SUNDERLAND Harrier Oliver James said goodbye to his clubmates for the second time when he left for pastures new in America last week, writes Kevin Carr.
The 19-year-old middle distance runner, left for Louisiana State University in New Orleans on an athletics scholarship after his previous invite to study at Iowa State University fell apart.
At the eleventh hour, the plug was pulled on his trip to Iowa after a change of athletics coach resulted in his invite being withdrawn. A planned family going away party was cancelled with a disappointed James left to reconsider his plans.
But it did not take long to get back on track, after emails and phone calls to other universities in the States, Louisiana came up to fill the void. They rescued the situation by coming forward with the course and athletics scholarship that James had dreamed of.
Now it is all systems go again, as he settles into university life to study pre-med biology with the intention to qualify as a doctor of medicine. The course is for four years.
“The biggest difference between Iowa and Louisiana is the weather. It is a lot hotter in New Orleans and even the winters can be warm. I’m just happy that I have been accepted at Louisiana, as this is a massive opportunity. It will be a great experience,” said the Tunstall athlete.
He added: “I had telephone interviews with various universities and Louisiana matched what Iowa offered and I’m delighted they accepted me. They have a good record in both athletics and academia. I face a busy cross country season until we move indoors in the New Year.’’
James was the most improved junior North East athlete over the country during the winter and his ambition is to represent GB in the European Championships this year. He just missed out on the World Championship team by five places in the trials at Birmingham in March.
Depending on his university commitments, he hopes to fly back to Liverpool in November to contest the European Cross Country trials. But he will miss the North Eastern Championships in December as he does not arrive back for his Christmas break until two days after the event.
James enjoyed a triumphant track season in winning the North East and Northern junior 1500m titles.
He also won the British Colleges 800m championship in horrendous conditions at Gateshead, recording 2.01.33.
By winning the Northern title he was selected for his first England vest in Wales. His track form has seen him improve his personal bests over 800m (1.54.25) and 1500m (3.53.49).
H Houghton Harriers tasted success in the Tartan Games at Gateshead.
Their winners were Jake Philpott with first in the under-15 long jump (5.43) and third in the 100m (12.21). Lewis Thompson won the under-17 triple jump (11.96) and Josh Peel was successful in the junior javelin (35.23). Owen Barrass was second in the under-17 shot (11.42).
Durham City Harrier Chloe Price triumphed in senior 1,500m (4:33.75) and Sunderland Harrier Laura Hand won the under-15s 1500m (5.48.50).
H Low Fell Running Club host their Watergate 5k At Watergate Park, Lobley Hill, tomorrow night at 7.15pm. The young athletes race starts at 7.00pm.