Jade O’Dowda led three Commonwealth qualifying performances in the senior heptathlon, while junior winner Abigail Pawlett secured a World U20 Championships qualifier at the England Athletics Combined Events Championships in Bedford this weekend. Meanwhile, on a day of great performances and often close competition, Lewis Church took the senior decathlon title and Callum Newby dominated the junior equivalent.
After two days of tremendously close competition, it went down to the wire in the 800m between Jade O’Dowda (Newham & Essex Beagles; Toni Minichiello) and Ellen Barber (Yeovil; David Feeney) with just 16 points in it in the end. However, it was overnight leader O’Dowda who just managed to stay in front with 6044, as Barber tallied 6028 and Smith 5888. All three set PBs and were inside the qualifying mark for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. For O’Dowda and Smith, the marks were qualifiers for the European Under-23 Championships in Tallinn next month. It was also the first time in these championships that two women had scored over 6000 points.
Less than 100 points had separated the top three of O’Dowda, Barber and Jodie Smith (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow; Alleyne) going into day two and the tussle continued in the opening event today, the long jump. Smith set a PB of 6.24m to move up to second. Meanwhile, Barber, registering a PB of 6.08m, knew she was giving herself a chance of overall victory as she was the best javelin thrower. She duly finished top in that with a 45.25m throw but O’Dowda added three metres to her PB with 42.63m to guarantee a thrilling climax. Barber would need to win by more than three and half seconds to take the win and she gallantly set off in the lead only to be tracked closely by O’Dowda. Barber ran 2:12.27 and O’Dowda 2:14.99, both setting PBs with the latter just doing enough to win.
A delighted O’Dowda, who also took the under-23 gold, said afterwards: “I was really happy with it. It was a really, really good two days. Solid events all the way through, some PBs on the way so I can’t complain. “The Euro under-23s isthe same standard as the Commonwealths, 5850. Going into it, I knew that 6000 points was possible so I was just after that.”
The only athlete ahead of O’Dowda on the UK list for this year is Holly Mills (Andover; Laura Turner-Alleyne) and she was down in 13th place today. She was here specifically to target certain events rather than focus on the full heptathlon. The European junior long jump bronze medallist added to her selected efforts yesterday with 30.26m in the javelin.
A fiercely contested decathlon between two training partners from Tonbridge AC ended with Lewis Church (coach: David Hull) being crowned England champion.
Church, who was third last time out in these championships, amassed 7411 points to finish ahead of Harry Kendall (Mike Corden), who scored a PB of 7253. Curtis Mathews (Cardiff; Lawrence Moore) was third with 7052. Church was 43 points behind Kendall overnight, having set PBs in the shot (14.41m) and high jump (2.01m). He was then fastest in the 110m hurdles with 15.04 compared to 15.80 for Kendall. He then threw 40.47m in the discus as Mathews followed up his shot win on day one with an excellent 48.43m.
Church grew his lead to 164 with the pole vault, in which he and Harry Maslen (Ilkley; Sam Stanislaus) were the best on 4.44m. However, as Church went out to a solid 52.93m in the javelin, Kendall was out to state it wasn’t all over and added more than two metres to his best with 55.81m. In the 1500m, as Cal McLennan (Edinburgh/Rafer Joseph) came home well ahead in 4:20.47 to clinch under-23 gold with 6662, Church was winning the more important battle behind. He ran 4:41.61, beating Kendall by more than 12 seconds to confirm victory.
“It was expected that we were going to be close, we were all training very well,” said Church looking back. “It was just a good battle all the way through. No animosity in it, just all supporting each other and trying to be as good as we could be.”
Although it was overall a pleasing weekend for Church, it was the pole vault that he picked out as being particularly satisfying. He said: “I’d say the pole vault was relieving because I had two competitions earlier in the season and they’d both been awful and, now I’m where I need to be, I can work off that and try and get close to the Commonwealth standard.”
With a dominant display, Abigail Pawlett (Stockport T&F; Joe Frost) scored 5557 to gain the qualifying standard for both the World Under-20 and European Under-20 championships this summer.
Finishing nearly 400 points in front of the rest of the field, she claimed her 12th England title. In her first senior-level heptathlon, she climbed to 11th on the UK all-time list and has another full summer after this one to go higher still. Ella Rush (Amber Valley; Michael Baker) was second with 5166 and Emily Tyrrell (Team Bath; Kevin Skinner) was third with 5082.
Pawlett, winner of the under-17 title two years ago, had set out impressively yesterday with marks of 13.78, 1.74m, 12.61m (PB) and 24.91m to go into the second day with a lead of 308. This morning she went further ahead with a leap of 6.01m in the long jump, just a little below her best of 6.09m. Tyrrell was next best with a PB of 6.07m to move into third behind Rush. She was close to her best in the javelin with 31.30m as Tyrrell added more than six metres to her PB with 34.74m. Zara Tyas, a 1.80m high jumper in her first combined events competition, convincingly won the 800m with 2:14.86 to place fourth overall. However, there was no doubt about the winner as Pawlett came home for an outdoor PB of 2:30.02.
Callum Newby (Edinburgh) chalked up a big victory with 6878 points in his first under-20 decathlon, thanks to a discus PB to add to his two bests from the opening day. Fellow Scot Adam Hoole (East Lothian) scored 6309, while Patrick Morgan (Hereford) was third with 6206.
Newby, who was second at the England junior indoor heptathlon last year, began today with 15.63 in the 110m hurdles behind Jordan Cunningham’s fastest of 15.12. His 40.60m discus was a big improvement for him and only Patrick Morgan, with 41.35m, threw further. His lead was looking convincing by then and a 3.94m in the pole vault put him further ahead of Hoole. A javelin throw of 51.64m brought him one step closer to the title as Cunningham was best overall with a PB 46.30m. It meant the 1500m was something of a victory parade for Newby as he crossed the line in 4:57.24, although well behind the 4:27.34 of Morgan. Yesterday, Newby had had 11.42 in the 100m, 6.81m in the long jump, a PB 14.05m in the shot, 1.92m in the high jump and a PB of 50.69 in the 400m.
Results can be found at athletics-uk.org/england
All photos by Mark Shearman