Tamworth teen puts pedal to the medal

JESS Saunders followed up last weekend’s National Junior Sprint Series title in Melbourne with Wednesday night’s Australian Under 15 Sprint Championship in Adelaide.

And the Tamworth schoolgirl could return home with another two or three gold medals given her form at this week’s Australian Junior Track 

Championships.

Armidale’s Sam Jenner also won a medal on Wednesday night, finishing third in the teams pursuit with his NSW team.

13-year-old Saunders won Wednesday night’s Under 15 Sprint title with a brilliant series of race wins and now has the chance to add today’s national Under 15 Time Trial title as well as tomorrow’s Scratch Race title to her growing list of cycling successes.

Last weekend the Oxley High School star won her Under 15 National Junior Sprint series crown in Melbourne.

She competed strongly in the final round of the series which had rounds in Perth, Launceston, Adelaide and Sydney prior to the Melbourne finish.

Saunders  had competed brilliantly in all five rounds to dominate her age division.

On Wednesday night she was dominant again when she was fastest qualifier for the Australian Under 15 Sprint Championship and won every heat she competed in, winning her three heats 2-nil before taking the Sprint Final with two straight wins as well.

“Jess is pretty happy,” her father, John Saunders said yesterday. “It was a very long day, very stressful for all of us.

“But she rode so well. 

“She was very relaxed and won every heat clear through to the final. 

“She won all eight races including the final well. 

“She’s worked so hard for this though.”

He said his daughter’s effort to add the national sprint title to Saturday’s National Junior Sprint Series title completed a long tour across the country, from Perth to Launceston.

“She’s done well and still has the chance to add a couple more gold medals,” Saunders said.

“She’s got the time trial tomorrow (today) and then the scratch race on Saturday as well.”

Tamworth coach Alan Spokes said it had been a remarkable achievement as well as a major compliment to her 

parents.

“They’ve taken her right around Australia to give her the chance to win the National Junior Sprint Series and the national sprint championship,”  Spokes said.

“It also shows up all those critics about the Tamworth Velodrome who say we never use it.

“If it wasn’t for the velodrome, Jess and Sam, who comes down twice a week from Armidale to race and train on it, wouldn’t have won national medals.”

Tamworth Cycling Club president Ray Griffin said the successes for Saunders and  Jenner were gratifying.

“Both train on the velodrome,” he said.

“It’s not a white elephant.”

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