Friday, 16 June 2017 15:39

INDOOR 60M HURDLES U20 CHAMPION BARRETT GUNNING FOR GOLD AT EUROPEAN U20 CHAMPIONSHIPS

Written by Connor Craig-Jackson
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UNDER the strong guidance of Jessica Ennis-Hill’s former coach Toni Minichiello, 19-year-old Alicia Barrett has remained one of, if not the most promising 100m hurdles prospect Britain has to offer.

The England Under 20 champion has continued to shock many, including herself, with a host of domestic championship wins and an appearance in the 2016 World Championships among her recent triumphs.

However, none of it may have been possible were it not for one seemingly simple decision she made during her introduction into the Under 13 level at her old club in Chesterfield.

“We had to go into different groups run by certain coaches,” she recalls, “and I didn’t really know what to do so I just walked out with the middle distance group. But then I saw my friend over in the hurdles group and then said ‘Oh actually I’ll go and do that’ and I’ve just stuck with it ever since.

“I was really bad at it (hurdles) for quite a long time. Normally I would just go down to the track to get together with my group and have a good time, but I just got better at it through practise really, and then moved on to being coached by Daniel Duke. So I’m not too bad at it now!”

Despite her quick improvement, one of the biggest turning points came in Bedford last year, where a then-personal best run in the England Under 20 final saw her clinch both a gold medal and a GB Junior vest.

“(the race) was so beyond what I thought.” admits Alicia,

“All I wanted to do was go there and run as quick as I could. I didn’t expect to win at all. I think last year was really surprising, because normally there’s something wrong like ‘Oh I got a bad start’ or ‘I hit the first hurdle’. I’m quite pessimistic in that way, so I often surprise myself.”

The surprises have not only been outdoors, with 2017 seeing her become the fastest ever on the British all-time Under 20 rankings for 60m hurdlers, after clocking 8.19 seconds at the England Indoor Championships.

For Alicia, however, the performance did not just break records, but also sealed the final nail in the coffin for a long held personal hoodoo of hers.

“I’ve always thought I was bad at indoors,” say's Alicia,

“because I’ve always been a really bad starter and 60m is all about the start, so for it (the record) to go the way it did was really surprising.”

Alicia Barrett 4154Minichiello’s track record certainly promises a lot, with many of Alicia’s latest wins coming since she made the short journey to his training group in Sheffield.

However, adjusting to the new set-up has been far from straight-forward, with the new sessions often proving to be a brutal insight into the top level of athletics.

“I’ve only now stopped getting lactic just from doing the warm-up,” she says,

“so it has taken a while for me to settle in, but I think there’s still a lot more to come and I still have loads to work on. In my first session with him I was dead after the warm-up, but then he was saying ‘right 180s’ and I was like ‘What!?’

“Personality-wise it wasn’t too hard because he (Toni) will tell you straight out what you need to do and you can understand what he’s saying so he’s really easy and nice.”

Now firmly on the horizon are the European Under 20 Championships in July, with Alicia already sitting joint-top of the European Under 20 rankings this year.

Her tendency to run personal bests on the big occasions has also made her a firm favourite to gain a podium place and a first international medal; however Alicia has remained firmly grounded and keen to take the rest of her season one hurdle at a time.

“(Winning a medal) is what I’m aiming towards this year,” she says,

“but to be honest I’m trying not to think about it too much, because I have this thing that when I think about it then it doesn’t happen. So I just want to go into it in a good shape and try to do well, but not think too much about podium places. But that is really my aim, which I know doesn’t really make much sense!”

Whatever the psychology behind Alicia’s future pursuits may be, the young hurdler certainly has much to look forward to and could not be blamed at all for anticipating great things for the near future.





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