BETHAN Kelly is celebrating her best result of the canoe slalom season after finishing seventh at the English Championships, writes Chris Bell.
The Hartlepool kayaker clocked a best time of 114.03 seconds at the National White Water Centre in Nottingham.
It was the 17-year-old’s best result since reaching the top echelon in canoeing last September.
“I was very pleased with that,” said Kelly, who trains out of the Tees Barrage International White Water Course.
“It is one of the big races of the year – the race counted for the English Championships, Inter-Regions Championship and Pan-Celtic Cup.
“I finished 10th overall but I was the seventh in the English Championship result.
“I put together two good, consistent runs and I’m hoping to carry that form into the Premier League races which don’t start again until September.”
The Hartlepool Sixth Form College student was in a 54-strong field at the long and testing Nottingham course.
She was seventh after the first runs down the white water course, a mixture of down and upstream gates which paddlers must go through cleanly or risk two-second or 50-second time penalties.
“I was seventh overall after the first run, when I only had one gate touch,” said the ex-High Tunstall College of Science pupil.
“I was quicker in the second run but had three touches which added six seconds to my time.
“Three girls went quicker in their second runs so I finished 10th overall but to be top 10 was very pleasing.”
Two of Great Britain’s leading female internationals took the top two spots, Scotland’s Alice Haining edging out England’s Kim Woods by less than a second, with New Zealand’s Luuka Jones third.
Only 4.2 seconds separated sixth to 10th places and Bethan feels that is a good indicator of her progress.
“The girls at the top are very quick, but I think I did well and now I need to keep his going,” said the Cactus Products-sponsored sportswoman.
Kelly has raced for England in both Pan Celtic international matches this season, at Grandtully in Perthshire, and Nottingham.
She made a mixed start to the 2014 programme in the National Women’[s Premier League and the Great Britain Junior Selection series.
The Tees Tigers racer, who is coached by Darren Cresser, was 35th and 23rd out of 40 in the races at Grandtully and 27th from 39 starters in the event staged at Nottingham.
Bethan was 16th in the GB Selection trials for the World and European championships and is currently ranked 26th in the Premier rankings.
“I’d liked to have done better, but they were all hard races,” said the girl from the Throston area of Hartlepool.
“It’s all experience and I hope when the Premier races start in September I hope I can start to pick up some good points.”
First up though for Kelly is the Youth Olympic trials in Nottingham next weekend when places for the Great Britain team going to China are up for grabs.
“It is going to be hard, there is only one boy selected and one girl for the kayaking,” she added.
“But I will give it my best.”
Bethan added: “I’d like to thank my sponsors, Ray Liddell from Cactus Products for his continued support, and Andy Kennedy from Reactive Design.
“I’d also like to thank Tees Valley Community Foundation and Hartlepool Sports Council for their grants, both provide great help for local athletes.
“I’d especially like to thank Allan McDermott from Tees Academy for all his fitness work and to the trainers from Teesside Future Champions at Teesside University.
“It’s a lot of thank yous but I couldn’t do all I do without their help.”