THE pupils of Southend High School for Girls felt like they were competing at an Olympic Games in China.

The school’s head of PE Sue Simpson described the experience as incredible and believed her students raised their game because of it.

The Chinese city of Wuhan pumped £3million into staging the World Schools Athletics Championships.

Athletes were treated to a lavish opening ceremony, made use of world-class air-conditioned warm-up facilities and were treated like superstars during their week in China.

“It was the best experience ever,” said Simpson, who has taken charge of teams at two previous World Schools Athletics Championships in Estonia and the Czech Republic.

“It really was like the Olympics. China had spent ridiculous amounts of money on staging the event and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Southend High girls team of Olivia Sofroniou, Jade Packer, Paige Hutchings, Dolita Shaw, Kendrea Nwaelene and Hannah Badger were inspired by the surroundings.

They finished with the biggest points total the school has ever achieved at a World Schools Championships as they finished eighth overall.

“The girls all did fantastically,” Simpson said.

“Olivia Sofroniou went out on the track and got a personal best (PB) of 2m 24s in the first race, the 800m and it went from there.

“Dolita Shaw then won a silver medal in the 200m and all of the girls got PBs on the track.”

The pupils were not only stars on the track but off it as well.

Along with Southend High School for Boys, they won the fair play award and were one of the most popular groups in Wuhan.

“I think it was because we were English but we were very popular,” said Simpson.

“We were the only schools wearing our school uniforms which everyone seemed to like and we were treated so well by the hosts.

“Wuhan had been waiting a whole year to stage the championships and everything was so well organised. We had a group of four students who came wherever we went to act as translators.

“It was the most incredible experience and one the girls will never forget.”