CORSTORPHINE athlete Olivia Clarke has enjoyed a stellar few weeks by winning a gold, two silvers and a bronze in national championships.
The St Augustine’s High pupil, 16, triumphed over 1500m in the under-20 category at the Scottish Schools Athletics Association Track and Field Championships.
She also finished third in the under-20s 800m at the same meet at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena. And last weekend, Olivia returned to the venue to claim second in both the 800m and 1500m at the 4J Studios Indoor Age Group Championships – her first races as an under-20 for CAAC.
She told how the quadruple medal success came after she missed the majority of the cross-country season due to issues with her iron levels.
Olivia said: “This knocked my confidence a lot – it was a rollercoaster of emotions. After some time out I tried my best to maintain my fitness and work on my speed planning for the indoor season, which I almost disregarded entirely due to my lack of preparation.
“To win in a national event means a lot to me as this is where the quality of Scottish under-20 female distance runners is at its best, meaning that the competition is always exceptional on the day. Personally, it meant significantly more this season than any other as I had worked hard over the winter to bounce back and overcome the mental and physical barriers I had experienced.”
Olivia powered away from the field to claim the SSAA title in 4mins, 42.16secs – a full 12 seconds clear of second place. Recalling the win on January 31, she said: “The mindset I had going into it was to get to the front early on and gradually build up the pace in the second half of the race. I committed to this, breaking up the field quite a bit, and with 600 metres to go I was running solo which I had never experienced before. I pushed the pace on further to ensure the gap behind me did not close and took a gun-to-tape win which I was ecstatic with.
“Training had been going well leading up to this indoor season, and I was focused and determined to execute these races well by putting my training into practice on the day. Additionally, my indoor season last year was put on hold as I contracted Covid, so I was super grateful to be standing on the start line this year.”
The S5 pupil revealed her pride at representing both her school and CAAC as she aims to fulfil her dream of an athletics career. She added: “I love running for St Augustine’s at school events and feel privileged to be able to represent my school at both track and cross-country. The support that the school gives me is always very much appreciated, whether this is through teachers or the PE department itself, and I have made so many great memories running for them.
“At the moment, I’m grateful to be fit and healthy and running at the level I am, as I now know how quickly things can change in just a matter of months. A career in athletics is always something I have aspired to as I enjoy it so much and I will definitely carry this on when going to university and continue training to progress further over the next few years.”
Olivia was presented with a ‘CAAC Hero’ T-shirt in October last year for competing in 100 events for the club. She also helps coach potential future athletes through CAAC’s Active Schools sessions at the Royal High School on Friday afternoons. She said: “Coaching is always so much fun for the kids and coaches. I saw it as an opportunity to give back to the sport and get as many kids involved as possible, knowing how much it shaped my younger years and the enjoyment I got out of it when I was their age. It’s extremely rewarding to see the progress they have all made since beginning and the new friendships they have made, as well as the increase in the number of those attending.
“The senior CAAC members – Fran Snitjer, Graeme Reid, George Key and Chris Peggie – have been extremely supportive in guiding me through this. They give me enough independence to feel confident with a group but are always there to answer any questions I may have, or give tips and advice about ways to improve my coaching.”
She added: “Receiving my ‘CAAC Hero’ T-shirt made me feel really proud as for me it reflects the progress I’ve made since beginning athletics at CAAC for fun in the under-11 age group when I was nine. It also makes me feel really lucky to have started running for CAAC as I have made so many good friends and have an amazing support network with the coaches and our training group.”