HETHERSETT HAWKS / YELLOW BRICK MORTGAGES made the trip to Leicester on Saturday for the Little League Team and Individual Cycle Speedway Championships.  Under the sweltering sunshine riders from around the country came together to determine who would walk away as British Champions. Five Hawks competed and between them brought home 3 British titles – the most successful day in the club’s 56-year history!

Make no mistake, the competitors might be young but they certainly meant business.  Five competitors from Hethersett started the long drive down the A47 at 6am to represent their club – Austin Brailey, Oscar Copeland, Luca El-Labany, Nyla El-Labany and Ronnie Harding.

The first event of the day was the U10 Team semi-final.  Hethersett were drawn against Astley & Tyldesley, Horspath, Great Blakenham and Hull.  Shaking off their early 6am start, the four boys with Nyla as sub, were ready to start the tournament.  They knew it would be a tough semi-final but we did have four strong and consistent riders, each with their own particular skill.  The large track with it’s slightly longer straights and sweeping corners leant itself well to the young Hawks.  The long straights meant Austin could power round riders, the master blocker Oscar could keep riders behind him, like a car Ronnie corners like a dream and Luca combines great starts and technique with all-round speed.  After smooth, consistent rides from all of them, Hethersett threw down the gauntlet and topped their group with 54 points, securing their place in the final along with A&T who scored 44.  The final would be the last event of the day.

Next up was the second team semi-final consisting of Kesgrave Panthers, Kesgrave Pumas, Coventry, Bury and Hull, with Kesgrave Panthers and Coventry winning to join us in the final.

It was time to put team niceties aside for the next few hours as the individual cycle speedway events started.  Up for the Hethersett Hawks and riding in U10 girls against nine other riders was 6 year-old Nyla.  The team watched with baited breath, expecting nerves in one of the youngest Hawk’s first ride, but realised very quickly that they shouldn’t have been worried with a clear win for her straight away.  Storming all of her races, holding off far bigger riders and shooting out ahead of them, Hethersett Hawks had their first British Champion in Nyla in the U8 Girls Individual – as well as finishing third in the U10 Girls Individual.  Seeing her receive her British shirt was a first for all of us, it’s been a long time since a Hawks rider has won one!

The U10 Individuals quarter finals had 32 riders in, so the formula was complicated, the racing long and the sun hot.  Despite it being individual racing, the four Hawks entered remained supportive to each other during the fast-paced racing being seen on the track.  These riders are the best from around the country and from some big clubs and our boys held their own.  They kept their composure during false starts and races being restarted due to first corner crashes.  It was a successful event so far for us as Oscar, Ronnie and Austin all rode brilliantly and finished in the top half but it was about to get better as Luca soared through to the semi-final.  Giving no sign that he had already ridden eight races he qualified easily for the final where he would face the top three riders in the country – one of them being a local rival Frank Spauls from Norwich Stars.  About 36 seconds later, Luca showed why is the best U10 rider in the country when he passed the chequered flag in first by a substantial margin.  As a club we knew he was good and today he proved it and got the recognition he deserved, also making it two El-Labany’s to have a white British shirt.

At around 5pm, eleven hours after they first set off, the boys had to come back together as a team for their U10 British final.  Oscar, Austin and Ronnie had all ridden eight rides each and Luca ten so we had no idea how they were going to cope.  Legs aching, hot and tired they had a short break to try and find some energy for four winning rides each.  They knew they had a chance but it was going to take a lot of concentration and knuckling down – quite a lot to put onto the shoulders of four nine year old boys.  They walked out to the grid by themselves but knowing they had to do this for the team.  Whilst the adults around them were a bundle of nerves, the boys remained calm, focussed and lined up at the starting grid with a look of determination on their faces and rode the most mature, smooth and efficient races of their lives.  It wasn’t easy and by the half-way point Coventry and Hethersett were tied at 22 points each.  Did this phase us?  Well, yes, it phased the adults but not the boys.  A bunch of 9 year olds – who would have believed it – they’re only kids but they were a brilliant team.  Watching them cheer each other on, they each individually knew what they had to do and they each went out and did it.  Seeing them encouraging each other and jumping up in the air hugging so many times was amazing.  Ronnie was the one who kept coming out with the motivational one-liners each time a rider went out and checking they were alright after a tough race.  Austin had a race started three times due to crashes at the corner and on the fourth re-start was caught round the neck by start tapes that didn’t go up properly but kept his composure and rode to a brilliant win.  Before we knew it we were the U10 British Team Champions and it was the perfect end to the perfect day.  After celebrating topping the podium it was clear that those five children were walking away having earnt the respect of each and every person at that track.

Luca, Nyla, Austin, Ronnie and Oscar all rode brilliantly but the whole ethos and spirit of our club led to this.  From the coaches, committee members, volunteers, parents and all the riders.  Everyone who has coached them, cheered them on, ridden with them, told them to go faster, helped with their gating, yelled about their cornering, filled their water bottles and taken them to matches – this was a team effort.  That’s why Hethersett Hawks soared back to Norfolk with three British titles.  These children are the future of our club and that future is bright.

Click to enlarge photos