Suffolk athlete Sullivan wins Schools International race

Lewis Sullivan with the England flag after his victory in Dublin on Saturday. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Lewis Sullivan with the England flag after his victory in Dublin on Saturday. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s Lewis Sullivan crowned his first-ever run in an England vest by storming to victory at the SIAB Homes Countries Schools International, held in Dublin on Saturday.

The England Schools junior boys' cross country team celebrate their victory in Dublin. The four Suff

The England Schools junior boys' cross country team celebrate their victory in Dublin. The four Suffolk athletes in the eight-strong team are Oliver Hitchcock (second left), James Peck (third left), Lewis Sullivan (sixth left) and Ben Peck (eighth left). - Credit: Archant

Fresh from surging to victory in the junior boys’ race at the previous weekend’s prestigious English Schools Cross Country Championships, staged at Temple Newsam in Leeds, the in-form Sullivan confirmed his terrific talent with a very impressive run in Dublin, against the best age-group runners in the UK.

A member of Saint Edmund Pacers, and a pupil at Sybil Andrews Academy, 14-year-old Sullivan led England Schools’ junior boys’ squad to a comfortable team victory over teams from Scotland, Wales and hosts Ireland.

The top eight from the English Schools Championships had been selected to represent their country, and amazingly four of these eight were Suffolk athletes.

In addition to champion Sullivan, brothers James and Ben Peck, plus Oliver Hitchcock, made the journey over to Dublin on Friday.

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Ben Peck, despite running in the bottom half of his age group, had finished third at Leeds, with older brother James in seventh and Hitchcock in eighth.

And all three ran well again, behind winner Sullivan.

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James Peck was the sixth member of England Schools’ six-strong junior boys’ scoring team in seventh position, followed by brother Ben Peck in eighth and Hitchcock, a member of Ipswich Harriers, in 19th spot.

At the head of the field, Sullivan clocked 12mins 38secs, enjoying a big margin of victory of 21 seconds from Joshua Blevins (Northumberland) in 12:59.

Brandon-based James Peck registered 13:10, while brother Ben Peck was timed at 13:15 and Hitchcock 13:36.

The Pecks are both members of Thetford AC, and pupils at Mildenhall College Academy, although once a week they join Sullivan’s training group at Saint Edmund Pacers for a track session organised by Martin Brophy at the West Suffolk Arena in Bury St Edmunds.

Earlier in the season, Ben Peck won the under-13 English National and Inter-Counties titles.

“The conditions were much better than at Leeds,” explained Sullivan, with reference to the wet, windy and muddy conditions of the previous weekend.

“The course was a lot flatter. It was a fast course, but you just have to get on with it, whatever the type of course and whatever the weather.

“They were all very good runners, the top eight from each country in my age group. The course was three laps, a first one of 1K and then two of 2.5K, and I made my break at the start of the second lap.

“I built up a lead. Joshua Blevins tried to join me, but I think he struggled to keep up and the gap began to get bigger and bigger, so that it was up to 21 seconds by the finish.

“The gap increased a lot more on the last lap, which I was really pleased about. It was a good end to what has been a very good season for me.

“Everyone in the team did really well, and it was great to have three other Suffolk boys in the squad. The team spirit was good, and England had a one-two-three in the race.

“The whole weekend was great. It was a really good experience, having a laugh at breakfast and at tea with the other runners, and this was my first time running abroad, and my first time running for my country,” added Sullivan.

The Bury St Edmunds athlete won the Suffolk County Championships at the start of the year, and was crowned Anglian Schools champion in Northampton in early February.

Despite competing in the bottom half of his age group, he also managed encouraging fourth-placed finishes at the English National Championships (Leeds) and the Inter-Counties Championships (Loughborough).

Looking ahead, although the cross country season has now ended, Sullivan is looking to make a similarly strong impression on the roads, and on the track over the summer.

He will be competing in the London Mini Marathon on Sunday, April 28, over a three-mile course between Old Billingsgate and The Mall in the Capital – the final three miles of the full marathon course.

Sullivan explained: “I’m going to have a short break from racing, but will be running the Mini Marathon in London.

“I’m usually light on my feet on the roads, which should work in my favour, and I’d like to get in the top five or even the top three.

“Then I’d like to have a go at the 1,500m national record on the track.”

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