Combined events talent Isabel Wakefield is an athlete on the rise

Sixteen-year-old Isabel Wakefield not only won her first national titles in 2015, but she also represented England in 80m hurdles and combined events and ended the year topping the UK under-17 rankings in both events with 11.23 seconds and 4929 points.

Reflecting on a year in which she made a big improvement, the North Devon teenager says: “Winning two English Schools titles felt good, especially after a tough top-end under-15 season when I struggled with a foot injury. All the hard work I put into training had finally paid off.”

In fact, the modest youngster claims that she even surprised herself with what she achieved in her first year in the under-17 age group in 2015.

“Being a bottom end under-17, I wasn’t really expecting to win the English Schools hurdles, but as the competition unfolded I realised I was running better than before, so I knew I had a chance in the final, and I just needed to keep a level head,” recalls Isabel.

“It took a while for the title to sink in, and then before I knew it I was being whisked off to the international room to collect my first England kit!”

However, it wasn’t long before the talented all-rounder was collecting another selection of England kit, but this time for combined events. This was despite the fact that Isabel had primarily considered herself a ‘hurdler’ up until that point.

“Heptathlon wasn’t on my radar at the beginning of the season, as I wanted to concentrate on hurdles,” she says. “It wasn’t until the Devon team manager persuaded me to enter the South West Schools that I gave it any attention. I turned up at Yeovil not knowing what to expect, having never competed in a heptathlon, nor having ever thrown a javelin in competition.

When I won, I was truly surprised,” she explains modestly.

The late decision to do multi-events left her with little time to prepare for the English Schools, so she went along just taking one event at a time.

Isabel adds: “My coach told me, ‘All you need to be is consistent’. To go on and win the English Schools was a real high point of my season. I think my 37.73m javelin throw was in itself a highlight, as was my championship record in the hurdles. Another England vest was the icing on the cake.”

Representing your country should be an honour for every athlete and Isabel, too, was truly inspired by the experience, so much so that she hopes to gain further international selections in the future.

“When you wear an England vest, you know you’ve worked hard to achieve it,” she says. “The reward is representing your country. You feel a real sense of pride and this takes some of the pressure off your shoulders, allowing you to just do what you do best. I would love to qualify for the European Juniors as an under-18 this year.”

The West Buckland School pupil trains three times a week with Gary Gahan’s junior sprint squad at North Devon Athletics Club. However, Isabel excels in many sports, having run cross country and played netball for the county, as well as hockey, netball and tennis for her school.

Having really enjoyed combined events and excelled off little preparation, Isabel would like to continue with heptathlon this year and see what she can achieve after some more specific training, with hurdles remaining her main focus.

Outlining her strengths and her weaknesses, Isabel explains: “I am hard on myself. However, I am a competitor, I work hard, I am determined and I never ever give up.”

You can find further performance stats on Isabel on Power of 10 here.

» Support young athletes via the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, see rpmf.org.uk