Spectator Sophie runs off with title

Sophie Warden is crowned champion by Linford Christie
Sophie Warden is crowned champion by Linford Christie
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Athletics spectator Sophie Warden was meant to be just a face in the crowd, but she came home with a national title.

The 18-year-old tested out a 60-metre street track “for a laugh” and ended up being crowned an England under-20 sprint champion.

“It was a bit of a shock - I’d never tried 60-metres before,” said Preston Harriers’ triple-jumper Sophie.

“But this has made me think. I might give sprinting a go indoors this winter and see how it goes.”

The former Kirkham Grammar School student only went to watch the Manchester International with boyfriend George Reed, also a triple jumper. They were there to see some of the country’s budding stars of track and field.

But the trip turned into a bizarre try-out in the car park for Street Athletics - the idea of former Olympic sprinters Linford Christie and Darren Campbell.

“We got the tickets from Preston Harriers to go and watch some of our team-mates and when we got to Sportcity they had set up a 60-metre track and were asking people if they wanted a go,” explained Sophie.

“George and I thought it would be a bit of a laugh to try it out. We’d no idea it was a competition. It just seemed like a bit of fun, so we raced one another.

“We both qualified for the Manchester finals in the city centre a few weeks later. We both got through those and went through to the national finals the following day.

“Incredibly I won my age group and now I’m a Street Athletics national champion. It’s all a bit surreal.”

Sophie, a Lancashire triple jump champion, has something of a pedigree when it comes to athletics.

Her parents were both internationals - dad Peter raced in the 400-metre hurdles at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and mum Caroline has represented England in the triple jump.

“I’ve grown up with the sport,” said Sophie. “My first competition at the club was at under-nine and I started competing against other clubs at under-13. I was a 100-metre runner, but I’ve chopped and changed over time. My focus now is on triple jump or 400-metre hurdles.

“But to go back to sprinting in this event was great. It shows I’ve still got it when it counts.”

Sophie has finished her A-levels this year and is trying to get into drama school to pursue her ambition to be an actor. Boyfriend George, 17, finished fourth in the Street Athletics Under-20s final, is still at Kirkham Grammar School and is aiming to compete in the 2020 Olympics.