she feels has helped improve her strength. She is understandably extremely happy with the results, referring to her coach Joe McDonnell as a “mastermind”! “He creates a great atmosphere at training and I have enormous faith in his coaching”, she praises.

Now we know how and why Amy has made such improvements early season, we turn our attention towards her next major competition, the England U20/U23 championships on 22/23 June in Bedford, where she will attempt to win the 100/200 double. “My target for those champs is to win my events and because I have already achieved both qualifying times for the European junior championships, this would guarantee me selection. I also want to enjoy the England championships as this has been a major focus for my races this year; to take in every moment and embrace the experience!”, she says. Her focus on enjoyment – and not getting swept away in performances – is admirable, so when I ask her what is best aspect of competing at age group championships it is unsurprising to hear her say that the atmosphere and opportunity to watch other young athletes competing at their peak is what she enjoys most.

But in all honesty it would be remiss of us not to focus on the potential of Amy’s performances at the England championships. I broach the subject of the U20 championship best performances – 11.11 and 22.74 – both set in 2014 by a certain Dina Asher Smith not long before her 19th birthday. I mention to Amy that she has got another few years to break these records, and she answers with a quiet confidence and pragmatism well beyond her years. “I definitely think the championship bests are something to aim for. Dina is, understandably, a huge inspiration for me, both in her performances and her handling of education alongside athletics. This is only my first year in the U20 age category so I think if I can keep that balance, then it’s plausible to consider these times for the future”.

If all goes well at the England championships, then Amy will be taking the next step and heading out to Boras, Sweden, for the aforementioned European U20 championships in July – although she is taking her time and not rushing in to deciding which event she would like to compete in. “There are lots of things to consider and I have to sit down with my coach and the rest of the team around me to discuss what we think will be the best option for me as an athlete”, she explains, with clear trust in those who support her development. However, whilst her exact focus for the champs is yet to be decided, Amy’s quiet yet measured confidence creeps in once more. “My absolute dream would be to win the European juniors both in my individual event and as part of the relay. I’m really excited to see how much faster I can go, as I know there is a lot of potential for improvement and I also know that we have a really strong relay squad with a great team ethic”.

Her mention of the relay team – in addition to her praise for other young athletes ahead of the National championships – confirm to me that Amy is a true track and field lover who pays as much attention to the performances of others as her own. With that in mind, I ask her for some insider knowledge to see if she has any tips on which other athletes to keep an eye on in Bedford. “That is a very hard question!”, she admits. “There are so many athletes who I think will do amazingly well, there’s way too many to name. Everyone brings their A game to championships so I think that there will be an insanely good level of athletics across track and field”.

If the UK’s fastest female teenager is correct, then we will be in for a real treat on the weekend of 22/23 June.