Bill Carne braved an horrendously wet summer’s evening to watch Shaun Zygadlo train with Pembrokeshire Harriers and then chat to this talented young high hurdler who is already a double Welsh champion and is looking forward to the UK Finals in the near future . . .

THERE is a growing number of very talented young sprint hurdlers at Pembrokeshire Harriers and there is no doubt that one of them is Shaun Zygadlo, who hails from Clunderwen and can proudly boast of the fact that at 14 years of age he is already Welsh 80 metres hurdles champion in his age category.

Not content with that terrific feat, Sean travelled to the under15 League Cup Final in Newport recently and achieved a new personal best time of 11.60 seconds in his 80 hurdles and another win maintained his undefeated record and made him not only double Welsh champ but he is also ranked first in Wales and tenth in the United Kingdom.

At the same event Shaun also achieved an outstanding Long Jump PB of 5.80 metres which has ranked him joint second in Wales whilst the 4 x 100 relay team of Alex Varney, Ben Evans, Shaun Zygadlo and Aaron John has achieved a new PB, Club and League Record of 45.87 seconds, ranking them first in Wales and 11th in the UK.

It is fitting reward for his total commitment to the cause under the guidance of hurdles coach Nigel Rowlands and Shaun’s next challenge is the British Final at Bedford in a couple of weeks’ time, where he will measure his pace and hurdling ability against the best across the UK.

Shaun was about 11 when he started out with Pembrokeshire Harriers when a friend called Lee Roach was involved in sprinting and she asked him along to the club with her. He decided to give it a try and was made very welcome by the likes of coaches Peter Freeman, Liz and Nigel Rowlands, Richard Thomas and the rest as he tried a variety of events before Nigel Rowland pouched him for the hurdles.

He had already done very well in the County School championships under the watchful eye of Mr Jonathan Dodd and won the 75 metres hurdles.

From there it was on to the Dyfed Championships, which he also won, but was prevented from entering the Welsh because he was a year Seven pupil and since there was only one entry per county the Year Eight winner was chosen.

But the following season he repeated his success at school, county and Dyfed Schools and was selected to run in the Welsh Finals at Leckwith Stadium in Cardiff.

“I was very nervous,” admitted Shaun, “especially when I heard my name announced over the loudspeakers.

“It was the first time I had used my starting blocks and my start is my weak point which I am working on – but I caught up and took the lead at just the right time to beat Michael Thompson (Swansea) by one hundredth of a second.

“I knew I had just taken it and Michael was great afterwards because we have become good friends through club meetings.

“He had won it the previous year but now it was my name read out over the tannoy and I was really delighted!”

As well as his athletics, Shaun played football at one time for Haverfordwest County in the midfield, as well as hockey for Fishguard and Pembrokeshire, where he enjoyed using his natural pace to good effect up front or as a defender on the counter-attack.

He also shot clay pigeons sometimes with his father Paul but both have limited time now because of Shaun’s commitment to athletics, with Paul joining his better half Louisa in providing a first-class chauffeur service for Shaun and his younger brother Jamie (9).

“Mum and dad have been brilliant supporters,” Shaun told us, “and even help out at the Harriers now. I couldn’t have done anything without their help.

“Jamie is also taking part now but is too young to compete yet, but is brilliant at hurdling and when he does take part he’s going to smash them all!”

One of the plus points in Shaun’s involvement is his willingness to work hard in training and listen to good advice.

Indeed, on the night we met up he was training in horrendous conditions at STP track with fellow hurdler Lydia Thomas and coach Rowland was shivering so much that he could hardly talk, but he was full of praise for Shaun.

“It is a pleasure to have him in our hurdles squad,” Nigel told us, “because he is not only a pleasure to coach but is a great example to the talented younger sprinters like Esme Greer, Hedd Nicholas and Alex Varney who learn from his commitment.

“His success is fully deserved and we are hoping for even better things in the future if he maintains his current progress.”

Training sessions, held twice weekly at the STP track entail strong warm-up exercises and then drills that deal with specific work on the leading or trail legs. The hurdlers encourage each other and Nigel’s close attention to detail means that drills are repeated until Shaun and co have them looking sharp, hence the gradual decrease in the personal best time he has achieved.

The emphasis is still on having some fun, however, and Shaun says that he has ambitions still to achieve.

“I want to do the very best I can,” he said, “so that I can look back and not be sorry that I didn’t achieve my best.

“I really enjoy the high hurdles but one day I might also try the 400 metres hurdles. I know it is even tougher because of the need to build lots of stamina as well as speed and hurdling skills – but it is a challenge for the future, perhaps.”

In the meanwhile Shaun will be kept busy enough with the challenges ahead, starting with the UK finals at Bedford.

“It means another long trip for mum and dad,” Shaun said, “so I will be giving it everything to try and pay them back for giving me so such encouragement.”

Chat to him for even a short while and it is easy to see how focussed Shaun Zygadlo is on his hurdling. He typifies what the Pembrokeshire Harriers are all about and we wish him continued success after so much hard work in building on a natural talent through genuine commitment in the technically challenging athletic event that is hurdling!