By Henry Fagan
On 6 May 1954, Sir Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile at the Iffley Road track in Oxford. This was deemed one of the greatest sporting achievements ever. Only one member of the Hampton community has ever reached this mark: Mr Clarke. Almost 68 years later to the day, Hampton’s Athletics team got on the coach to attend the annual Achilles’ Relays event at the very same track Sir Roger Bannister himself ran his sub four minute mile.
The Achilles’ Relays is a unique event where there are no field events and all of the track races are in a relay format. The event started with the inaugural 4 x 400m mixed event with athletes from LEH, where the team is made up of two Hampton and two LEH Sixth Formers. The team finished in a respectable fourth out of eight, despite the runners being primarily longer distance runners who would later compete in the 4 x 800m event for their respective schools.
The junior sprint events were up next with the Hampton 4 x 200m toeing the line against some of the top schools in the area. They stormed through their heats and gained their spot in the final later on in the day by finishing in a convincing first. Next were the heats for the senior sprint races. Unfortunately, they did not have as much luck in either the 4 x 100m or the 4 x 200m, though they still did well to finish strongly in both events despite the quartet only being formed the day before with footballer Suryaksh Tewatia and rugby player Cameron Hill filling the necessary spots for the team.
After several hours, the Junior 4 x 200m were back for the final. Coming in as favourites from the heats, all eyes were on Hampton. After a strong first three legs, the Hampton team found themselves in the lead with only half a lap of the track to go. Surely they could hang on and take Hampton’s first victory for the event? Sadly not – Hampton’s fourth leg runner accidentally stepped out of his assigned lane and unfortunately the team were disqualified.
Over to the Senior 4 x 800m. Since the departure of the school record breaking team from 2018, Hampton’s 4 x 800m team has relatively underperformed. Not this time. The team comprised four runners, all from the Lower Sixth: Charlie Coulter, Daniel Clarke, Daniele Smart and Henry Fagan. They all ran well with Coulter running a tactical masterclass in his debut 800m race to position himself well in contention for the lead, while Clarke went hard from the moment the baton touched his hand. Smart made up lost ground to finish his leg with Hampton lying in sixth place, and Fagan ran an unofficial School record in a time of 1:59.3 , overtaking several schools to bring the Hampton team through the line in the bronze medal position.
Finally, to finish of the day of racing, the Senior 4 x 400m team, yet again all made up of Lower Sixth athletes lined themselves up, ready to compete. Luke Trotman opened strongly, running a new personal best with a time of 57 seconds, and handed over the baton to Sam Shephard who ran just under 60 seconds in his first 400m race to keep the Hampton team in contact with the lead group. Next was Smart who, despite not looking, or probably feeling, the freshest out of the runners assembled, due to his 800m performance less than an hour before, ran a new PB of 56 seconds, gaining a few positions in the process. The baton was passed to the anchor leg: Stanley Cummings. Predominantly a footballer, he had never competed in a track race for Hampton before. This added to the bewilderment of the onlookers who saw Cummings ripping through the field with long, powerful strides to bring the team across the finish line in a very impressive fourth, having overtaken four schools in the 51 seconds it took him to cover the distance. This is yet again another unofficial School record.
So overall, the Hampton Athletics team put in one of their most impressive set of results at this yearly event. Shephard of the Lower Sixth summed up his experience by saying that “despite the long wait, [he] had fun with [his] mates,” and Trotman also of the Lower Sixth encourages many Hamptonians, who have never tried Athletics, to follow in Cummings’ footsteps, by claiming that “rapid running reaps real rewards.”