Coe chronicles – the junior years

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In part two of a six-part series looking at Seb Coe’s racing history, we list his competitions from 1971-75

Sebastian Newbold Coe was born on September 29, 1956, just less than a year after a certain Steve Ovett.

His first appearance in AW was in 1971 but he had competed before that but none of his results appeared in the magazine. At that time hardly any boys aged 13 or 14 had their results in AW, as unlike girls of the same age, they were very poorly catered for outside of schools athletics.

Coe ran 4:31.8 for 1500m in 1970 and improved that to 4:18.0 in 1971. In the latter year while Ovett was third in the English Schools intermediate 400m, Coe failed to make the final of the junior boys 1500m. None of these three Coe results were considered noteworthy enough for AW.

Additionally, none of his track results from 1970 to 1972 appear in either The Coe and Ovett File by Mel Watman or Sebastian Coe – Born to Run – A life in Athletics by David Miller. The track results in the latter are very detailed beginning in 1973 but just list his times and below I have tried to give some details where known of those ahead or behind him where relevant but also in events up to 1990.

Clearly, while Coe was a very good junior, especially in 1975, he was a long way short of the natural ability of Ovett and later that shown by Cram who both set world teenage records.

Ovett (800m) and Cram (3000m) also won European Junior titles with Coe winning a bronze medal at 1500m.

At the end of the 2020 track season on the all-time UK under-20 lists, Ovett still ranks third at 800m with his 1:45.64 while Cram is second at the mile (3:57.03) and Ovett fourth (3:59.4). At 1500m, the only under-20 list on Power of 10 that Coe appears in, he now lies 74th equal all-time with his 3:45.2 from his European Junior run.

» The first part of our ‘Coe chronicles’ looks at his greatest top 10 races. Click here to read.

» Part two, here, looks at his early races as a teenager from 1971 to 1975.

» Part three covers Coe’s races from 1976 to his first world records in 1979. (To come)

» Part four goes through his competitions from 1980 to 1983. (To come)

» Part five analyses the 1984 to 1986 seasons including his second Olympic gold. (To come)

» Part six looks at the twilight of his racing career from 1987-1990. (To come)

Note, while some of his career highlights are available on the AW website, you will need to be a magazine subscriber and Clubhouse member (click here to log in) to read all of them.

1971

Yorkshire CCA Colts Championships, Bingley, January 30

1st 11:28

This result did not appear until the March 13 issue and was his first appearance in AW. This event is not the main Yorkshire Championships but it incorporated a colts race which were not part of the usual Championships back then. Girls had national U15 and U13 events but boys had to wait to the under-17s for significant club competition. Runner-up was future top agent and coach Kim McDonald (11:38) and third was Malcolm Prince (11:43). The latter would go on to run 13:28.15 for 5000m, significantly faster than Coe ever did!

Yorkshire Schools Junior boys Championships, Huddersfield, February 20

1st 18:05

This result appeared a week after the first and saw him gain a 24 seconds victory over L Coupland, who presumably did not compete at the same level when older as I can find no future reference to him to ascertain his Christian name!

English Schools Junior Boys Championships, Luton, March 27

24th 14:35

Tom Quinn won the race in 13:40 from Malcolm Plant (13:46) and Ian Ray (13:59) with Coe just under a minute short of the winner and he was immediately behind Steve Emson, who would eventually run 13:28.99 for 5000m. Ray would also feature later in Coe’s junior career.

Worksop Young Athletes Boys Race, December 12

5th 15:53

This was only included as so few of his races did make the pages of AW around this time but he did lead Hallamshire to team victory. The race was won by Barrie Moss (15:14) who still holds the UK youths 3000m record from his 8:13.42 1972 run.

1972

Yorkshire CCA Boys Championships, January 29

2nd 10:26

As in the 1971 colts race, he finished just ahead of Prince but this time had to settle for second in his new age group behind Andy Hitchen (10:21).

English Schools Intermediate Boys Cross-Country, Hillingdon, March 25

10th 22:05

He might have been well down on winner Kirk Dumpleton (21:19) and runner-up Ovett (21:42) but this still was a notable run as he was a first year in the age group.

BMC Youth 1500m, Crystal Palace, May 13

6th 4:05.7 (PB)

Was making steady progress and this BMC race brought him on further though he finished well behind winner Paul Williams (4:01.0), who had set a UK age-16 5000m record of 14:46.8 in 1971 and went on to run for Britain in the 1980 European Indoor Championships.

BMC Youths 800m, Hendon, June 3

5th 1:59.9 (PB)

He would eventually run almost 20 seconds quicker but this run at the age of 15 saw him go inside two minutes for the first time though Ovett’s Brighton clubmate Graham Cooper won in 1:56.5 just ahead of Williams (1:56.8).

Northern Youth Championships 1500m, Kirkby, June 17

3rd 4:07.4

More progress was made at 1500m as he narrowly took the bronze medal – sharing the time with fourth place as Hitchen won in 4:04.9.

