When did you attend West Lakes Academy?

I attended Wyndham up until I finished Year 11 in 2008 at which point the school became West Lakes Academy. I finished my A levels in 2010.

What is your favourite memory of your time at West Lakes Academy?

My time in Sixth Form is probably my fondest memory of school. That hope and excitement of heading off to university, leaving Cumbria and completely changing everyday experience was in the minds of a lot of my friends. Everyone was supportive and I have kept in touch with many of the people I hung around with in Sixth Form.

What have you achieved since leaving WLA and what are you currently working on?

I graduated with a 2:1 BSc in Sports Science from St Mary’s University in 2013 and began my PhD research into masters athletes at Glasgow Caledonian University later that year. At the moment, I do some teaching on the undergraduate Social Sciences course as well as occasional lectures to Business and Management students. I have presented at various academic conferences and have a book review with an international journal in print.

At the same time, I have represented Great Britain in athletics twice, adding to my first GB representation as an U20 in 2010 when I was still at WLA. Earlier this year I won the Great Edinburgh Cross Country relay which was shown on BBC. Consequently, I ran 1.47.59 at the Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix to qualify for the European Championships. I was interviewed live on BBC1. At the European Indoors, I narrowly missed out (0.02 seconds away) on making the semi-finals. This year I have competed in; Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Czech Republic and Austria – allotting around 28 flights and over a month spent away from home competing. It’s not always luxurious as most of the time is spent in the airport, a hotel room and at a stadium, before flying home at often unsociable hours.

How did your time at WLA prepare you for your chosen career?

My time at WLA was great for providing me with numerous skills. First of all, my studies allowed me to go to university and end up doing a PhD, but more specifically it taught me some good time management skills. Combining studies and athletics is not always easy, especially during hard training periods which can be very tiring. My experience of this at WLA definitely helped me in my undergraduate studies and at the moment in my doctoral research.

What advice would you give to the students of WLA who want to pursue a similar career?

With regards to sport, I would suggest that students should aim to get a place at a university with good athletic facilities and coaches, but also ensure they choose a degree course which interests them as well as provides a route into the world of work. My decision to choose sport science was perhaps not indicative of that advice, but I have been fortunate to find opportunities for doctoral research and hopefully a career in academia. It is important for any keen sporting students to understand that sporting careers are precarious and finite, the learning of key skills is important to find secure work later in life.

Any other words of wisdom for our students on how to make the most of their time at WLA?

For those who are planning on leaving for university; make sure you enjoy the remaining time with your school friends. It often becomes difficult to keep in touch with all of your friends when you move away, but it reveals who your most valuable friends are. Secondly, never forget where you have come from and be proud to represent WLA and west Cumbria in general.


Below; James competes for Great Britain at the Glasgow International – this was his first senior GB vest and his first GB vest since representing GB in 2010.

james bowness