Talented British female combined eventers are used to dealing with high expectations in light of successes over the last decade or so. From 2000 Olympic champion Denise Lewis through to London 2012 Olympic golden girl Jessica Ennis and the junior national record-holder Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the Heptathlon has delivered a plethora of stars. This summer, Morgan Lake hopes to join this stable of champions.
The 16-year-old registered a girls’ youth 2013 World-leading 5725 points en route to claiming the English junior title in Bedford earlier this month, adding more than 200 points to her lifetime best.
Competing in the new specification youth Heptathlon with a 3kg shot and 500g Javelin, Lake's 5725 score is a World youth best. However, it should be noted that China's Shen Shengfei scored a superior 6185 in the senior-specification Heptathlon and Russia's Tatyana Chernova scored 5991 in the previous youth-specification Heptathlon.
Similarly, Johnson-Thompson scored 5750 in the previous youth Heptathlon to win the 2009 World youth title, and Sweden's Sofia Linde scored 5894 last year, albeit with a 600g Javelin.
It means that Lake's score – which would have won gold at four of the six Heptathlons in World Youth history – remains the best mark on record for the new specification Heptathlon.
“I was very happy with my overall score as it gives me a lot of confidence going into Donetsk next month,” commented Lake.
“I exceeded my lifetime bests with 14.70m for the Shot and 39.56m for the Javelin, and in the High Jump I was only one centimetre off my personal best at the time, but I also didn’t reach my goals in the Hurdles and Long Jump so there were many mixed emotions during the competition.”
Having accumulated more than 20 national titles and five national age-group records in just five short years in the combined events, Lake is ready to make her global debut in just a few weeks' time.
“My main aim is to become World youth champion and I would like to get a score of around 5800-plus, which at the moment seems quite possible as long as all my events go reasonably well over the two days,” she explained.
“I am very excited to be competing in my first global championships and am looking forward to meeting other athletes and seeing how they prepare for competitions.”
Guided by her father Eldon, a former British junior international triple jumper, Lake claimed her first national title at the tender age of 11, winning the 2009 English indoor under 15 Long Jump against girls up to four years her elder.
A member of Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow Athletics Club, Lake has now just finished her school exams at Wellington College in Berkshire where she lives and studies six days each week.
“Juggling exams and athletics has definitely been a struggle this year but I am hoping to get A*, A or B grades and I will be continuing my education in the autumn,” said Lake.
“My training over the last few months has been going as well as could be expected due to the limited amount of time I have been able to dedicate to training. I was training about three times a week but now my exams are over, this has increased to four or five times.
“This year, in the High Jump and Long Jump, my aims are 1.86m and 6.30m, and for the 800m, I am hoping to run in the low 2:20 range once I get some more specific 800m training done. The 800m is a big point scorer in the Heptathlon, and can be the difference between the colour of a medal.
“The Javelin was quite a struggle for me last year, but over the winter I have made a lot of technical changes and believe it is possible to get over 40m this year which would be a great step forward.”
Rewind back to the Olympic Games last August, on the same day Ennis was scorching to victory and Johnson-Thompson was finishing a highly promising 15th, Lake was following in their footsteps by bettering the latter’s British under-17 record.
Amassing 5169 points at the English under-17 combined events championships, Lake eclipsed the record by 23 points on her Heptathlon debut.
“On the first day of the Olympic Heptathlon, I would go into the stand in between events and watch the coverage either on my phone or in the clubhouse,” she explained.
“Their performances were very inspirational and it was great to see the whole country behind them. It definitely motivated me to break Katarina’s record. I realised afterwards that Jess, Katarina and I all set our relevant age group records that day.”
Indeed, 2012 was a good year all round for Lake as she took English and national schools victories in both the High and Long Jump and received her first two call-ups for national honours.
“2012 was a good year for me, especially for the Long and High Jump with 6.19m and 1.80m marks, as these were the main events I was focussing on and breaking Katarina’s record last year was definitely one of my highlights as I was really not expecting to break it,” she recalled.
Midway through an encouraging summer season, she is now keen to consolidate growing reputation and climb to the top of the podium in Donetsk next month, but the ambitious teenager – who will be a junior until the end of the 2016 season – already has an eye on qualifying for her next major championship.
“Next year, my goal is to either go to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow or the World Junior Championships in Eugene.
“Longer term, I would definitely love to go to my first Olympics in Rio in 2016," she said. "I will be 19, the same age as Katarina was in London, and the opportunity to go to the World Championships at the London Olympic Stadium in 2017 is definitely a target and motivator for me.”
Nicola Bamford for the IAAF