Five gold rings for sports stars 
at Thomas Cowley High School

Thomas Cowley High School sporting prospects 'Samuel Claydon (angling), Giovanna Fragale (clay pigeon shooting), Jess Tolton (rugby union), Keely Manning (kickboxing) and Amber Nichols (cross country running).  Photo by Tim Wilson.

Thomas Cowley High School sporting prospects 'Samuel Claydon (angling), Giovanna Fragale (clay pigeon shooting), Jess Tolton (rugby union), Keely Manning (kickboxing) and Amber Nichols (cross country running). Photo by Tim Wilson.

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Thomas Cowley High School, Donington, has its work cut out to stop the word getting out about five of its students making headlines in five 
different sports.

Gosberton teenager Keely Manning (15) is the WMO (World Martial Arts Organisation) British girls 65kg 
kickboxing champion while Jess Tolson (16), from the same village, is part of the Midlands under-18 divisional rugby 
union squad.

County clay pigeon shooter Giovanni Fragale tries out basketball at Thomas Cowley High School Donington. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG150313-124TW

County clay pigeon shooter Giovanni Fragale tries out basketball at Thomas Cowley High School Donington. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG150313-124TW

Also from Gosberton is cross country runner Amber 
Nichols (14) who finished 17th out of about 100 runners in last year’s Lincolnshire Schools Cross Country Championships.

Completing the group are match fisherman Samuel Claydon (15) of Swineshead, winner of several competitions, and Surfleet clay pigeon shooter Giovanni Fragale (15) who was second in last year’s Lincolnshire Clay Pigeon Shooting Association Junior Championships

Giovanni said: “I wanted to be a bit like James Bond and when I found that my dad had a shotgun, I asked him to get me one as well.

“At the London 2012 Olympics, I was inspired by Peter Wilson who was part of the Team GB double trap shooters who won a gold medal.

CHAMPION KICKS: WMO British kickboxing champion Keely Manning with her proud dad Paul.

CHAMPION KICKS: WMO British kickboxing champion Keely Manning with her proud dad Paul.

“But now, it’s Amber Hill (17) who started shooting when she was my age (nine) and went on to win a team gold medal at the World Championships in Spain last year.”

Keely’s growing career in kickboxing is down to the inspiration of her dad Paul who runs martial arts classes across the East Midlands.

“I look up to my dad and when he was doing really well in his fights, I thought it looked really good and I wanted to do it with him,” Keely said.

“Then I came third at the European Championships in Manchester last July and it made me want to do more and work harder.”

Jess was introduced to rugby four years ago and now plays for Paviors under-18 girls side in Nottinghamshire.

“I play in the second row or as a blind-side flanker where my role is to try to keep possession and retain it,” Jess said.

“I also try to regain possession and pass the ball to the backs who then score all the tries.

“But I don’t think I’m missing out on the glory because it’s a team sport.”

Samuel started river fishing more than four years ago after watching his dad on the riverbank and has recently been selected to attend match fishing trials for the England under-18 team.

“My dad used to do it so I thought I’d just go along with him,” Samuel said.

In March, Samuel came first at The Angling Trust’s England Talent Pathway programme where 25 of the most promising match anglers in the country were split into Northern, Midlands and Southern squads.

Representing Team Midlands, Samuel helped his team-mates win the match and he also took top individual honours with a weight of 18lb 3oz.

Samuel said: “With river fishing, you have to work harder for your catch and you also need patience on the rivers.

“But I’m quite good at blanking people out and 
concentrating on myself.”

Amber’s route into cross country running came after a teacher suggested she should take up the event.

“The PE teachers chose me to do the sport and I really 
enjoyed it,” Amber said.

“I run with natural ability, but I’m also determined and that’s why (2012 Olympic heptathlon gold medallist) Jessica Ennis-Hill inspires me because she’s really good and I want to be like her on the sports side of things.”

Things could get a lot more serious for Jess and Keely in the coming months, with the chance of a rugby scholarship and a place on Team GB at the World Martial Arts Championships in the USA this summer respectively.

Keely, nicknamed The Maniac, said: “Over the half-term holidays last October, I was competing in a competition where I was spotted and invited to attend Team GB kickboxing training sessions.

“That was before I won the British Championships and now I’m working on getting more power in my shots, both punches and kick.

“I made someone cry once and she didn’t want to fight again after that.

“But if I see someone I’ve beaten, they’re just friends and it’s like nothing happened.

“It gets put behind you and you just forget about it.”

Jess added: “I do a lot more fitness training with England, along with a lot more strength and positioning training for the position I play so that I don’t get injured.

“I want to play for England or Ireland and it would be a great opportunity for me to experience something like England did when they won the Women’s World Cup last year.

“It was great to see that because it means the sport won’t be seen in a stereotypical way and more funding is going into women’s rugby now.”

Giovanni wants to see more of the top-level clay pigeon shooters in action to gain tips on how to improve his own performances at competitions.

“I’ve told my dad that I want to travel more and see some more shooting in Scotland, Wales and England so that I can get tips off other people and see more of the shooting community,“ Giovanni said.

“My dad reckons that I 
panic too much so that I don’t hit the maximum.

“I need to clear my mind and think about what I’m 
doing when I’m shooting, as well as how I’m going to hit the target and shoot my gun.

“You can’t be put off by someone else who hits target after target because, at the end of the day, you’re not going to hit any yourself.”

With hectic training 
sessions and competitions, all five teenagers face the 
challenge of keeping up with their schoolwork.

Jess, who trains three times a week, said: “I can keep up with schoolwork, even though it’s hard sometimes, and I manage to get around to doing it.”

As for the future, Amber said: “I don’t really know what I want to do but think I want to be a PE teacher or a physical training instructor in the Army.”

Giovanni said, “To go to the Olympics would be one hell of an achievement but, more realistically, I want to represent Lincolnshire as a skeet shooter.”

But it might be worth watching out for Keely who said: “I want to win the world title and then fight for a couple of years after that.

“But even if I don’t do that, I’ll still feel proud knowing that I’ve tried my best.”