STEETON boasts a rising national star in 16-year-old Alex Thompson, for whom athletics is a real family affair.

Older brother Will competes alongside him for Ermysted’s Grammar School, while dad Geoff and mum Su, as well as being there to support Alex at virtually every event, take photos and write round ups on the action.

And there was plenty to report regarding the youngest Thompson in 2019, with his stellar year, both on track and in cross country, seeing him named as one of the three contenders for Young Male Sportsperson of the Year at next month’s Bradford Sports Awards.

His greatest cross country success arguably came at the Under-15 boys English National XC Championship, which he won at Harewood House against a field of nearly 350 runners.

Meanwhile, on track, he became only one of four athletes in the country, at his age group, to run 1500m in under four minutes.

The next step is conquering the international stage, which he will get the chance to do as part of an Ermysted’s team in April, as they represent England at the World XC Championships in Slovakia.

And individually, could he finally earn that coveted England vest?

Speaking to the Keighley News about a whirlwind 12 months or so, Thompson said: “The English National XC Championships win is probably my biggest yet.

“I thought I could win it because up until then, I was unbeaten during the season.

“It was a quick start but I was at the front after about half a mile. I kept myself there the whole way, but there were people just behind all the time.

“But I knew I’d got it (the win) with about 400 metres to go.”

There were some excellent achievements on track for Wharfedale and Bingley Harriers athlete Thompson in 2019 too.

Asked if it is difficult to adapt to a different type of racing, he said: “It’s not that hard. Your winter cross country training is longer, then in the summer, it’s more short and snappy for track.

“It’s difficult at first, because you’re used to running longer 4k’s and then you’re down to 1500m but you quickly get used to it.

“Running the 1500m in under four minutes is the benchmark at my age, it’s everybody’s aim.

“The day I did it, for the first few laps, I was behind where I needed to be, but the last lap was pretty much a sprint, and I just pushed myself under four minutes.”

Thompson’s 1500m excellence saw him compete at the England Athletics U17 Championships at Bedford Stadium at the back end of last summer.

He was a year younger than most of the competitors, but still finished in a highly-creditable sixth.

Discussing that race, he said: “When you’re in the bottom of the age group, you’re not going for a place, you’re going for a time.

“But if you look at Bedford I was the first one of my age to finish, which sets me up for next season.

“I’m hoping to be at the event next year too. Going back I’ll feel more comfortable, as second time round you know what you’re doing, so there’s no real pressure.”

There will be plenty of pressure now he is back focusing on cross country. Thompson is part of the Ermysted’s team who finished second at the prestigious Coventry Relays earlier this month.

The school did even better last year, winning the whole event and smashing the course record.

Ermysted’s performances there and elsewhere have led to recognition on the international stage.

Thompson said: “We’ve been chosen to represent England in the World XC Championships, which are in Slovakia this April.

“It’s the first time I’ll have competed outside of the UK.”

His brother Will is part of the Ermysted’s contingent too, and asked if it helps having him by his side, Thompson said: “Having Will is definitely good in a way.

“If I’m not doing so well for whatever reason, he could hopefully be doing better.

“I can run with him and it means you’re not on your own. You can pull each other along.”

It is not just his brother who he has to thank either.

Thompson said: “My family helps a lot with all their support.

“Dad wouldn’t mind driving me two hours there, and two hours back, just for me to compete in one event.

“Not all parents will do that and it helps you to progress. Dad does all the driving but mum is always there to show her support too.”

Thompson is encouraged to have been put forward for the Bradford Sports Awards next month, saying it was nice to be recognised and for others to realise he’s making good progress.

He does not want that progress to stop either, saying: “I’d love to have an England vest by the end of the year.

“I’m focused on the action in Slovakia but I also want to get individual England recognition in cross country or track.

“It’s a big goal of mine but I’ve never quite got there.”