PERSHORE Swimming Club ace Will Gearey turned on the style to win the under 12 national biathlon title at the British Modern Biathlon Championships held at Tudor Grange in Solihull at the weekend.
The modern biathlon comprises an 800m run and 50m swim, with points allocated for each individual event, and 11-year-old Gearey – a pupil at St Egwin’s CE Middle School in Evesham – rose to the challenge.
Gearey, competing in only his second ever biathlon event, had qualified through to the national final as fifth seed, having won the West Midlands Biathlon Championship in October. The British Championship attracted competitors from all regions of the UK from as far afield as Cumbria and Cornwall, with many of the top athletes representing specialist triathlon clubs or famous schools of sporting excellence such as Millfield and Plymouth.
In the 50m freestyle, Gearey was seeded one and favourite to set the fastest time of the day. Drawn in the final and fastest heat, Gearey found himself in a lane next to Rocco Cyzer from Millfield, currently fifth in the UK in the 11-year age group and his main competition.
With both boys having a quick start, it was Gearey who was soon into his stroke and took a slim lead from 15m, with Cyzer fighting hard to keep pace. However, with a much sharper turn at the 25m point, Gearey surfaced nearly a body length ahead of his Millfield rival and powered to the wall to clock a staggering time of 28.03 (1,360 points).
Gearey’s time was the fastest time for an 11-year-old boy since the British Biathlon Championship begun and also puts him top of the ASA end of year UK rankings.
Cyzer claimed second place with another very quick time 29.11 which gave him 1,330 points. Lewis Binning from Coopers Company & Coburn School was third in the swim with 29.40 (1,318 points).
In the 800m run Gearey found himself seeded 15th and with it all to do to keep his lead. Running in the second fastest heat, Gearey was aware the specialist runners would be eating into his points tally and would require a massive personal best to get amongst the medals.
When the gun went off, Gearey found himself at the back of the ten-strong heat almost immediately and had to fight his way through the pack to keep touch with the early leaders. At the 200m mark, Gearey had managed to climb to second place, about five metres adrift of the front-runner Joseph Palmer from Sutton Grammar School in the South East, and settled into the race.
Palmer cranked up the pressure in the last 400 metres and Gearey had to push himself to the limit just to keep him in sight. Palmer powered on to cross the line in a phenomenal time of 2.28.90 (1,393 points) and third fastest run of the day.
Gearey, working hard down the back straight, managed to find one last burst of speed, finishing in a new ten-second personal best of 2.32.87 (1,333 points) and ninth in the run.
The fastest time of the day was produced by Ben Blamey from Rodborough Technology College from the South East region in a staggering time of 2.25.31 (1,447 points) and his brother Tom was second in 2.27.71 (1,411 points).
It was all change on the leaderboard after the run, with Gearey being crowned national biathlon champion with a total of 2,693 points. Benjamin Nealon from Milford CE Primary School moved up the leaderboard to grab second place with 2,630 points with a 32.14 swim (1,240 points) and 2.29.06 run (1,390 points) and Palmer took third with 2,627 points with a 32.26 swim (1,234) and 1,393 points for his run.
Carol Kennedy, headteacher of St Egwin’s, said: “We are incredibly proud of William and wish him good luck for what is shaping up to be a very bright future indeed.”
Victory in the biathlon completed a busy 2014 season for Gearey, who topped the end of year UK swimming rankings (11-year boys) in the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, 50m fly, 100m fly, 200m backstroke and 200m IM.
Under 12 national biathlon champion Will Gearey. (s)