Mae Thompson might not have liked cross country, but she knows it has played a big part in landing a sports scholarship at a US university.
The 18-year-old 400m hurdles specialist, and twin sister Layla, came first and second in the U11s Surrey Schools’ Cross Country Championships in 2007.
Seven years on, the former Hinchley Wood School student made her Sainsbury’s senior British Championships debut in Birmingham last month – where, as the youngest in the event, she finished last in her heat.
She is preparing to head to Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey to study liberal arts in August on the back of her sporting prowess and the county champion heads to Birmingham again this weekend for the English Schools’ Championships with high hopes of winning a medal.
She is one of eight Kingston & Polytechnic Harriers competing at the event and she admitted she might not be heading across the Atlantic had it not been for that first taste of competition in Richmond Park – even if she did not enjoy it that much.
How times change: The twins have been running together since 2007, above, and now they are spliting up as Mae heads to America
“We joined Kingston after that race because the coaches asked us to go down there and I’ve been with my coach ever since,” he said.
“I gave up running cross country a couple of years ago because it interfered with my winter training. To be honest, I hated it.
“The British Championships was my first major senior event and while it did not go that well it was a great experience.
“It was much more high profile and very different to what I’m normally used to.
Thompson rubbed shoulders with the likes of seasoned Great Britain internationals Jo Pavey, Dwaine Chambers and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey at the British Championships.
But she will trade home life in the big league for one stateside having completed A levels in biology, chemistry and maths.
“It has been difficult fit my athletics around my studies but it has been a release,” added Thompson, whose sister wants to study veterinary sciences on home soil.
“I looked at a few universities in America, but Fairleigh offered me a full sports scholarship. The facilities are amazing out there. I’ll just see where it takes me.”
Pippa Earley (75m hurdles and relay), Mollie O’Sullivan (1,500m), Phoebe Law, and Thompson (400m hurdles) will all compete for Surrey at the English Schools’ Championships this weekend.
While Alex Meaklim (triple jump) Jody Edwards (hammer), Laura Darcey (high jump) and Rhianna Reynolds (long jump) will represent Middlesex.
It is a tribute to the success of head coach Richard Holt’s Kestrels Club programme that so many youngsters are emerging at Kingsmeadow.
And Thompson admitted it would be nice to have so many familiar faces around for one of her last appearances on home soil.
“I’ve got an inter counties match to come, but this is probably my last big race before I leave,” she said.
“Last year there were about five of us so it is great there are one or two of the younger ones going too.”