A terrific last week for Suffolk race-walker Callum Wilkinson
- Credit: PA
It has been a successful last few days for Suffolk’s talented race-walker, Callum Wilkinson.
The 18-year-old, from Moulton, near Newmarket, capped a fine season by winning the Enfield Open Seven last Saturday, finishing ahead of Colchester Harriers’ international twin brothers, Daniel and Dominic King.
And yesterday, Wilkinson was named in a 34-strong squad for next year’s British Athletics Futures Programme, a prestigious system which has helped to develop the careers of current stars Dina Asher-Smith and Matthew Hudson-Smith.
At Enfield over the weekend, Wilkinson, competing for the home club – Enfield & Haringey AC – confirmed his UK No. 1 under-20 billing by winning the 89th edition of the Enfield Open Seven, staged from Lee Valley Athletics Stadium.
The highly-rated Wilkinson, who regularly trained on the West Suffolk Arena track at Bury St Edmunds, before going off to Leeds Beckett University this autumn, triumphed over the seven-mile course in a cracking 47mins 28secs.
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Back in 2013, and at the age of 16, Wilkinson was delighted to be the youngest-ever winner of this event, although he was disappointed with his time of 57:46 that day, vowing to do better.
He certainly kept his promise last weekend. In fact, his 47:28 clocking was the fastest-ever winning time in the long history of the event.
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Centurions Dominic and Daniel King pushed Wilkinson early on, but with their current training aimed at the 50km distance, they didn’t have the edge in terms of speed.
However, it is to their credit that, although not really racing fit, the Harriers’ duo still supported the event. Daniel King finished second in 48:57 while Dominic King, who already has the Olympic Games qualifying standard for next year’s 50K race-walk at Rio De Janeiro, was third in 49:11.
Wilkinson explained: “When I won this event two years ago, it was one of slowest times in the history of the event. So I was determined to put the record straight, and I ended up being happy with both my performance and the time.
“It was my last race of the season and, coming so late in the year, it was encouraging to record such a time, which equates to about 42 minutes for 10K, which in fact is not far off my British record.
“I had enjoyed a good tempo training session the day before, at Roundhay Park in Leeds, and my coach Mick (Graham) had suggested that I should try out some different tactics during the race, like putting in surges every 200 metres or so.
“I had company from Daniel and Dominic King for the first lap – the race was made up of three laps of two-and-a-third miles – but I put in a surge up the hill towards the start-finish line at the end of the first lap, which earned me a gap.
“I managed to keep that up, and run fairly even splits,” added Wilkinson.
Among many highlights in 2015, Wilkinson, who has 1966 Commonwealth Games champion Ron Wallwork as a mentor, set a national junior 10K race-walk record of 41:34.63 at the European Junior Championships in Sweden in July.
Now the former King Edward VI pupil, at Bury St Edmunds, is looking forward to being a part of the British Athletics Futures Programme, following yesterday’s welcome announcement.
“It’s really like getting on the first rung of the ladder, towards full lottery funding, so it’s a big boost for me,” enthused Wilkinson.
“It’s a very prestigious programme to get on. It’s very competitive to get a place, so I’m delighted to be included.”
‘Futures’ is a British Athletics support programme for athletes and their coaches, which underpins the World Class Performance Programme (WCPP). It will run from the start of next month, through to November 30, 2016.
It is certainly another big stepping stone for Wilkinson, whose long-term target is to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, in 2020.
He is currently in the first term of a four-year course in Sports Event Management at Leeds Beckett University.