Meet the TASS Stars Awards 2021 ‘Most Determined Athlete’ Harriet Knowles-Jones

Mechanical engineering undergraduate Harriet Knowles-Jones knows what it means to keep your dual career dream alive following a three-year battle with glandular fever. We caught up with the University of Manchester student after she was named Most Determined athlete at the 2021 TASS Stars Awards.

TASS: How much does it mean to you to have won a TASS Stars award?

Harriet Knowles-Jones: It means a huge amount. These last few years have been such a challenge so to be recognised is such a massive compliment. My family and my coach have never stopped believing in me and they’ve given me the confidence to keep working at it. But on top of that, having continued support from TASS meant a huge deal. If they can recognise my potential even after a lack of races then I know I’m being given every opportunity to be successful.

TASS: How challenging has the past 12 months been – as a student and an athlete?

HK-J: For the last three years I’ve been struggling with fatigue following glandular fever. The team at Manchester University has watched me go through cycles of progress and lapses, from not being able to run for 10 minutes up to near full training volume today. The support services team at Manchester has been a huge part of my comeback — especially Nathan who leads the strength and conditioning. They’ve been so patient with me over the last few years and having a consistent approach from them really helped me through my setbacks. They’re such a great team! So a huge thank you to the university and to TASS for giving me access to these services.

TASS: What have been your proudest achievements during this period?

HK-J: I guess without any races to show for the work I’ve put in over the last few years, I’m just proud of the number of times I’ve kept at it. Going through the same cycles of fatigue and setbacks really tried my patience. I’m proud that my stubbornness is starting to pay off.

TASS: What do you hope to go on to achieve during the next 12 months?

HK-J: I’d really like to get back to racing. If I continue to progress as I’m doing, I’ll be on track to race again this cross-country season and I’m so excited!

TASS: Why is it important to you to continue following a dual career pathway?

HK-J: The last three years have shown me exactly why it’s so important to have another focus outside of sport. Sport can be fragile and unpredictable. Having my degree to put all my attention into when I was having a rough time with athletics made it a little more bearable.

TASS: Can you describe how being a TASS supported student athlete helps you?

HK-J: I’m so grateful for the support from TASS during the last few years. The services TASS provides are such high quality. When I was last competing I know the strength and conditioning program made a huge difference to my performance. As a student athlete rarely do you have the funds to access services such as nutrition, psychology and strength and conditioning. But these services are exactly what you need to make it to that highest level in sport. TASS plays a huge role in the development of student athletes — helping them to perform to their full potential. Clearly TASS is hugely valuable to competing athletes but I think the support makes an even bigger difference to those athletes who may be struggling with injury or illness. TASS keeps you engaged and makes you feel supported. The people you’re working with are experts in their field so you know you’re in good hands and that gives you the best chance to make a full recovery.

TASS: Do you have a message for dual career athletes working hard to achieve their goals – both sporting and educational?

HK-J: Engage in any support that’s offered to you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Enjoy your successes, appreciate the highs and know that everyone has to go through challenges. It’s not all going to be plain sailing but the tough times will pass.

Harriet Knowles-Jones was shortlisted as a Most Determined athlete at the 2021 TASS Stars awards following a three-year journey of encouraging highs and disappointing lows. The 23-year-old first received TASS support in 2018 — the same year she was crowned European Junior Cross Country champion. However, one of the best middle-distance runners in England contracted glandular fever and has been battling recurring bouts of the illness for the last three years. Nevertheless, Harriet has refused to give up on her athletics dream and her dedication and focus means she’s primed for a fresh tilt at success during the next 12 months.