2021 Jean Pickering Young Athletes of the Year

On Saturday 23rd October, athletes, coaches, officials and supporters gathered in Birmingham for the England Athletics Hall of Fame awards evening. Hosted by Katharine Merry, the evening celebrates the achievements and contributions of many members of the athletics community, including athletes, coaches and volunteers.

Amongst the awards is the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund’s “Jean Pickering Young Athlete of the Year” award. The award is given to one U18, one U20 and one U23 athlete, who have excelled in their event this year. Throughout her post-athletic life, Jean championed and supported young athletes, and thus this award would have been very close to her heart. This year the award winners were Charlie Carvell (U18, 400m), Keely Hodgkinson (U20, 800m) and Jake Heyward (U23, 1500m).

At just 17-years-old, Charlie was this year selected for the European U20 Championships in Estonia, where he went on to make the final and finish fourth with a time of 46.84. That time was just two tenths outside of his personal best, which he had set at a BMC Grand Prix meeting in May 2021, to qualify for the championships. On receiving his award, Charlie said, “it is a massive honour to receive this award. I’ve been working so hard throughout the season, so to get the recognition means a lot. This pushes me to work even harder next season in order to have more success in the sport. I’m certainly going to cherish this award.”

Keely Hodgkinson’s season needs little introduction. The 19-year-old went from strength to strength as the season progressed. She began by competing in her first Diamond League in Doha, before winning the British Championships and securing her place on the team for Tokyo. The Games had somewhat of a fairytale ending, as she won the silver medal and broke Kelly Holmes’ British Record, with a time of 1:55.88. Yet she wasn’t finished yet. Her season was rounded off when she became the only British Diamond League Champion of 2021, in Zurich at the beginning of September. With a season as special as this one, she couldn’t not be crowned the U20 Athlete of the Year.

Jake Heyward has enjoyed junior success over the years, but this year he made the step up to a fully fledged senior, when he qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games in the 1500m. After setting a new personal best of 3:33.99 at the Portland Track Festival at the end of May, he journeyed to Manchester, where he finished third in the Olympic Trials. Once on the plane to Tokyo, there was all to play for and Jake certainly stepped up to the challenge. He kept his composure to win his heat, and safely progress to the semi-final, where he produced a fantastic new personal best of 3:32.82 to make the final in his first senior major championship.

Jake explained that winning this award, and the support he has received from the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund over the years, has been integral to his success. He said “getting the support from the RPMF as a youngster fills you with pride that someone out there is routing for you. I believe it plays a huge role in retaining youngsters in the sport.  Thank you for all your help, and congratulations to all the other award winners this evening.

It was a pleasure to present these awards to these talented, dedicated and inspiring young athletes.

In order to continue to support young athletes like Charlie, Keely and Jake, we rely on donations. If you would like to support the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund you can donate here. All donations go directly to supporting British track and field athletes.