TROWBRIDGE athlete Jenna Blundell is at long last looking forward to an exciting 2018 after putting an injury nightmare behind her.

The teenager from Staverton has endured a tough past 12 months with a worrying back injury which at times left her wondering whether she would ever compete again.

But her never-say-die attitude coupled with the support of family and coach Julie Alexander saw Blundell finally return to top level action at the South West Indoor Championships in Cardiff on Sunday and the 16-year-old was rewarded with personal bests in the 60m sprint and 60m hurdles.

“Sunday was so important for me as I finished both races with no pain in my back whatsoever,” said Blundell.

“Getting personal bests was a bonus and shows I am now going in the right direction. This is definitely my comeback season.”

Turn the clock back to 10 months ago and Bundell was hardly moving at all after a traumatic incident while training at the University of Bath’s indoor facilities.

“It was during March and I was starting a session when suddenly my back went and I was in so much pain,” added Blundell.

“I sat down but then found I could not get back up again and could hardly move at all. I was in total shock as it happened all so quickly.”

Numerous visits to physiotherapist followed but it wasn’t until Blundell finally got access to an MRI scan that it was discovered she was suffering from a stress fracture in her back.

“To give it the precise terminology it was a bilateral pars in L5 (lumbar region),” explained Blundell.

“It wasn’t one incident that caused it and no-one could explain how it happened but after the problem was finally diagnosed it took a long period of rest and recovery to get rid of the problem.

“I made a couple of comebacks to test it but the back still hurt so I had to ease off again. There were times when I thought would I ever get back, not because I ever thought of giving up but just because I wondered if my back would ever be right again.

“It was a long way back but it has made me more determined and stronger and I have come through all of this with more knowledge and feeling more positive than ever before.

“The weekend was a huge confidence boost for me and I am raring to go now.”

Blundell wasn’t the only Wiltshire athlete to impress on the boards in Cardiff.

Hilperton teenager Rory Howorth continued his excellent season as he stepped up into the U20 men’s age group to win the South West 400m title in a personal best time of 51.17secs, which was actually the second quickest time from all the heats.

“It was a blinding run by Rory,” said coach Julie Alexander. “Outdoors that should translate to around 49 seconds or quicker so it was a tremendous performance.”

The time lifts the 16-year to fourth on the 2018 UK rankings for U17 men alongside his sixth place in the shot.

Will Stockley from Semington, near Trowbridge, took a break from cross country racing to win the U20 men’s 1500m title taking first place in his heat with a time of 4mins 13.01secs.

Trowbridge sprinter Abi Davies claimed a bronze medal in the South West senior women’s 60m with a time of 8.02secs and also qualified for the B final of the 60m which she won in 7.92secs.

Twins Robert and John Howorth competed in the 800m open competition and both came away with new indoor PBs.

Robert had a convincing win in his heat with a time of 1:57.26 and John came fifth in a highly competitive heat with a time of 1:57.11.


Senior Women - 60m B final: 1 Abi Davies 7.92; hts: Abi Davies 8.02; Jenna Blundell (U20) 8.09 (PB); Sarah Long (U20) 8.25; 60H: 5 Jenna Blundell 9.03 (PB); 1500: 3 Rebecca Pierce 4:54.34; 8 Louise Jeffries 5:50.19; HJ: 5 Renee Self 1.55.

Senior Men – 60hts: Delano Stewart. 7.67; Rory Howorth 7.72 (PB); Imam Qazi 7.81; 200 hts: Delano Stewart - 26.13; 400 ht 3: 1 Rory Howorth 51.17 (PB); 800 ht 2: 1 Robert Howorth 1:57.26 (indoor PB); ht 5: 5 John Howorth 1:57.11 (indoor PB); 1500 ht 3: 1 Will Stockley 4:13.01; 5 Otto Copping 4:21.82; HJ: 7 Jude Brotherwood 1.70m (equal PB).

IN HER first competition of 2018, Box athlete Livia Gauntlett finished runner-up in the 60m hurdles at the Beantown Classic Indoor meeting held at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Gauntlett, who is a student at Harvard University, clocked 8.65secs in the final having run 8.63secs in the heats, which was just outside her personal best of 8.59secs.