WITHAM multi-discipline athletics ace Jessica Hopkins said she was "extremely pleased" to finish her first year in the under-20s age category on a high with a silver heptathlon medal at the English Schools Combined Events Championships.

That second-place finish in Exeter meant Hopkins, who has been competing against athletes up to three years older than her in her debut year as an under-20, finished the season in the top ten in the UK heptathlon rankings in her age group and 25th across all ages.

Her performance in Exeter brought the curtain down on a tough first year as an under-20, when Hopkins, who is a member of Chelmsford Athletics Club, has had to juggle school responsibilities alongside the greater demands of stepping up against more experienced rivals.

Hopkins, who was named as Young Sports Personality of the Year at last year's Active Braintree Sports Awards, said: "As this season has been very up and down, I am extremely pleased to have finished my season in the top ten of the UK.

"I was faced with more challenges to do with school as it was my first year in Sixth Form so to be able to maintain good grades as well as still being able to perform has been a major achievement and I look forward to what 2020 has to offer.

"I would like to say a huge thank you to my whole team for the continued support and encouragement throughout the whole season whenever I’ve needed it.

"Also to Back On Form sports massage for keeping my muscles in check and ready for competing.

"This also wouldn’t have been possible without the brilliant training facilities at Chelmsford Athletics Club that allow me to continue training through any conditions.

"I am a sports ambassador and I'm really happy to talk to anyone who has any questions I can help them with."

Hopkins' latest success came with a superb performance at the English Schools Combined Events Championships in Devon.

The first event of day one was the 100 metre hurdles when the windy conditions brought down everyone's times by nearly a whole second, but Hopkins managed to come third in her race with a time of 15.50 seconds for a strong early points haul.

The high jump was next up and, in an event that she had been having troubles with for most of the season, the Witham star was pleased to jump 1.62m to keep her in third place.

An 11.59m throw followed in the shot putt and although she was hoping to throw further, it was enough to put Hopkins up into second ahead of the final event of the opening day - the 200m - when a time of 26.20s, which was close to a personal best, saw her end the day on 2,950 points in the top two.

Day two began with the long jump, an event that Hopkins had been having the most difficulties with all season.

She was able to jump 5.42m, which was a huge improvement from her previous season's best of 5.11m.

Hopkins added: "The long jump was the event I was most pleased with for the whole weekend as it has caused a lot of frustration throughout the season. "The penultimate event was javelin which is one of my strongest events, I was able to throw a distance of 36.61 metres and this gave me a marginal lead of 56 points from third place going into the 800 metres.

"I was able to run two minutes 41.11 seconds to secure second place with a total score of 4,789 points."