ATHLETICS: Lee takes leap of faith to join multi-eventers

Lee Addison sets the pace in the South Lincolnshire Schools Cross Country Championships in 2015.
Lee Addison sets the pace in the South Lincolnshire Schools Cross Country Championships in 2015.

To his classmates at Spalding Academy (formerly Sir John Gleed School), Year 10 student Lee Addison (15) is known as “the kid who runs quickly”.

But the member of Nene Valley Harriers Athletics Club (NVHAC) may, in time, belong to a more exclusive club occupied by some of Britain’s finest athletes of all time.

OUTSTANDING SPORTING ACHIEVEMENT: Lee Addison (right) with Tallulah Freeman, of Peele Community College, Long Sutton, and Gordon Chilvers, of award sponsors Double G Clothing, Kings Lynn, at the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian Education Awards 2016. Photo: SG101116-174TW

OUTSTANDING SPORTING ACHIEVEMENT: Lee Addison (right) with Tallulah Freeman, of Peele Community College, Long Sutton, and Gordon Chilvers, of award sponsors Double G Clothing, Kings Lynn, at the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian Education Awards 2016. Photo: SG101116-174TW

Mary Rand, Dame Mary Peters, Daley Thompson, Judy Simpson, Dean Macey, Denise Lewis, Kelly Sotherton, Louise Hazel, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and, perhaps most famous of all, Jessica Ennis-Hill mastered up to ten trades in track and field.

Lee said: “I enjoy athletics quite a lot but after a while, it does get quite repetitive which is why I like doing a variety of events.

“Everything I do in athletics helps me in other sports like football and, at the moment, I see it as something fun to do.

“When I think about things too much and take athletics too seriously, I won’t do as well.

I got into athletics accidentally when I was in a PE lesson and the teacher said ‘run and jump’.

Lee Addison

“That’s why the sport is something fun for me to do and if I get a medal that’s a bonus.”

The fun and bonuses earned by Lee since starting out in athletics two years ago have so far brought him success at district, county, regional and national levels, most notably a long jump bronze medal at the English Schools Championships at Gateshead International Stadium in July.

Lee said: “A few weeks before the English Schools Championships, I went to train in Boston and my coach told me to buy a pair of spikes to help me improve on my run-up.

“So the school bought me a pair of spikes and my coach said ‘Take a certain amount of steps, then run and jump’.

“After measuring the jump, I was told that I’d jumped 6.08m and so my coach thought I could win the English Schools Championships.

“But I never thought that and when I competed in the Lincolnshire County Championships, I only jumped 6m which I wasn’t happy with because I fouled the next two jumps.

“Then three weeks before the English Schools Champ-ionships, I jumped 6.24m in Norwich to win the Anglian Schools Championships and go to Gateshead ranked third in the country.

“So when I signed up for the nations, I said to myself ‘I should get a medal’.”

When the dust finally settled on the 2016 English Schools Athletics Championships, Lee was among a select trio of NVHAC athletes who came back from Gateshead with medals.

Alongside Lee’s bronze medal in the junior boys long jump, the club also won silver in the intermediate boys 200m through Spalding Grammar School sprinting prospect William Hughes and a gold in the intermediate girls shot put from the Geoff Capes-trained, Lincoln-based prodigy Hannah Molyneaux.

Recalling the long jump final, Lee said: “I remember thinking ‘if I can get just one good jump in, I’d be happy with that.

“But I saw Daley Thompson in the stands and that made me do better, good enough so that I ended up getting a bronze medal. I was happy to get it, 
although I felt that I could have won it.”

Lee’s coach, Spalding High School-based Arthur Simmonds, would have told him that he should have won gold based on his performance at an East Anglian League meeting in Cambridge where he jumped 6.47, good enough to have taken the English Schools’ title by eight centimetres.

Lee said: “I got into athletics accidentally when I was in a PE lesson and the teacher said ‘run and jump’.

“I jumped 5.50m which surprised my teacher, so he told me to do it again and I went a little further.

