This week Bill Carne visited the Pembrokeshire Harriers to chat to Thom Wyburn, who is a highly promising young high jumper beginning to make a name for himself . . .

PEMBROKESHIRE Harriers have turned out some excellent young athletes in recent years and the latest in a line of gifted high jumpers is Thom Wyburn, who started out as a 1,500 metre runner but under the watchful eye of coach Liz Rowland is developing nicely and already achieving a personal best of 1 metre 90 centimetres.

He uses the Fosbury Flop technique with some success after starting out more or less on a straight run and a back flip over the bar, but is now showing real promise on a curved run which gives him more acceleration and upward thrust that can only serve Thom well as he moves the bar up in height.

To get used to the Fosbury technique, Liz had to take Thom right back to the basics, which meant lower height to start.

“It was quite frustrating to start off,” admitted Thom, “but Liz is a brilliant coach who is very patient with me and encourages me all the way.”

Prior to his high jumping, Thom had done well in cross country at junior school level at the Oakwood races, had come in the top ten in the Dyfed Championships had won the school 1,500 metres a couple of times.

“I enjoyed my running but wanted a new challenge in athletics,” Thom told us “and just by chance one evening I popped across from the track to the high jump area and had a go, using my own style, and straight away knew that I had found what I was looking for.”

Thom used to do some trampolining , which he says helped give him some spring in his heels and his work as an apprentice builder with Anthony Algieri helps because of his going up and down ladders on the days when he isn’t in college.

“We were recently working on a roof in Solva’s fresh seaside air, felting and battening a roof, and after that a bit of high jumping comes a little easier!

He also played a bit of cricket at Haverfordwest Cricket Club and enjoyed football and rugby in school. He also enjoyed playing tennis in the summer months and squash, but all of these disappeared from view as his interest in athletics grew.

“Anthony looks after me well because he lets me finish early on training nights and I make sure I warm up well, especially in the cold winter nights under the floodlights at the STP School track.

“I do some skipping to help with my legs and running on the spot with a straight back to help warm up other muscles, then focus on knee and arm swings before starting out in earnest on my jumping technique.

“We use a ‘flight path’ of cones to make sure that I have my line right for my run up and I gradually raise the height of the bar until I’m testing myself.

“After a full session I then do some ‘warm down’ stretches, which are vital to make sure I look after my leg and back muscles – and then it’s looking forward to the next training session with Liz and the rest of the high jumping squad.”

Thom won his first high jump competition at school and then won the Pembrokeshire Schools’ title with a jump of 1m 70cms and when he took part in his first Dyfed Schools’ Championships he came joint second despite having a good jump of 1m 80cms, the same as the two competitors in front of him But I lost out on count-back for the chance to represent Wales.

“I’ve just missed out on my vest for two seasons on the trot,” Thom told us, “and I’ve competed at the Leckwith Stadium in Cardiff and come close as well, finishing in third place.

“It made me feel a bit down about staying involved but my mother Melanie Thornburrow and father Mike, who take me all over the place to compete, kept encouraging me alongside Liz Rowlands, and I was soon back in the thick of things and raring to go. My brother Jamie, who competed for Wales in the 1,500 metres and had a Commonwealth Games trial, has also been a great help.

It was because of Jamie that Thom started out in athletics when he was only nine and went along to watch his big brother training.

“I finished up with a useful personal best of 5’3” but my teacher, Mr Jonathan Dodd, noticed my high jumping on sports day and even sorted out my first pair of spikes for me, whilst Mr Gelly James also gave me every encouragement to compete.

“When I joined the Harriers I was soon able to jump 1m 65cms and I moved up to 1m 85cms after a fair bit of hard work. One night in training I managed my PB twice on the trot and with the adrenalin still flowing from that I had a try at 1m 90cms and cleared it first time.

“Now I have to be consistently good at that height and then revise my targets for the summer season.

A boost for Thom has been the fact that for the last two years he has been involved in the Youth Development League, which are usually held in Cardiff and Swansea but sometimes he has to travel as far as Northampton.

He has got to know all the other emerging young high jumpers in Wales and after being second in the under 17 rankings now finds himself fourth in the under 19s, but is still a year younger than most of his current rivals from all over the country.

“I’m going to enter as many competitions as I can this season,” said Thom, “to widen my experience and gain confidence.

“I know it means lots of travel and more hard work but I am up for the challenge.”

We talked to Tom for just a short while but could see his quiet determination and Liz Rowlands told us,

“Thom has plenty of potential which we want to see him convert to top performances and he is showing signs of doing just that. We would love to see him succeed.”

We can only agree with Liz and wish Thom Wyburn continued enjoyment in his chosen sport – and would love to see him achieve that coveted Welsh athletics’ vest!