ON Tuesday (Nov 20) Welsh Athletics announced the 38 athletes invited on to its Commonwealth Games Programme (CPG) for the 2018-19 season, based on their potential to compete and challenge for medals at Birmingham 2022.
The Welsh Athletics CGP provide three levels of support for athletes and their coaches – Commonwealth Podium, Commonwealth Potential for senior athletes, and Commonwealth Talent Development for junior athletes.
In addition, the category of Associate Athlete has been introduced to support experienced individual athletes with ambitions of qualifying to compete at major championships in the next two years.
One of those invited to join the “Commonwealth Talent Development for junior athletes” was Ysgol Y Strade, Llanelli pupil and Carmarthen Harriers’ very own U20 athlete, Ben Thomas after a great year on the competition stage.
Ben first started running 8 years ago at the age of 9 in 2011 at Llanelli AC in Pemberton having played rugby and cycled prior to that. His first ParkRun event came over at Llyn Llech Owain in Gorslas, Carmarthenshire.
He then joined Carmarthen Harriers during the 2013 year and succeeded in the cross country and athletics events at school and club level.
On several occasions, Thomas has also represented Welsh Schools Athletics Association Under 17 in both the London Mini Marathon and SIAB Schools International Cross Country as well as winning the under 17 and under 20 Welsh Athletics Road Mile Championships.
Three years later in May 2016 and within two years of jumping over the first steeplechase barrier, he represented Great Britain for the first time on the big stage in front of a worldwide audience. He travelled to Gyor in Finland earlier this summer (July) in most probably his biggest career race so far.
In the qualifying round on the Friday evening, Ben went in the second heat and after overcoming a mid-race argy-bargy, he battled back to qualify for the final having fun 6:01:47 in eighth. 48 hours later, Thomas was back on the start line and featuring a total of fifteen athletes full of talent, it was always expected to be a top quality battle.
The main headline that evening saw Ben cross the line after a fast 2K S/C in a new personal best of 5:53:47, taking almost four-and-a-half seconds off his previous best. The Welsh athlete put in an excellent final lap rounded off with a strong finish down the home straight to grab ninth.
Some of his other fine achievements over the 2018 summer season in the 1500m & 2000m distances in this technical event included all of the following: 1st in the Under 18’s English Championships Carmarthen Harriers Club Record in the Under 17’s 1500m Steeplechase and Under 20’s 2000m Steeplechase, 1st Under 20’s Welsh Schools Athletics Association Inter Schools’ Cross Country Championships in 2017, 2nd Under 17 SIAB Schools International (Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland) as well as Team Captain, 2nd Under 17 English Athletics Championships, 2nd Under 18 Celtic Games (Wales, Scotland and Ireland) and 1st Under 17 Welsh Schools Steeplechase.
Earlier this year in February 2018 at the Ffwrnes Theatre in Llanelli, he was crowned the winner of the 2017 Young Sportsman of the Year Award at the Carmarthenshire Sports Personality Awards. In addition, he picked up the 2017 West Wales Regional Council Gerry Batty Award for most improved U20 athlete.
In the early part of the winter cross country season, Ben has already been victorious in the John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League at Pembrey Country Park and the Senior Boys’ race in the Welsh Inter-Schools Cross Country Championships in mid-November.
Reflection on this week’s news released by WA, Thomas said: “After a successful year, especially on the track, I am delighted, proud and honoured to be named in the Welsh Athletics Commonwealth Games Talent Development Support Programme.”
“The big aim for 2019 is to gain qualifying times and Great Britain selection for the under 20 European track and field championships in the summer. There are various stepping stones prior to this including the Welsh Cross Country Championships in Pembrey and the British Milers Club events starting in May.”
Harriers Endurance Coach & Ben’s Coach, Neil Thomas added: “Ben has shown excellent dedication to the sport and this is just reward for that. After an excellent summer steeplechasing on the track competing for Carmarthen Harriers, Wales and Great Britain, I am sure the support of Welsh Athletics will help Ben progress further over the next year.”
Athlete’s performance level, progression, age, time in the sport, potential for further development and current training environment were all considered by a panel made up of Welsh Athletics performance team staff, Sport Wales staff and an independent member of the recently established Performance subgroup which forms part of the Welsh Athletics governance structure, to assess whether they can fulfil the objectives of the programme.
Joining Thomas on the support programme include a large number of the elite athletes from all four Welsh regions as well as several upcoming young future stars. Some of those involved are from the West Wales region. Here’s the full list below:
Welsh Athletics Commonwealth Games Support Programme:
Associate Athletes: Ben Gregory, Brett Morse, Caryl Jones, Dai Greene, Seren Bundy-Davies
CWG Podium: Bethan Davies, Charlotte Arter, David Omoregie, Ieuan Thomas, Osian Jones
CWG Potential: Adele Nicoll, Curtis Matthews, Heather Lewis, Jac Palmer, Jenny Nesbitt, Jonathan Hopkins, Josh Griffiths, Natasha Cockram, Owen Smith, Rebecca Chapman, Sam Gordon, Stevie Stockton
Talent Development: Ben Thomas, Bethan Rees, Bethany Moule, Cari Hughes, Hannah Brier, Jay Morse, Jeremiah Azu (TBC), Joe Brier, Kiara Frizelle, Kristian Jones, Lauren Evans, Lauren Williams, Naomi Reid, Oliver Barbaressi, Osaze Aghedo, Sarah Omoregie, Tom Hewson
British Athletics World Class Programme Support:
Olympic Podium: Dewi Griffiths, Melissa Courtney
Olympic Potential: Jake Heyward, James Tomlinson