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New heights for Harriers

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Strong performances: Carmarthen Harriers take home a strong medal haul after competing in this year’s West Wales Indoor Championships and British Athletics Cardiff Cross Challenge

OVER 25 Carmarthen Harriers put in comprehensive performances at this year’s West Wales Indoor Championships and British Athletics Cardiff Cross Challenge, which took place last weekend (Jan 21-22).

Held at Swansea University, the Indoor Championships saw a record 315 athletes take part, with Carmarthen coming away with a total of nine medals over the two day competition.

Glen Elsdon put in winning performances for both the senior men’s hurdles (8.33) and the 60m final (7.05). Meanwhile, on the field there were further gold medal performances from Danielle Jones in the under 17 women’s shot (11.04m), Olivia Haines in the under 20 women’s triple jump (9.85m), Lili Church in the under 15 girls’ high jump (1.58m), and Zara Evans in the under 13 girls’ long jump (4.06m).

Adding to the tally, there were also three bronze medals won thanks to Haydn Davies in the under 17 men’s 60m hurdles final (9.07), Zak Daly in the under 17 men’s 60m final, and Olivia Haines who won her second medal of the day, this time in the long jump (4.52m).

In the younger age groups, Sophia Reid-Thomas made it all the way to the under 13 girls’ 60m final, where she finished sixth with a time of 9.04. Meanwhile, the upcoming and talented year six athletes Harri Howells and Owain-Hari Davies sprinted strongly to finish seventh and eighth respectively, both achieving a time of 9.30 and just missing out on a place in the final.

In the same event, Mia Lloyd, Jessica Lee, Siwan Jones-Evans, Stephen Reed and Haydn Davies all represented the club and performed well in their heats, whilst in the shot, Nia Williams – having moved up an age group – threw 8.02m to finish in seventh position.

Meanwhile, the cross country runners headed for Cardiff for the fourth series of the British Athletics series, where they tested themselves against the best in the UK.

In the primary school races, the boys won the overall trophy for the second successive year, thanks to Jack Thomas who won individual bronze and was supported by Iwan Jones in fifth, Steffan Davies in 17th, Jake Lynock in 32nd, and Brynmor Peters in 44th. In the girls’ race, Emma Brazier and Bessy Hill finished 22nd and 23rd respectively.

Ben Thomas, having been selected to represent Wales in the under 17 Celtic Cross Country International, following an impressive set of results over the past few months, finished as the third Welsh scorer in 12th. Behind him, Thomas Jones secured 36th position and competing in the women’s event, Ellie Kiff ran well to take 33rd place.

Daisy Thompson, having already competed in the previous two race series’ at Liverpool and Milton Keynes, again kept up with the leading pack, eventually coming in fifth. Also putting in a strong performance, Phoebe Williams crossed the line in 22nd.

In the corresponding boys’ age group, Liam Edwards finished in sixth and Dafydd Jones had his best race for the club to date, finishing in eighth. Dyfed teammate Iori Humphreys from Pembroke finished in between (seventh). Frank Morgan unfortunately had to pull out during the race.

First in for the Harriers in the under 15 boys’ race was Tomos Rees, who had a great run to take home sixth place. Following him was Archi Morgan in 14th and Gareth Morgan in 22nd overall. Meanwhile, the under 15 girls’ event saw Beca Roberts secure 47th position, and Siwan Jones–Evans 54th.

Finally, in the senior categories, Louise Jones-Evans won her F45 age group in a great time, while Gordon Orme continued his fine form this season to take fifth.

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Dressage rider is Festivals Champion

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GEMMA SOMERS from Nantgaredig has won the Petplan Equine Novice Silver Championship at the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships on Hallucination. The combination have spent the winter preparing for the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships held at Hartpury College, Gloucestershire from April 11-15.

Hallucination is a British bred 17.3hh, six-year-old mare owned by William Shufflebottom and ridden by Gemma.

The talented partnership clearly impressed the judges holding the lead throughout the 32-strong class despite being the first combination to trot down the centre line achieving an impressive score of 73.06%.

Nantgaredig-based rider Gemma Somers was delighted with Hallucination’s performance in an exciting atmosphere with some outstanding dressage tests and exceptional combinations competing for the Petplan Equine Novice Silver title. “It’s amazing to win,” said Gemma, “It’s her first time here so it’s been quite daunting for her! She’s been perfect all day, for the prize giving this evening she was a bit overwhelmed. I broke her in, so I’ve been her only rider, we started at unaffiliated competitions, joined BD and progressed from there.”

“She was really calm and relaxed – she can get quite tense and shoot off when she doesn’t like the look of something – but today she didn’t, she was just with me the whole time. It was a lovely test and I’m so pleased with her.”

The Petplan Equine Area Festivals, now in their 19th year, provide riders across the levels from Preliminary to Intermediate II with the chance to experience the thrill of competing in top competition style conditions. 27 Area Festivals took place all around the country in 2017 with over 4,200 horse and rider combinations taking part.

A further eight Area Festival Finals were then contested to gain qualification for the Championships at Hartpury.

Kate Hopkins, Marketing Consultant at Petplan Equine, commented; “We have been bowled over by the continued success of the Petplan Equine Area Festivals, participation has increased again, and the standard continues to rise at every Championships. We are proud and delighted to sponsor a series that has become so important to amateur and aspiring dressage riders around the country. It is an opportunity for grassroots riders to showcase the immense talent out there. We would especially like to congratulate Gemma and Hallucination on their fantastic win and wish her the very best of luck for the future.”
British Dressage’s Chief Executive Jason Brautigam said: “I am always very impressed with the dedication and commitment shown by competitors participating in the Petplan Equine Area Festivals series. The growth in the number of combinations going down the centre line continues to surpass all our expectations.

