WRITTEN FOR THE ENGLISH CROSS-COUNTRY ASSOCIATION
Though she may be a new name on the winter circuit, the under-13 star of the cross season so far must be Charnwood AC’s Hannah Nuttall. With a familiar surname in athletics circles considering the talented family genes and despite only having five races under her belt, Hannah is already a contender for the National cross-country Championships later this month. Nicola Bamford spoke to the speedy clan from which she hails.
The 13-year-old has made a sensational start to her athletics career, following eleventh place in the Liverpool leg of the McCain UK Cross Challenge last November, victory in the Leicestershire and Rutland county cross-country championships last month and a glorious win in the Midland Championships in Stafford a fortnight ago – in only her fifth competitive appearance.
Most parents would understandably be very impressed by their offspring’s eye-catching potential and success, but perhaps Hannah’s mother and father, Alison Wyeth and John Nuttall are even more elated since due to their past glory days, they have been keen to not pile on the pressure too soon.
Hannah certainly comes from talented pedigree. Alison, 45, used to compete for Parkside (Harrow) AC and boasts impressive track personal bests of 4:03.17 (1500m), 8:38.32 (3000m) and 15:00.37 from the mid-nineties, whilst John, 43 represented Preston Harriers and achieved 13:16.70 (5000m) and 28:07 (10,000m), respectively in his day; also making a comeback in the 2007 London marathon with 2hrs57.
The proud parents each respectively won the National cross senior titles in the 1996 event in Newark and evidently, the talented trio are eager to focus on Hannah’s enjoyment and progression. Yet after her resounding regional victory of late, more success in the Saucony English National in Leeds’ Roundhay Park on February 27th would not be so much as a surprise.
Nuttall junior: starting out
On how she got into the sport she now loves Hannah explained: “I’ve always wanted to join a club but mum and dad wouldn’t let me because they said I was too young. When I was little I used to run round the block with mum when she came back from training and when we went on warm-weather training camps with dad’s training group, I sometimes used to join in with the jogging. Mum and dad let me go down to Charnwood in October. I did win the North East Leicestershire schools 800m last summer but I didn’t do any training for it!”
Hannah also divulged how she has settled into her new training group: “I have been training for four months with Derrick Green at Charnwood AC. There’s a really big training group with up to forty runners turning up on some nights. Derrick coaches all the girls who won the U13 team prize at the Midlands Champs as well as Sophie Coldwell who won the U15 girls and James Hatton who was second in the U13 boys. The group is good fun - I do two track sessions a week with them and don’t do any other training for running.”
Mum and dad’s memories
Alison and John reminisced about their National victories back in their hey-days: “For me,” Alison explained, “the National Cross Country was a great team experience but an individual nightmare! We won the national cross country team title eight times but I can’t remember how many times I finished second as an individual. Even the time that I was awarded the title, I had actually finished second but then the title was awarded to me at a later date due to irregularities with the winner.”
“My best memory is winning in Newark in 1996 and coming third as a Youth in 1985,” John revealed, “On both occasions we got lost on the way to the course to add to the excitement!”
Careers over running
The pair – who run three-to-four times per week – discussed the current athletics-related careers which must further reinforce Hannah’s love for running:
“I have worked in athletics virtually all of my working days. I started at the IAAF and I now work for UKA project managing the Commonwealth Games for England Athletics. As part of my work I was also lucky enough to be the Team Leader for the U20 team at the European Junior Champs in Serbia last year and to be one of the Team Managers for the World Champs in Berlin. I have now also started coaching as a volunteer (but not with Hannah), as I would like to get into that area more,” Alison explained.
John meanwhile, is an endurance coach at Loughborough, working with athletes located at the National Performance Centre. “I work with George Gandy to ensure that some of our best endurance athletes get the very best support leading up to London 2012,” he added.
Focus on enjoyment
Like most parents with a prodigiously talented daughter, Alison and John are keen to keep the emphasis in Hannah’s sporting endeavours on enjoyment:
“I just want Hannah to enjoy the sport and achieve her potential. She has achieved some success relatively easily and I am all too aware of the number of great young runners who don’t make it to the seniors. I would like to see Hannah make it to the senior ranks and achieve her best performances there,” Alison explained.
John continued: “I like Hannah to take part in several sports and enjoy them. I hope that she continues to enjoy her running and I want to encourage her to enjoy any success, as this helps build self-confidence in all aspects of life. Hopefully, later on she will find a sport that she is successful and able to pursue that interest further - I hope that this is athletics.”
On her current success and hopes for the future Hannah – who also plays sweeper for Barrow Belles F.C said: “I really enjoyed the Midlands race and liked the course. I went to the front quite early on and it didn’t seem too hard. I’ve got three races left - the National, Inter-counties and English Schools if I am selected.
“I haven’t run the National Cross Country before so I’m just going to go along and enjoy the race. I don’t really know what to expect but I’m excited about running. Paula Radcliffe is my role model - we went to see her when we’ve were on holiday in France and I’ve got a big picture of her and me on my wall. I want to run on the track this summer but I just want to enjoy it. One day I want to win the Olympics!” exclaimed the enthusiastic and hugely talented Hannah.
Here’s to following in some familiar and successful footsteps...