HANNAH TAPLEY has her sights on one of the most iconic landmarks in women’s track and field athletics – the two-metre high jump barrier.
The 15-year-old from Lechlade took another step along the road to her ultimate aim when winning the England Athletics Indoor U17 Championship in Sheffield recently with a jump of 1.64m.
She cleared 1.65m at both this year’s Midland Championship and Midland Counties Open.
Hannah’s rise in the rankings has been meteoric since teaming up with one of the country’s foremost high jump coaches, Deirdre Elmhirst of Worcester AC.
As Hannah’s dad Colin explained: “Hannah was formerly a pupil at Hatherop Castle Prep School near Cirencester, but she won a sports scholarship to Malvern St James School – where she is now a boarder – when she was 13.
“As luck would have it, Deirdre coached at nearby Worcester Athletics Club.
“They got on well from the first time they met and Deirdre accepted Hannah into her high jump squad. It has worked out perfectly.”
In her first year with Deirdre, Hannah achieved five personal bests, taking her from 1.50m to 1.63m, along the way becoming Midlands county champion, Hereford & Worcester county schools champion and Independent Schools (ISA) National Champion. In the process, she also broke the ISA, Hereford & Worcester county and Worcester AC records.
This year, in her first major competition, Hannah won the national indoor title against a number of girls ranked higher. What’s more, Hannah does not turn 16 until October and can compete at U17 level again next year.
Traditionally, high jump records, have been among the hardest to break. Stefka Kostadinova of Bulgaria has held the women’s world record at 2.09m (6 ft 10.25in) since 1987, while Debbi Marti’s 17-year-old British record has only just been pipped by heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson jumping 1.96m.
So Hannah has found further inspiration right on her doorstep.
Now fully focused on the high jump, Hannah has always been a keen all-round sportswoman.
She played county hockey when with Cirencester Hockey Club and her passion for jumping started when she was a keen athlete and member of Cirencester AC, where dad Colin is also a coach.
Colin explained: “Cirencester does not have a track nor any high jump facilities so Hannah started to train with Swindon Harriers in high jump and pole vault. She also holds the U15 pole vault and high jump records for Swindon, who have second claim on her after Worcester.”
Hannah has just returned from a family funded 10-day warm weather training camp in Ayamonte, Spain as she prepares for the outdoor season – and doubtless more personal bests.