U17 and U15 Combined Events champs: day 2

From the very first race, day two of the U15/U17 Combined Events Championships in Sheffield picked up where day one left off with PBs, season’s best and intense competition top of the bill.

This event always provides a dramatic end to the season with the final result in the balance until the very last lap of the Sheffield Arena – certainly the case in the U15 boys’ age group where the 800 metres could make the difference between gold and silver as the leader for the first four events in that competition would be facing a competitor with the fastest time indoors in the UK this year and who going into those four laps, was back in a not-so-distant fourth place.

But of course, multi eventing is so much more than one race. A whole range of skills are needed before that final circuit – training, technique, getting yourself mentally into the zone, and don’t forget recovery – they all have a role to play and here’s how the day unfolded…

U15 girls’ pentathlon

In the opening race in packed day-long programme, in the opening heat of the 60 hurdles Olivia Tweddle (City of York) flew to 9.33, the 10th fastest time in the UK this year and a huge PB. The scene was set; it would be a championship full of superb performances. And that’s exactly how the hurdles races panned out with the fastest times coming in the final race, the fifth heat as Eve Drury (Leeds City, Daniel Gardiner) also got in on the PB act to clock 9.09. It’s the third fastest in the UK this year, and worth a whopping 891pts. A huge PB from Sadie Parker (Blyth, Daniel Njai-Rowney), the U15 long jump champion and Rebekah Smith (Winchester) – both 8.30 – scored 848pts. Eve, clearly in the form of her life then jumped 5.31m to stretch her lead slightly, while behind her Sadie’s 5.26m secured her spot in second place. Things tightened up slightly after the shot. Eve’s opening 9.99m followed by a 10.33m kept her in the gold medal position with 2087pts, but it was closing up behind her thanks to Rebecca Wright (Woodford Green and Essex Ladies, Tony Jarrett, John Stow) taking the honours with her opening throw of 11.23m, a great way to follow up a 4.66 PB in the long jump. As a result, she hauled herself up from seventh to third with 1907pts. The high jump, however, was all about Eve as she strengthened her grip on the gold medal with a 1.56 clearance. From there it was about holding it all together in the 800m and she duly obliged with 2:43.33 to record 3311pts.

Eve spoke to us after being presented with her medal, “Going into the 800m I knew how many seconds I needed to be behind some people by; and I am very tired but I am happy with how I did in the 800m.”

As for her gameplan: “I’ve been doing a lot of hard endurance sessions so I just wanted it to pay off!”

U15 boys’ pentathlon

Living up to his pre-championships favourite tag, Luke Pichler (Blyth, Daniel Njai-Rowney) ranked No.1 in the UK this year and the current indoor champion in the 60 hurdles got things under way with a crisp looking 8.73, good for 806pts and the early lead. He followed that with a final round 5.71 in the long jump to edge further away from the chasing pack. Next up was the high jump, an event in which Luke is ranked number 3 in the country this winter thanks to his 1.74 in Gateshead last month. He matched that with a first-time clearance, fully 5cm better than his bronze medal winning height at the national champs back in mid-February. Next up was the shot, an event he also has impressive credentials in as he’s the northern champs silver medallist. His second-round throw of 9.33m, while not the best in the competition certainly meant he would line up for the 800m with a buffer over Ruben Stovell (Hallamshire, Julia Johnston) who lined up for the last race with a best of 2:01.67 compared to Luke’s 2:19.75. There was an impossibly large looking points gap between the pair earlier, but Ruben a long way adrift after three events closed the gap dramatically after the shot thanks to his 12.12m. Even though the gap was 319pts, it was all to play for! And to win, Luke had to be at the very top of his game, appropriate given there was a national title at stake. Ruben, to his credit, built up a huge lead, crossing the line in 2:09.15, but Luke rallied in the final lap to clock 2:24.62. The final result: 2742 to 2648.

Luke told us afterwards: “I was quite nervous because I had a bit of a niggle going into the 800m and I knew that Ruben was really good. He ran something like 2 minutes going into this so I knew I had to run quite quick. It was quite hard – I ran really quick but it wasn’t a PB but it was enough in the end. I guess nerves are quite good because it does push me to run a bit faster.”

U17 men’s heptathlon

Day one concluded with Sam Wright (Chelmsford, Simon Hemmings) chasing Northern Ireland’s Finn O’Neil (Lifford Strabane, Wendy Philips) with just nine points separating the two after four events. The 60 hurdles, however, was all about Finn who powered to 8.27, the fourth fastest in the UK this year and worth 915pts. The pole vault is always a test of endurance, not to mention nerve, but Finn, the current Northern Ireland pole vault champion passed both of those tests with flying colours comfortably easing over 3.53m to effectively claim the gold. The 1000m was all about getting it done which he duly obliged with a 2:44.15 clocking for 4902pts.

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Photos by Gary Mitchell