Neil Featherby: CONAC athlete Logan Smith set for a big future in the sport

CONAC athlete Logan Smith has a big future in the sport, says Neil Featherby. Picture: Archant

CONAC athlete Logan Smith has a big future in the sport, says Neil Featherby. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Having written several articles about some of Norfolk athletics most inspirational people during my 18 months of supporting Mark Amstrong's columns, many of them have been about people who have had a big influence on the sport here in Norfolk during the last few decades.

However, this week and particularly after all the debate after Mark's recent columns about CONAC and where is the best place for young athletes to develop, I am going to focus on one of our up and coming young athletes, Logan Smith, who seems not only destined for a great future, but is also someone who is so very level headed about it all.

Having read through several comments and varying opinions on the Run Anglia Facebook page after Mark's feature, one comment which particularly stood out for me was that of Logan's, which I think his response was well balanced particularly for someone of his young age and from an athlete who could actually back up what he was saying.

Now approaching 21, and having come through those difficult years when many young athletes are lost to the sport, I thought this would be the perfect time to get his take on things particularly as he is someone who is most certainly very motivated to succeed.

However, and before I go any further, I will say here and now that I also have every intention of doing a piece next week with regards to the tireless work which our other clubs in the county are doing in respect of the development of young athletes.

I first met Logan after he walked into Sportlink as a 15-year-old with his mum and whilst it was very clear that he was super keen about his running, back then his race times on the track (2 mins 17 secs for 800 metres) were some way off being right up there with the top athletes in his age category.

At the same time my own son Craig was also running at just about the same level so what with going along to Norwich and Norfolk schools athletics champs, I was always interested in watching his and Craig's progress by way of comparison.

After discovering that running was something which came quite naturally to him whilst at the Reepham High school, he joined Dereham AC where he most certainly found further progression whilst also enjoying the friendships and camaraderie which is always so very apparent amongst our clubs.

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However, after turning 17 years of age, he was told by his coaches that if he really wanted to achieve his goals, this would be better served by moving to a club where he would be able to train with a larger and, to put it bluntly, a group of athletes who would test him much more.

What with having loyalties to his coaches and indeed club, this really did give him something to think about.

In fact he thought about it for another two years before making what was the move over to the City of Norwich Athletics Club under the guidance of James Senior who himself was not only making a name for himself as one of the county's best athletes, but as a very forward thinking coach too after inheriting a number of athletes from Tim and Pauline Ash.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group hereNeedless to say that Logan was under no illusions about where he would fit in with the group and in his words he was very much at the back whilst measuring himself against the much quicker athletes.

Totally unperturbed he kept working hard and after just six weeks he finished 16th in the National Cross Country Champs in the Under 20 race.

For him that was indeed his best achievement to date for which it also gave him lots of confidence to really push on albeit whilst also perhaps putting himself under extra pressure as he made some serious plans for the track season ahead.

Unfortunately and just as things were shaping up nicely, a spanner was thrown into the works after breaking down with what he says was self-inflicted pressure from within.

'After the national cross country champs, I really did want to perform well on the track in the summer and most certainly had the bit between my teeth, but after a steeplechase race in a league meet for the club where I just felt totally drained and lacklustre, it completely knocked my confidence whereby I walked away from the sport for six months until meeting up with James again when he suggested that I should just run easily so as to keeping ticking over for a month or so until I felt fully refreshed again.'

It was obviously the right thing for him to do and most certainly ignited his flame again because despite being a little wary when first returning to the group, after entering the 5,000 metres at the South of England Champs not only did he smash his current PB of 15 mins and 54 secs by 31 seconds in his heat, he further improved this in the final finishing sixth and with another personal best time of 15:13.

'The enforced active rest had certainly worked for me,' he said as all the confidence of old had now returned which saw him finishing as the first CONAC athlete in The Lord Mayors City Centre 5k road race before then going on to a very fast 14 mins and 51 secs 5,000 meters track clocking when racing in a club meet for CONAC at Milton Keynes.

Needless to say Logan was ecstatic having broken the 15 minute barrier for the first time, but still put this breakthrough down to training with a like-minded group who all have the same goals. At the same time he also said that the support he had received from within the club during his short break was exceptional for which he cannot thank them enough.

Just two weeks ago, Logan finished 42nd in the European Trials Cross Country in Liverpool whilst also being in the top 15 at under 23 level and second as a first year under 23.

Whilst he is now targeting the Armagh International 5k road race on February 14 where he really will be up against some world class athletes, he has a date nearer to home first with our very own Norfolk County X/C Champs on January 6. This in itself is looking to be one heck of a race with so many good athletes entered this year for which it really could be a case of picking any one from a dozen who could take the individual honours. Looking through the current form book, Logan for me is well worth an each way bet.

Logan's attitude to life seems to be very much replicated through his running i.e. he wants to be the very best he can at everything he does. Whilst there will be times when this attitude brings added pressures upon him, to be a winner you need to have that mindset. However, and when it comes to young up and coming athletes, this is where all our younger athletes can be thankful that the support and guidance from within our clubs is very much there for them.

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