“The new format introduced last year, with the addition of the eight Area Festival Finals, has allowed even more people to experience the atmosphere of a top dressage competition – with the Championships being the icing on the cake. Petplan Equine’s support of the Area Festivals will soon be entering its 20th year, which is testament to how much they have been a loyal, committed and trusted supporter of our sport. BD really values the contribution that they make, and long may this partnership continue.”

Further information about the Petplan Equine Area Festivals and how to qualify for next year’s finals is available from the Petplan Equine website at: www.petplanequine.co.uk/area-festivals/

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Former Wales international Anthony Walker appointed Wales U19 head coach

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FORMER Wakefield Trinity, St Helens and Wales International Anthony Walker has been appointed as the new head coach of the Wales under 19 rugby league side.

He will lead the under 19s in the forthcoming European Championships and will remain as head coach of the side until at least December 2020.

The 26-year old retired from playing in October last year on medical grounds but is no stranger to coaching having juggled the latter days of his playing career with coaching Blackbrook in the north of England based National Conference League, guiding them to promotion in 2016 and picking up a local coach of the year award in the process.

Since his retirement from playing he has progressed to coaching in the professional game, working as a first team assistant coach at another of his former clubs, Rochdale Hornets, in the RFL Championship.

Walker, who also played for Whitehaven and Dewsbury Rams in his professional rugby league career, is Wales RL heritage #489 after winning eight caps and scoring three tries. He was in the side when Wales won the European Championship in 2015 after beating France, Scotland (where he scored a try) and Ireland.

He is delighted to be bringing through the next crop of potential Wales World Cup players.

He said: “I’m made up to have been appointed. When I saw the post, I contacted Wales CEO Chris Thair immediately. I’ve been coaching a lot since retiring and I want to give something back to WRL after they were so good to me whilst going through the retirement.

“We’ll be going into this summer’s Under 19 European Championship with the aim of winning the trophy.”

Wales won this trophy when it was last contested as under 18 competition in 2008, beating Czech Republic, England and France and a number of those Wales players went on to win full Wales caps.

Walker continues: “My aim is to make Wales under 19s as successful as possible and help create some future full Wales international players. However I want to make coming into camp as much of an honour as it was for me and for the lads to have some fun along the way.

“I won the senior European Championship as a player and I want to make memories for life for these group of lads, just like playing for Wales has done for me.”

Walker will be assisted by Wayne Ponting, who last year served as assistant coach to the Wales under 16s, under 18s and Student sides. He was previously involved with the Welsh regional academies, the South Wales Scorpions and Celtic Crusaders academy and scholarship sides after cutting his coaching teeth with Blackwood Bulldogs juniors.

The final appointment sees Steve Jenkins from Llanelli appointed as team manager.

Jenkins is a newcomer to Rugby League but boasts an impressive CV having been involved in a variety of managerial roles in rugby union with Llanelli RFC, Carmarthen Quins, the Scarlets and the Welsh Rugby Union.

Jenkins said: “From working in Rugby Union I have gained experience both with Scarlets and the WRU which I feel will assist me in the team manager role.

“During my time with the Scarlets I gained experience under coaches Gareth Jenkins and for Phil Davies where I was his team manager when he took the Scarlets to their last Semi Final of the European Cup in 2007. Additionally, working for the WRU was challenging and I understand the high standards that are set to help to run an international side.

“I am really looking forward to joining up with WRL under 19’s coaches Anthony and Wayne, and experiencing the challenges that lay ahead in preparing the squad for the European Under 19 Championship in August this year.”

The 2018 Under 19s European Championship will be contested in Belgrade, Serbia between the 5th and 11th of August with Wales taking on Russia in the first round of the eight-team knockout tournament.

Trial and training dates for the Wales under 19 side will be announced shortly.

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Scarlets name unchanged XV for final pool clash

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THE SCARLETS will welcome RC Toulon to Parc y Scarlets on Saturday afternoon in the final pool game of the 2017-18 European Rugby Champions Cup campaign.

A victory for the Scarlets would see the region make it through to the knockout stages of the coveted competition for the first time in over a decade and head coach Wayne Pivac has rewarded the side that secured such an emphatic victory over Bath last weekend by naming an unchanged XV.

With over 13,500 tickets sold already Saturday’s game will be the region’s biggest in European history at Parc y Scarlets, the record currently stands at 12,392 against Leicester Tigers back in January 2011.

In the only change to the replacements bench the region’s supporters will be delighted to see British & Irish Lion Leigh Halfpenny return to fitness.

Looking ahead to the game head coach Wayne Pivac said; “We know what to expect from Toulon, we’ve come up against each other on numerous occasions in the last few years. We need to make sure that we’re defensively on our game.

“There was only one point separating the teams in the first round of the competition this year and we gifted them some points early on from our errors. To fight back and get ourselves into a position to possibly win the game out there was very pleasing.

“I think it’s going to be another one of those games. It’s the same for both teams. Whoever gets the win is through. It’s a chance for both of us. We’re not through yet but you don’t want to be the team looking at the mathematical equation. It’s all set up for a great evening.”

Scarlets side to take on RC Toulon at Parc y Scarlets, Saturday 20th January, kick-off 5.30pm;

15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Paul Asquith, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Rob Evans, 2 Ken Owens ©, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 David Bulbring, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 John Barclay

Replacements; Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, Lewis Rawlins, Will Boyde, Aled Davies, Steff Hughes, Leigh Halfpenny

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