Swiss-based middle-distance runner Agnes McTighe is an athlete on the rise, writes Emily Moss
Having set a world age-13 best for 3000m in 2015, Switzerland-based Agnes McTighe’s aims are quite simple for 2016. To keep fit, to keep winning, to be happy and to beat the world age 14 3000m record of 9:10.70.
The talented 14-year-old had not expected to run as fast as she did, although her coach at Stratford-upon-Avon Athletics Club, Paul Hawkins, had predicted his young charge would go close to her eventual 9:25.61 clocking.
“I wanted Agnes to go at 9:30 pace, but she thought this was too ambitious, so planned to aim for sub-10:00,” he says. “It was the Warwickshire 3000m championships and they made it a mixed race including under-17 men.
“When the gun went, Agnes went with one of her older training partners, Oscar Barbour, who was going at 9:30 pace. She kept it going brilliantly and was a little bit quicker than I thought she would do. I think I expected the performance more than Agnes or her family,” reveals Hawkins.
It was the second best time by a UK under-15, with only Emelia Gorecka having run faster with her 9:22.8 UK age group record. With another year in the age group, it is of little surprise that Agnes has set herself the target of getting her name in the record books as the fastest British under-15 athlete in history.
Reflecting back on her world record-breaking run, Agnes explains: “It was my first 3000m on the track, so I had no idea what to expect. With two laps to go I felt so strong so I pushed on. I could hear all the screaming; my family, Paul and all the Stratford athletes and I sprinted for the line. I felt amazing.”
“With two laps to go I felt so strong so I pushed on. I could hear all the screaming; my family, Paul and all the Stratford athletes and I sprinted for the line. I felt amazing”
Ten days later, Agnes lapped every other runner when winning the Midland title, a performance which her coach argues was possibly better, due to the fact she ran 9:28 completely on her own.
Agnes has enjoyed success in cross country too, claiming silver in the National and Inter-Counties last year. However, due to her Swiss base, this year she did not return to the UK for the major cross country championships, but raced in the Swiss under-16 Cross Cup series.
“I love competition in anything, not just running. Running feels so natural. I love the stress before and the pain during. I have had to learn how to cope with defeat, as I didn’t win at the National or Inter-Counties. I love the mud, but I think I am better suited to the track and road,” she adds.
Living in Switzerland, it is of little surprise that Agnes does a lot of skiing and snowboarding. “I live in a ski resort,” she explains. “I am taught in French but always speak English at home. Half my friends are German speaking and half French, but everyone wants to speak English to me. I was born in Warwickshire but came out here with my family eight years ago,” she adds.
She also swims four times a week in the elite squad with the Club Natation Sierre, which means she only runs twice a week, although she does enjoy running in the mountains. In fact, aged 11, it was the 19km mountain race ‘Chandolin to Zinal’ that made her realise she was good at running.
She trains alone, directed by Hawkins, but every summer returns to England for 6-8 weeks and links up with her coach and the other athletes at Stratford.
“Going back to the UK gives me a chance to meet up with Paul, but the rest of the time, he keeps in touch each week via Skype,” she explains. “Stratford AC gives me the experience of training with a club. It’s so much fun and brilliant to train with other people.”
“Running feels so natural. I love the stress before and the pain during”
As well as her all-round sporting ability, Agnes hails from a sporting family. Her granddad ran against sprint legend McDonald Bailey, her aunt raced against Kathy Smallwood, her mum is a skier and works as a ski instructor and her dad is a swimmer.
The family connections do not stop there, as her cousin Max Nicholls has represented Britain in the junior mountain races in 2015 and his sister, Grace, has represented England on the track. For good measure, Agnes’ mum’s cousin represented Wales as a sprinter.
Speaking of her family’s sporting genes, Agnes says: “Sport is really important to the family.”
Despite the success of his charge, who is most inspired by Genzebe Dibaba and Bobby Clay, Hawkins is taking things slowly. “As far as my philosophy is concerned, I want to keep the training load pretty light,” he says.
“We have plenty of time to gradually increase the volume and intensity. Next season the main target is to improve her 3000m time, but she’ll do plenty of races at 800m and 1500m. Longer term, she has a lot of potential, but Agnes is young so doesn’t need any pressure.”
You can find further performance stats on Agnes on Power of 10 here.
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