IN a season of surprises, Owen Merrett saved arguably the biggest and best for last as he successfully finished on the podium at the England Athletics U17s Championships in Bedford, writes KEVIN FAHEY.

The 15-year-old Sheldon School student may be physically overshadowed by many of his rivals, but in terms of technique and heart, he is a giant of equal standing as he has proved time and again this summer.

At the weekend, Merrett smashed his personal best with a throw of 56.45m to secure the bronze medal behind British and English Schools’ champion Alex Bernstein, of Preston, and his own training partner at Yate & District AC, Toby Conibear.

“I was not expecting that at all,” said Merrett.

“I went to Bedford aiming to make the top eight so I was guaranteed a further three throws. After that, hoped I could make the top six.

“Going into the event, I was seventh in the UK rankings but two of those above me were ruled out with injury, so I was fifth best.”

Once again, Merrett surpassed expectations as he added the England Athletics bronze to the ones he also won at the English and the South West Schools’ Championships earlier this summer.

“The English Schools’ bronze probably means more as it is a better-known event, but I feel Sunday was my best performance as I had to throw a PB to win a medal,” added Merrett.

“Hopefully I can return and win gold next year.”

While Sunday would have been an excellent way to end the summer, Merrett’s season isn’t over yet.

On Sunday, he will turn up for the composite Team Avon side in the finals of the UK Youth Development League in Manchester and then has two further meetings before hanging up his hammer and taking a well-earned rest.

Also in the U17s hammer, fellow Sheldon School student James Viner finished eighth with 50.30m.

  • EILIDH Bell smashed her personal best by over a minute to move up to fourth in the South West rankings for the half-marathon.

The Chippenham runner clocked a time of 77mins 54secs to carve one minute six seconds off her previous best to finish third in the Maidenhead half marathon on Sunday.

“It is so nice to finally run a PB,” said Bell.

“I am training for a marathon, so I felt very strong and on a good course with a strong field the race went very well for me. I am very happy.”

Bell’s previous best was set in the Paddock Wood race in April while a year ago her best was 79:31, so her progress has been impressive and means her 2018 marathon PB of 2:44.56 could be under threat.

“I have entered the Warsaw marathon on the same day as Berlin, which could be a bit hit or miss as I don’t know much about the course but hopefully it will be OK,” added Bell.

Another Wiltshire woman to hit the headlines this weekend was Calne Running Club’s Denise Nott.

She headed to the Cardiff 10k, and despite all her recent injury problems, ran her fastest time for five years with a sparkling 39:05.

“I felt very calm and the target was to run 40 minutes,” said Nott.

“Last year in the same race, I was terrible and everything fell apart, but this year I felt strong and in control.

“When I turned into the finish straight and saw the clock still on 38 minutes, I hammered it to the finish line as fast as my legs would propel me.

“I am chuffed to bits with that time.

“I also found out afterwards that I had finished first from 401 runners in the V45 age group plus 25th overall in a very strong field so it was a really good day.”

Leading Wiltshire woman on the day was Bethan Francis, of Avon Valley Runners, in 19th place, while club-mate Michael Towler was the first county man in 25th.