Every February and March I always look out for firstly the Norfolk County Cross Country Championships followed by the Anglian Schools and then the All England Schools X/C Championships with great interest.

Whilst it is 50 years ago when I last competed in those very special races, I still have great memories of them.

Most years see Norfolk coming away from the English Schools with one or two stand-out athletes, but I do always wonder if they will go on to great things as a senior athlete or, like many others, disappear before even getting to senior status.

However, this year one such athlete – Michael Clark, who is also a member of the City of Norwich Athletics Club and coached by Jane Clarke - not only finished sixth in the senior boys English Schools Cross Country Championships last weekend in Pontefract but will now go on to represent England this coming weekend in Dublin in an international event.

At the same time and having recently been contacted by Jane to tell me all about Michael and his running potential, she also told me about his background which apart from being interesting, there is a very special story to go with it.

Michael, who was born in Japan before moving to Hong Kong where he grew up, has always been very active. Mind you, this is very understandable what with being part of such a sporting family.

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Both his mum and Australian dad are expert horse riders and whilst they encouraged Michael to focus on the sport of triathlon which he was having lots of success at, it was running where he showed the most promise.

Then in 2022, his mum, Justine, decided to move back to her Norfolk roots so Michael and his sister could finish their education in the county where Michael is now a student at Wymondham College.

Michael has also been training three times a week under Jane’s guidance whilst also being part of many successful CoNAC U17 teams on the country and road.

This of course also led to him winning the Norfolk and Anglian Schools X/C prior to his recent sixth placing in the English Schools Champs.

Eastern Daily Press: Michael Clark at the recent Norfolk Cross Country Championships

So, and whilst the above is somewhat of a special story – this next bit is really special.

Michael’s great uncle (from his dad’s family side) – is Al Lawrence, who not only represented Australia with great distinction, but also won a bronze medal for Australia in the 10,000 metres (28:53) at the 1956 Olympic games held in Melbourne.

Apart from this great achievement he also won several other titles after moving out to Houston in the USA as well as setting world indoor records for two miles (8:46) and three miles (13:26). Up until 1992, he was also the only athlete to win both the NCAA and AAU Cross Country Championships in the same year.

Just to further add to all of this, Al (Allan Cleave Evan Lawrence), broke 10 Australian records from 2 miles to 10,000 metres and was the first Australian to break 14 minutes for 5,000 metres and 29 mins for 10,000 metres.

If this is not incentive enough for Michael to continue his athletics career well into his senior years, then I don’t know what is? I must also say having seen pics of Al Lawrence, the resemblance between Michael and his great uncle is uncanny.

What I do know though is, having Jane behind him as his coach whilst also belonging to a very ambitious club, I am very sure that we will be seeing and hearing of many more super achievements by him during the next few years.

“Michael has great potential, and we are excited to see what he might go on to achieve in the future. Hopefully, he will follow in the footsteps of the great Al Lawrence,” said Jane.

All the very best to Michael this weekend in Dublin.