English Schools Intermediate Boys 3000m, Washington, July 8

13th 9:07.0

Less than a week earlier he had run a PB 8:50.0 which would place him 10th at the end of year national rankings but he fared less well under pressure finishing 150 metres down on the winner Moss (8:42.8) – who as mentioned earlier still holds the UK youths record 48 years later. Dumpleton (8:44.8) was second and Ray set a world age-14 best of 8:46.0 in third.

1973

AAA Youths Indoor 800m, Cosford, March 17

4th 2:02.6 (2:02.5 heat)

Was some way from the medals. John Ashton, had his best moment in his athletics career with a win in a championships best 1:58.1. Malcolm Edwards, over a year younger than Coe, shared the winning time. Edwards looked the better prospect then and would set various age records including an age-16 best of 1:51.5 (beating Ovett’s mark) and have a good senior career too to finish fifth in the 1986 Commonwealth Games in a PB 1:45.86.

Stretford Track League B 800m, May 1

3rd 1:56.6 (PB)

He made significant progress on his indoor form with this startling PB against senior competition.

BMC Youths 800m Trials Crystal Palace, May 13

2nd 1:56.0 (PB)

He again moved forwards finishing just behind Martin Wilson (1:55.8) and ahead of the flamboyant Wayne Tarquini (1:57.8) who would go on to win the AAA Youths title that year in 1:53.8.

Northern Youths Championships 1500m, Sheffield, June 16

1st 3:59.5 (PB)

On his home track he enjoyed his biggest win to date with his first sub-four 1500m and well ahead of Prince (4:04.7) and McDonald (4:07.4) who had followed him home back in the first race listed in 1971.

English Schools Championships 3000m Bebington, July 7

1st 8:40.2 (PB)

Showing what swift progress he had made in a year, he easily outsprinted Ray (8:42.2) who had been 21 seconds ahead of him in 1972. Ray went on to finish eighth for England in the 1982 Commonwealth Marathon.

AAA Youth 1500m, Aldersley, August 4

1st 3:55.0 (PB)

A very fast 42.1 last 300m in a PB race showed additional progress in his speed levels as he beat English Schools 1500m champion Wilson (3:55.9). He was not the only 1984 Olympic medallist to run as Ireland’s future marathoner and world cross-country champion John Treacy ran in the heats (4:00.7).

Stretford League 3000m, August 18

6th 8:34.6 (PB)

Against seniors he set another PB as he finished eight seconds down on former European Indoor 3000m champion and world record-holder Ricky Wilde (8:26.0) who was fourth.

1975

AAA National Indoor Under-20 Championships 1500m, Cosford, March 22

1st 3:54.4 (PB)

While Ovett was winning European silver 800m in 1974, Coe missed the whole season due to stress fractures in both legs but he returned in style here. While Ovett had uncharacteristically led the National senior 1500m in 58.5, and run 3:45.2, Coe blazed his first 400m in 57.7 and held on well to win in a PB and take gold by five seconds from H Forgie, who had his finest moment in the sport following Coe home.

Pye Cup 1500m, Cleckheaton, April 13

1st 3:49.7

Pacing it slightly more evenly (60, 2:01, 3:03) than his indoor run, he went nearly five seconds quicker.

Yorkshire Championships 1500m, Cleckheaton, May 31

1st 3:51.3

Won his first Yorkshire senior title with a more astute tactical performance out-sprinting Ken Newton. Pictured below, Kim McDonald 68) leads from Newton (obscured) and Coe (6).

Pye Cup 800m, Cleckheaton, June 8

1st 1:53.8 (PB)

Showed his speed was also progressing as he took over two seconds off his previous best.

Northern Under-20 Championships 1500m, Gateshead, June 21

1st 3:50.8

Reverted to Filbert Bayi-type tactics with a 57 first lap and held on well to set a championship record.

Northern Under-20 Championships 3000m, Blackburn, June 28

1st 8:14.8 (PB)

Set a 20-second PB in holding off Andy Armitage (8:15.4).

AAA Under-20 Championships 1500m, Kirkby, July 27

1st 3:47.1 (PB)

Did not make his move until after 800m and a 1:41.7 last 600m saw him win from Wilson (3:48.6) who just beat Ireland’s future European indoor runner-up and AAA 5000m champion Ray Flynn. John Robson, who would win a Commonwealth bronze in 1978, and run 3:33.83 in 1979 ran 3:53.5 in his heat but did not feature in the final.

UK v France v Spain Under-20 1500m, Warley, August 10

1st 3:50.8

A successful international debut saw him win from Jose Abascal (3:50.9) who would also win a medal nine years later behind Coe in the Olympic 1500m.

European Junior Championships 1500m, Athens, August 24

3rd 3:45.2 (PB) (3:48.8 ht)

In his final race as a junior, he led through 400m in 60.0 before conceding the lead to favourite Ari Paunonen who won in 3:44.8. Coe ran a 55sec last lap and set a PB but was picked off by Dmitriy Dmitriev (3:45.1), who finished better than he would in the World Championships 5000m in 1983 when he led into the straight and finished fourth. Flynn was 10th.

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