Young Athlete – Katy-Ann McDonald

Virtually unbeaten this winter in her age group, we find out more about Herne Hill Harrier Katy-Ann McDonald

Katy-Ann McDonald (3089) Photo: Mark Shearman)

With wins in the National, Inter-Counties and Surrey under-13 cross country championships, 13-year-old Katy-Ann McDonald (pictured above, 3089) has been virtually unbeaten this winter in her age group.

Her only defeat came when finishing runner-up against girls a year older in the English Schools Championships, but she put that right by bouncing back the following week to take victory in the SIAB Schools’ International.

Coached by Phil Kissi, Katy-Ann is the first ever Herne Hill Harrier to win the under-13 girls’ race at the National, let alone the Inter-Counties and National double. But the talented youngster names her SIAB title on her England debut as her favourite moment this winter, as she enjoyed representing her country and was pleased to take top spot against athletes older than her.

“I would sum this winter up as achieving everything that my coach and I aimed for,” Katy-Ann says matter-of-factly.

In addition to her individual successes, she also led her club to team victory on numerous occasions. She anchored the club’s under-13 girls’ team to Southern road relay and national cross country relay titles and the squad also went on to win the team award in the National.

These achievements make these youngsters the most successful team in Herne Hill’s 124-year history, especially as no young athletes’ team had even won medals at these championships previously.

Katy-Ann only started athletics in July last year. She had participated in a lot of different sports and had always enjoyed running, but was keen to try the sport properly. After a few low-key races, she ran 4:52.01 for 1500m at a Highgate Harriers open, which moved her to second in the UK under-13 rankings for 2012.

“From day one she showed promising signs and my views were confirmed three months later when I watched her run 4:52 on a windy rain sodden evening,” says Kissi.

“I am not surprised by her success this winter, as she has worked hard.”

Having done only a few races on the track, both coach and athlete think they did not really see what Katy-Ann was capable of last summer. That changed in the cross country season, as Katy-Ann won the UK Cross Challenge at Bristol in October and then finished second at Liverpool before winning again in Antrim in January. Now, the tall, long-striding teenager is looking forward to racing on the track in what will be her first year as an under-15.

“I didn’t get much time on the track last summer, so I don’t know what my favourite event is yet, or even whether I prefer cross country or track,” she says. “I want to focus on 800m and 1500m and continue my success into the next cross country season and as I get older.”

Athletics prowess is in Katy-Ann’s genes. Her mum ran internationally over 800m for Nigeria as an under-21, with a best time of 2:05, but she was unable to continue in the sport due to a lack of support. Katy-Ann’s older sister plays netball and her youngster sister is the Surrey under-8 lawn tennis runner-up. Katy-Ann also does a lot of other sports for fun at Ursuline High School in Wimbledon and Kissi is quick to praise his protégée. “Katy-Ann has been a breath of fresh air to coach, doing everything asked of her and not questioning any sessions,” he says.

Inspired by Mo Farah, Emily Chebet and the Dibaba sisters, Katy-Ann plays songs over in her head when she trains, although she admits that her mind just goes blank when she races and she does not know what comes into her head. Whatever she thinks about, it is clearly a winning formula!

» Brooks Sports are delighted to sponsor Young Athlete and are keenly working with Athletics Weekly to showcase some of Britain’s talented youngsters. The young athlete featured each week receives a Podium long sleeve T-shirt, emblazoned with the Brooks and Athletics Weekly logos. Support junior athletics via the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, see rpmf.org.uk.

» For more performance stats on Katy-Ann visit Power of 10

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