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Luke Birdseye – from parkrun to team GB

Luke started running in June 2018 when his parents encouraged him to come along to a Parkrun on a Saturday morning.

He currently holds the U11-14 Age Category record for the Black Park Parkrun and is hopeful of returning during Winter 2022 to try to attain the U15-17 record.

After a few months, we spoke to a family friend and told him of the times Luke was running at Parkrun, he suggested that we take him along to a running club and recommended Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow Athletic Club (WSEH).

Luke joined the Academy at WSEH but after a couple of weeks due to his interest in Middle and Long Distance, he was introduced to coach Shireen Higgins and has never looked back!

His first full season for WSEH was 2019 as an under 15, racing both on track in the summer and in cross country in the winter.

He was part of the team that finished second in the South of England Relay Championships and second in the English National Relay Championships and as an individual, he became the Berkshire under 15 Cross Country Champion.

On the track, in the 1500m, after winning two open meeting races in April, he became the Berkshire County under 15 champion in May, winning with a new PB.

He lowered his PB in July when winning in a league match representing WSEH, before finishing the season competing in South of England Championships and the South of England Inter County Championships.

During the pandemic in 2020/2021 as soon as the rules allowed, Luke was back out training with his Dad in his local parks, doing the sessions suggested by Shireen. Because he is so committed, he never gave up and never missed a session. As soon as he was allowed, he was back to group training at WSEH.

In late summer 2021 track & field events, thanks to his dedication to training, Luke lowered his PB in the 1500 by a massive 13 seconds and as he was now an under 17, he experienced his first 1500 Steeplechase.

2021 then proved to be a standout year on the track.

After winning two early season races and lowering his PB, Luke was undefeated at the under17 1500m Steeplechase, winning English Schools National Championships in July with another PB, the England U15/U17 Championships in early August, the South of England Championships in late August, the UK School Games at Loughborough, with a new PB and  the SIAB Championships representing England, with the bonus of yet another PB.

In the 1500m, after lowering his PB in his first race of the season, he lowered it again when winning representing WSEH, he was again the Berkshire Country Champion, (this time as an under 17) and won the Berkshire Schools Championship. He also raced for the first time in the 3000m.

In the winter season, he was again the Berkshire County Cross Country Champion, (this time as an under 17) and was part of the team that finished second in the English National Relay Championships.

2022 has continued in the same way, initially with the cross country, where he became the Berkshire Schools Champion. He then also finished 2nd at the South of England Championships, 8th at English National Championships, 5th at Inter County Championships and 15th at English Schools Championships.

On the track, fortunately, WSEH managed to get the right event licence that allowed Luke to attempt to reach the 5.55 standard set by British Athletics for the 2000m Steeplechase to be considered for the U18 European Championships in Jerusalem. In April this year, surrounded by his friends at the club, at his first race over this longer distance, in a race of only two people, Luke managed to run what was effectively a time trial resulting in a qualifying time of 5.52. It then seemed a long wait before the call came in June to confirm that Luke was selected for the team.

Luke had a ranking of 9th in Europe going into the race and finished 4th with an 8 second PB. He was shattered to miss a medal but delighted with his performance.

The coach looking after the male endurance athletes at the Championships sent his WSEH coach, (Shireen Higgins), an email saying how professionally Luke had conducted himself and that he was happy with the training and race tactics that Luke and Shireen had discussed and put together. His peers did not sway him to do something different – either more or less – he knows his own mind.

Just nine days later, he then went on to win a bronze medal at the England Athletics U20 & U23 Championships in his first ever 3000m Steeplechase, before finishing the season finishing third representing WSEH over the same distance in the National League Premiership Final.

In the 1500, Luke won all his three races, including representing WSEH and winning the Berkshire Schools Championships, lowering his PB in all three races including running under 4 minutes for the first time. As a bonus, representing WSEH, he also won an 800m running under 2 minutes for the first time.

If you go to the track on a Tuesday or Thursday during the Summer or to the local parks in Winter, you will always see Luke at the front of the group trying his hardest for all the reps on his schedule. Luke believes that if commit yourself to something and work hard at it, then you can achieve great things.

Luke very much hopes to go to a US College next year to continue his studies and athletics training. He is already talking about U20 World Cross Country in Australia and Track and Field in Romania. Not forgetting 2024 Paris Olympics!!

Not sure where these genes have come from, certainly not his mother and father! However, his Grandad was also a member of WSEH back in his day and a very good County standard runner.

As well as his commitment and hard work, Luke has said that he would not have got to where he is without Shireen. He says she has played a huge part in his development and he has a great relationship with her. They work together, are always discussing and he always goes to her for advice. A great team.

Luke Birdseye representing the club in cross country showing his usual level of commitment and hard work

Luke Birdseye representing England in the SIAB international in 2021, winning the 1500m steeplechase
Luke Birdseye representing GB in the 2000m steeplechase at the 2022 European Athletics U18Championships in Jerusalem
Luke Birdseye competing at the British Cross Country Challenge in November 2022
Luke Birdseye winning the British Cross Country Challenge in November 2022!

Written September 2022

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