The season well and truly picked up pace as Bedford hosted a fabulous first day of combined events action, the sprints - both short and long - making the headlines for all the right reasons.
As ever on this super fast track, the 100m proved to be a real eye-opener with John Lane (Toni Minichiello Sheffield & Dearne/Leeds Beckett Uni) looking particularly sharp with a 10.75 opener. Mind you, the Commonwealth Games athlete didn’t have things all his own way in that event as Caius Joseph (Basingstoke & Mid Hants, Rafer Joseph) ripped to a massive personal best of 10.65 - swift indeed for the first year U23 athlete.
However, thanks to his 7.21 long jump and 13.40 shot putt, Lane quickly reestablished himself at the top of the pile, stretching away late on thanks to a fabulous 2.02 in the high jump only marginally below his best, but far ahead of the chasing pack. His 49.74 for the 400m meant Lane ended the day with a very impressive 4122 and looks well on the way to winning his first outdoor title after taking gold indoors in the winter. Behind him just 34 points covers 2nd to 4th, meaning day two and the chase for national medals promises to be very competitive indeed. Joseph, for instance produced a great 7.05 in the long jump to keep him in the loop and one of the quickest 400s of the day with 49.38 yet he’s back in fourth as Aiden Davies (Sam Stanislaus, Doncaster/Leeds Beckett Uni), who took 4th in the indoor heptathlon, produced five very consistent marks, highlighted by a 10.93 100m and 49.39 400m, to finish with 3879.
Consistency was name of the game for Niamh Bailey (Corby/De Montfort Uni/Bedford & County, David Feeney) who strung together 14.23 in the 100 hurdles, 1.69 for a 1cm pb in the high jump, 11.58 in the shot and a controlled 25.17 in the final event of the day, the 200m to establish a 40-point lead (3292) over Laura Voss (LT DSHS Koeln), her best performance coming in the high jump with 1.72m.
Keep an eye out for Amy Hodgson (Rotherham/Sheffield Hallam Uni/Trafford, Toni Mininchello) who is well within striking distance of the top two, although at this stage the title looks very open with any of the top five easily capable of seizing the initiative.
It’s always handy to start a multi event champs with a supremely quick time, so hats off to Holly Mills (Andover, Laura Turner- Alleyne) who found herself far in front thanks to a super swift 13.54 and was the outstanding performer of the day according to one seasoned observer. Mills certainly went into the event as one to watch and even though Jodie Smith (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow, Daniel Sawyers) had established an early lead thanks to her 14.00 hurdler and 1.75 clearance in the high jump,. However, by the end of the day it was Mills who emerged as leader. She hit a PB in the shot with 12.36 and then clocked her fastest ever 200 with 24.36 to finish with 3523. Given her CBP form indoors, she most definitely will be tough to beat, although as Smith proved early on and current silver medalist Olivia Dobson (Exeter Harriers), it’s far from over and Mills may just have to be in record breaking form again to secure gold.
Just as it had done in the senior men’s competition, a fabulous 100m set the scene for what was to come. Scott Connal (Edinburgh AC/Caledonian U, Iain McEwan) stopped the clock at 10.67, establishing him as the name to watch early on. He followed that fastest-ever clocking with another best in the long jump, touching down at 7.14. Joel McFarlane Arbroath & District Athletics Club, the Scottish U20 record holder for the decathlon, however, stretched out to 7.24 and was close to his best in the high jump with 1.94 and began to look like the man to watch in this competition, confirmed when he crossed the line in the 400m in 49.95 - a personal best to cap day one, which totalled a very impressive 3987. Connal hung tough with 1.87 and a gritty 50.55, a personal best by more than half a second, which helped him to 3935, not too far behind. With the pair both in personal best form, a big total is very much on the cards.
Sunday should be fascinating and fabulous to watch.