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Athletics at Eton is perhaps the most traditional of the major summer sports.  Over 110 pupils select it as their first-choice activity with the ambition to realise the Olympic motto ‘citius, altius, fortius’ meaning ‘faster, higher, stronger’. Press Officer and Sports Correspondent Guy S found out more.

I met with the master in charge, Mr Gundle, the day before the team were heading to Harrow, the strongest of Eton’s rivals. Only once in the last five years have Eton claimed victory whilst playing Harrow on their home track. A keen sportsman himself, Mr Gundle is enthusiastic about the athletics programme at Eton. It has produced world class athletes including Laurence Clarke, who competed in the 2012 Olympics in London when he finished fourth in the final of the 110m hurdles. Many pupils have gone on to represent their universities at a high level in multiple events.

If you put in the hours you definitely see the results.

Athletics at Eton

There are approximately nine fixtures each season, including four major meets with Eton competing against the likes of Harrow, Marlborough, and Tonbridge.

The highlight of the Summer Half is the home event, the Lord Burghley Competition, which is held at the Thames Valley Athletics Centre. This is a purpose-built, top-class facility that Eton uses along with local schools and sports groups.

For each event across a meet, Eton fields an A and B stream but the power of the sport is such that each athlete contributes to the team’s total point tally. Personal performance in athletics is therefore tightly linked to team success and this creates a great culture around the sport.

I also had the chance to speak to some high-level athletes in my year. When asked what makes athletics at Eton so special, they were all quick to draw upon the inclusive and team-spirited nature of the squad and the sport.

Ultimately, the idea of self-improvement also attracted them, with one pupil saying, “you can see exactly what you have to do to improve.  If you put in the hours you definitely see the results.”

Interestingly, in an article about athletics written by RDOC a number of years ago, athletics was noted as a sport unique in its requirement for ‘closed skills’. There is little room for improvisation or adapting technique in the moment, instead the need is to continually develop the skills during training so that there is consistency of delivery in the actual event.

The timing of this piece couldn’t have been better chosen. As I referred to earlier, Mr Gundle was due to lead the squad off to the infamous meet at Harrow. The day turned out to be a complete success, with Eton storming to victory in the both the Junior and Senior categories! Congratulations to all involved.

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