Kirkby’s Alice Kenworthy admitted winning volleyball gold on her first ever appearance at the Sainsbury’s 2014 School Games was beyond her wildest dreams in Manchester.
Kenworthy was among more than 1,600 talented athletes from around the UK to descend on Manchester to compete in 12 sports across four action-packed days at the annual event.
And Kenworthy was one of the stars at the Sugden Sports Centre as England Cadets beat Scotland West 2-0 to claim the 2014 School Games title without dropping a set.
And the 16-year-old Ashfield School pupil insists her experience in Manchester has focused her mind on what she wants to achieve in the future in the sport and when she wants to achieve it.
“That was just absolutely amazing. To say that, for most of us, it was the first time that we had reached a School Games final and to win it is great,” said Kenworthy, who is a member of Ashfield Vipers.
“I think that everyone had the right mindset and self-belief, which really helped us out there. We have got the U17 championships coming up in November so I think we will take this victory through to that and push on.
“I think that throughout training and camps, our coaches are so supportive with education and realise that it does come first so we always have time to do our homework and revision. Everybody is so supportive.
“Being among a crowd, where the atmosphere is great and they look to re-create the Olympics atmosphere makes me want to be at the Olympics in the future – it is a long-term goal for me.”
The Games have helped to launch the careers of a host of British athletes, including heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds who were watching on in Manchester.
And former world junior champion Johnson-Thompson believes Kenworthy will emerge a more developed athlete from her experiences at the School Games in Manchester.
“At the School Games you’re part of something bigger than an individual competition,” Johnson-Thompson said. “It’s a multi-sport event and the athletes are in a village atmosphere and they get to be part of an opening ceremony as well.
“The School Games reminds me of the Olympics. You’re there because you are the best in your region and you want to do well in the competition.
“It’s a huge stepping stone and you learn and mature as an athlete.”
Fellow Ashfield Post 16 Centre student Paige Nussey was also in Manchester as part of the England Juniors team along with Sarah Edwards and Saffron Betts who play alongside her and Alice in Ashfield Vipers.
Paige was nominated for the Spirit of the Tournament award by her team manager after the team just missed out on a place in the final after losing to England Cadets, but they comfortably beat Scotland East in the bronze medal play-off.
The Sainsbury’s 2014 School Games, which is supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, was held in venues across Manchester from 4-7 September 2014. Visit www.2014schoolgames.com for more information.