These two years were very busy. My Advanced Level GCE studies had to be dealt with before anything else and the important time-balance with physical activities had to be carefully maintained. What were the final results in terms of achievements in my sporting activities at school? How did my training vary? I had no intention of pursuing athletics into Tertiary Education and Rugby would in future simply be “social” in type.
My School Report book shows my height and weight measurements from these two years. Sept 1960: 16 years old, just under 5 feet 9 inches and 10st 12lbs in weight. March 1962: 17 years old, just over 5′ 9½” and 12st in weight. I was no giant and not likely to be. To continue with Senior Schoolboy Field Athletics (especially the Shot Putt), I was obviously going to be “up against it” unless I continued to train with resistance and speed exercises and developed a good power to weight ratio. The photo below shows my 16 year old power to weight ratio in “action” against Rothwell Grammar School. I am trying to burst past the Rothwell hooker (2).
Here is an excerpt from my School Magazine School Athletics entry for 1961. “Then came what must surely be the highlight of the year, the Yorkshire Championships. This year was one of the most successful for the Ackworth Association and indeed, ourselves. Mills won the Junior Boys’ Hop, Step and Jump; and in the Intermediate Boys’ Relay, Allen and Parkin represented Hemsworth in the Ackworth Association’s victorious team. Several other Athletes from our School and the Association gained places within the first six in their respective events.”
That last sentence included me. On the day, our team did very well. As always, good fellow team members can help to raise your personal achievement through team morale. This was my first time at this level and I was totally into that Shot Putt competition. Adrenalin definitely played a part. The winner was Alan Lowe who was the 1960 Intermediate National Champion with a throw of 16.67m (10lbs shot). I had competed against him in a school match earlier in the year, so I knew what was coming at me. He was tall and strong. His circle technique, speed and launch height were very good. I can still see him now. I was over the moon to come second!
This result meant that Alan and I had an automatic invitation to the All-England Schools Athletics Championships in Chesterfield. He was number 77 and I was number 78. These were the Yorkshire County numbers at the championships. I really did not know what to expect in Chesterfield as I had no information about competitors from other counties. As it turned out, Alan took the National Shot Putt Title again (12lbs shot) with 16.03m and he pulled me along to a best performance for 6th place. That year, Yorkshire shared the overall Championship with Middlesex.
Here is an extract from my 1962 School Magazine School Athletics report. “The whole athletics team competed against Woodhouse G.S. and Sheffield City G.S. We won this match more easily than last year. The most notable performance was by Woodhouse’s John Harston, the All-England Schools’ Discus Champion, whose discus throw was better than the existing Yorkshire record. There were two good performances by our own athletes: Geoffrey Allen equalled the school 100 yards record of 10 seconds; and David McKenzie set a best performance in the Senior Shot with a put of 49 feet 10 inches (15.19m). In spite of having to field a weaker team against Castleford G. S. and Pontefract K. S., the boys won a close contest. Promise was shown by 15 year old John Byrom who did 4 minutes 54 seconds in the mile. As a result of this match, several boys have been picked to represent the Ackworth Association in the Yorkshire Schools’ Championships in Bridlington.“
This year there was no Alan Lowe but there was a friendly, very good shot-putter called Ross (his surname) who attended a school in Huddersfield (King James Grammar, Almondbury — Derek Ibbotson’s old school). Again he was tall and powerfully built. In the competition I was much more relaxed after my experiences in 1961. Ross won the competition and once again I was second. We were both invited to the All-England Schools Championships in Hull (Costello Stadium).
We met up on the Friday evening and struck up a friendship. Ross suggested we have a meal out before turning in for the night. The meal was to be my first ever Chinese food. Previously I had only had fish and chips from Joe Parrot’s fish shop in my village. They were always very good but that was hardly eating out – unless you opened the newspaper and stood outside the shop. The next day was to be quite an event.
All the best senior schoolboy shot-putters in the country were now assembled in the Costello Stadium. Apart from Ross, I did not know any of them but a quick check on statures, pre-competition behaviour patterns and practice throws enabled me to pick out the possible main contenders. In the close crowd were my father and my “former shot-putter” brother-in-law. That made it very serious.
Warm up over, then to business. The first objective was to qualify in the top 6. It was certainly not going to be easy. The top 6 were to be given an extra three attempts. Alan Carter of Gloucestershire – photo right – had won the National Intermediate title the previous year and he was in fine form. He recorded 17.82 metres or 58′ 6″. He put in the best series of throws I had ever seen. He was tall, dynamic and very strong. His Parry O’Brien technique was very good and he certainly set the standard on that day! Ross qualified with well over 50′. The three others were closer to my standard but I did qualify. I think the top 6 more or less stayed in the same positions in the “throw-off”. The three other qualifiers in the top 6 all came from the southern half of the country. That left just Ross and myself from the North. So there you have it, sixth again. Alan Carter had stamped his authority on this competition. Alan went to the same university as me and we met a few times in the gym. He kept on with the sport and eventually became a full senior international athlete. Enjoyable as it had been, I thought that was it with shot-putting, forever. How wrong I was!
There was one more event for me to participate in before the 1962 championships ended. The Yorkshire sprint relay team was depleted. It may have been because of injuries, but I never found out. It was quite a shock to discover in team training that I was to take part in a track event at such a high level. I ran the first leg and it was over in a flash. We got the baton round and did quite well but we did not qualify. Hardly surprising! However, Yorkshire won the Athletics Championships. It was obviously a very good overall team performance.
Back home, exams were over and life settled down. Then towards the end of the summer term I received “the call”. Ross and I had been selected to represent the North of England against the South. This was to be the highest level I achieved in Athletics. The South’s shot-putters were Alan Carter and the very talented Barry King. Barry had just won the National Intermediate Discus title and was to win the 1963 Senior Shot-putt title with 17.09m. Barry went on to do well in the Decathlon at the Commonwealth Games (Bronze in 1970 and Silver in 1974) and the 1972 Olympics (15th in the Decathlon).
Obviously Ross and I came third and fourth in the North v South match!