“Then my teacher entered me in a competition which I won, going on to win every competition I went in for.

“After that, I tried the high jump which I’d never done before, but my teacher entered me for a competition where the field event marshals kept putting the heights and I kept clearing them.

“I remember winning a competition against a guy who was 6ft 3in where we both broke the Year 8 record of 1.62m.

“He’d jumped 1.59m, I followed him and then we moved up to the next height of 1.62m which we both cleared.

“But when they moved the bar up to the next height, he failed it and I cleared it which was when I decided that I wanted to do the high jump and long jump more often.”

Lee’s exploits in his first full season as a NVHAC member resulted in him being nominated in the Outstanding Sporting Achievement category at the 2016 Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian Education Awards.

Such recognition, with Lee ending up as a certificate-winning finalist in the category, were far from his mind two years earlier.

That was until the joint influences of Spalding Academy PE teachers Martin Lakin and John Stewart guided Lee towards linking up with Simmonds whose coaching skills laid the foundation for ex-Spalding High School student Charlotte Taylor to earn world triathlon glory at under-20 level in 2013 and European cross country team gold in Italy last year.

Lee said: “Arthur is the reason I began athletics and why I went to the track in Boston to give it a try.

“I get along with Arthur and I don’t see him as a coach, but as a friend because he knows me best and he’s trying to help me.

“The first year I trained with him was in 2014 when I got a county record in the high jump and won county titles in the high jump and long jump.

“At that time, I also did cross country and the 800m where I won races by quite a distance.

“I knew all my competitions so I ran the first 400m very hard and I was so far ahead, that I could relax for the second 800m.

“But I remember one race where I ran so quickly that my legs were tired and, with the wind in my face, two runners came past me before the finish line.

“That’s when I learned about race strategy and take the race gradually which meant that I could win races by 60m to 80m.”

In one race, Lee took on and beat an existing NVH athlete while a club coach was watching which led to an invitation for him to join the club.

“I was quite tall for my age when all the other lads were quite small,” Lee said.

“But in one race, I was on another runner’s shoulders and when I tried to kick away, he kicked as well and ended up winning the race.

“That’s when I realised that I could only go so far in my running and that’s when I started doing a lot of other events in PE.

“I started beating bigger lads than myself in the shot put, so my teacher asked ‘why don’t you try doing combined events?’”

Before the switch to pentathlon, however, Lee won his first-ever title at the 2015 Anglian Schools Championships in Peterborough where he jumped 5.26m to win the long jump.

Lee said: “I was in Year 8 and I’d come second in the county championships.

“But competing against Year 9 students in Peterborough, I jumped 5.26m with my final attempt.

“Before the jump, I can remember thinking that if I could just get a few more centimetres on my distance, I can win it.

“So I forgot about my run-up, went at it as hard as I could and jumped as high as I could.

“At the event, anyone who won or came second went up to the stands to get their medal and that was my first-ever medal.

“Then I won the South Lincolnshire Cross Country Championships but afterwards I thought ‘should I do distance running or should I do the long jump and high jump?’.

“In the end, I thought my standards for the 800m were good but my standards for long jumping were better.”

After finishing tenth in his first pentathlon (80m hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and 800m) at the Anglian Schools’ Combined Events Championships in Chelmsford in June 2015, Lee improved to come fifth in the same competition in Peterborough last year.

But after coming 15th in the English Schools Combined Events Championships in Exeter last September, Lee said: “I thought that I could have done a lot better, even though I did a personal best of 12.96secs in the 80m hurdles.

“In everything I’ve done, I’ve looked at certain athletes and said ‘I want to be better than them’.

“Whatever I do, I don’t want to lose and if I do so one time then I want to come back and beat my competitor the next time.

“This year, I want to get an international vest because when I went to the English Schools Championships, the organisers said ‘This is the best year of athletes we’ve ever had’.

“If I can beat the high jumpers and long jumpers from the year I’m in, I can get an international vest.

“But I’m not sure if I’ll do athletics in the future, it depends on whether I can continue to develop and improve.”