World Schools' Jean Humbert Track and Field Cup

Bordeaux, France

24th - 25th June 2007

The tenth edition of this competition was staged in Bordeaux, the home town of the originator of the event and it was pleasing to find participation from 24 countries from as far apart as South Africa and China making this a worthy celebration of the work and legacy of Jean Humbert.

The event bears some similarities with our own Schools' Track and Field Cup but with infinitely more complex rules! Teams of six athletes take part in separate competitions for individual school teams and National squads. Scoring tables are used to measure the worth of each performance. Because of the different structure it is always a problem to select individual school teams and this year the two leading boys and girls schools were asked to look at their present athletes and to select a hypothetical team based on the Jean Humbert rules and scoring tables. As a result of this exercise teams from Southend High School for Boys and Portsmouth Grammar School (girls) were invited to represent England.

The school teams found the standard to be very high indeed as they competed against other institutions ten times their size but they acquitted themselves very well indeed and enjoyed the experience. Many of the girls from Portsmouth Grammar School were faced with the unenviable prospect of taking a GCSE examination on the morning of the last day of competition. With the cooperation of the International School in Bordeaux the Examination Board was able to sanction the use of that as a centre. A dash across the city by public transport after the examination enabled the team members to arrive in time to take part in the final session of the competition.

The National teams performed well but the boys were always going to struggle as the sixth member of their team, selected at the last moment to cover a late withdrawal, neglected to point out that he didn't hold a UK passport and he was unable to obtain the requisite visa for entry to France in time to travel. As a result virtually every performance by the team members had to be included in the final total and consequently the team finished 7th.

The girls were even more unlucky. With points being based on scoring tables every centimetre and fraction of a second became critical. Sadly, in the final medley relay, whilst leading comfortably the baton was dropped at the last change over and several valuable seconds must have been lost before the final leg athlete was back in her stride. That the girls finished just one point behind Turkey and two behind China in the final classification suggests that a clear second place would have been a likely outcome but for that unfortunate slip.

The principal results were:

1Poland723 pts1 Italy723 pts
2Austria625 pts 2China695 pts
3China623 pts3 Turkey694 pts
4 England693 pts
17Portsmouth Grammar School477 pts

1Germany673 pts1 South Africa740 pts
2France660 pts 2Chinese Taipei719 pts
3Poland655 pts 3France706 pts
12Southend High School for Boys532 pts 7England672 pts