A PROMISING athlete who swapped black belts for running spikes is celebrating after winning two major medals back-to-back.

Sprinter Sophie Walton won the 200m at the English Schools Championships in Birmingham and then backed that up by coming out on top in the Schools International Athletics Board competition in Swansea at the weekend.

That saw the 15-year-old Horwich RMI Harriers runner beat the best from Ireland, Scotland and Wales by running 24.65secs to take gold in her first international event.

Walton, who competes in the under-17 category, was also part of England’s winning 4x100m relay team in South Wales.

The Rivington and Blackrod High School pupil took up the sport in 2012 when, having previously practiced taekwondo, watching the London Olympics inspired her to change course.

“I remember her watching the Olympics and then deciding she wanted to start running,” said dad Shaun.

“She was doing taekwondo at the time and had got a couple of black belts but wanted to do athletics.

“She’s got a fantastic coach in Trevor Williams who has been with her all the way through.

“She’s training really hard and is doing different things at various locations several times a week.

“It’s tough to put the time in like that and it takes a lot of commitment but she’s doing well academically as well and it’s brilliant at the moment.”

Walton next heads to the Northern Track and Field Championships at the Wavertree Stadium on the weekend of August 17 and 18 before heading to the National Championships in Bedford where she won the 100m and 200m last year.

“She’s doing unbelievably well,” said coach Williams.

“Athletics is done in two-year groups and she moved up to under-17s this year so we were hoping she’d maybe be able to do this in a year’s time.

“She’s doing it in her first year though. She’s always been near the top since she started and just keeps progressing.”

Walton is entering Year 11 at Rivington and Blackrod and will next year be the school’s sports captain.

“The school have been really supportive,” said Shaun.

“Two of her teachers went down to Birmingham and the heats were even streamed in school on the Friday. It’s amazing really.”

As well as Walton the Harriers also had two other athletes at the English Schools Championships, Niall Maloney in the long jump and Izzy Merritt in the 300m.