Head-to-head competition was what day two of the England Athletics AAA and UK CAU Senior and Disability Championships at Bedford was all about as new names to watch made their mark and established favourites returned to their best.
It was Daniel Gardiner (Club: City of Sheffield, Coach: Mike Stayman) who provided a taste of what the day would be all about with a 7.96m win in the long jump, the type of distance that grabs your attention. Trailing early on, Gardiner in his first year specializing as a jumper, responded when he had to after Paul Ogun (Club: Croydon Harriers, Coach: John Shepherd) and Bradley Pickup (Club: Newham and Essex Beagles, Coach: Zac Kerin) both looked dangerous.
“I jumped in the Diamond League last week,” explained Gardiner “and knew I was in good shape. I just couldn’t do any more jumps there because of the cut rule. Today was the first day I really got on top of it.”
Equally excited and equally as promising was Jess Judd (Club: Chelmsford, Coach: Mick Judd/ George Gandy) in the 1500m. Everyone will remember her performances coming through the ranks including breaking two minutes for 800m in 2014. Since then there have been some tougher days but she was having none of that and set about stamping her authority on the race from the gun. Leading through 800m in 2:17.5, she eased away at the bell (3:08) and never looked troubled as she cruised around to 4:16.49.
“I haven’t been able to show what I’m capable of for a couple of seasons now,” said Jess who says having her dad return as her coach has been “fantastic.” Her delight continued when she discovered she had been invited to compete for England in the Manchester International on August 17.
The men took on the mile, a race steeped in history, particularly at this event, but almost always a cagey affair with the title meaning so much more than chasing a time. And so it proved again as Adam Hickey (Club: Southend, Coach: Eamonn Martin) controlled the early pace before Alex Tovey (Club: Windsor Slough and Eton and Hounslow, Coach: Conrad Milton) and Jack Hallas (Club: Birchfield, Coach: Andrew Henderson) took over and dueled it out with a 57-second last lap, Tovey just taking it with 4:07.22.
Day one, the talk was all about a certain Joel Fearon (Club: Birchfield Harriers, Coach: Michael Khmel) and his 9.96 in the 100m so clearly Graeme Ballard (Club: Chorley ATC, Coach: Trevor Painter, T36) was not to be outdone in the Ambulant 100 as his 12.28 was just 0.01 shy of being the fastest in the world for 2016. Other notable performances included Maria Lyle’s (Club: Team East Lothian, Coach: Tabo Huntly, T35) 200m which would have been a European record had the Bedford wind not been unkind on this occasion and Mike Barker’s (Club: Wolverhampton and Bilston, Coach: Malcolm Wallace) excellent British record of 25.22 in the F55 seated javelin.
The discus won by Greg Thompson (Club: Shaftesbury Barnet, Coach: Neville Thompson) was as cat and mouse as it comes with the lead changing hands throughout the competition. Late in the day however, Thompson found his rhythm and the discus flew out to 56.50 to see off one-time leaders Alan Toward (Club: City of Sheffield, Coach: Nick Ridgeon) and Mathew Blandford (Club: Blackheath and Bromley Harriers, Coach: John Hillier).
Likewise in the pole vault, Jade Ive (Club: Sutton and District, Coach: Allan Williams) saw off the early leaders with a first time clearance at 3.90 and 4.01 before calling it a day at 4.11.
There will be quicker 5000m races this summer but few quite as exciting as the women’s event here as Claire Duck (Club: Leeds City, Coach: Mike Baxter), found an extra gear in the final 100m to pull back the type of impossible leads you see posted on social media to pass Louise Small (Club: Aldershot Farnham and District, Club: Mike Woods) in the final couple of strides to win in 16:10.53. With 400m left it looked impossible, with 200m very unlikely and even with 100m to go you’d say Small had it. But Duck thought otherwise.
As the coach always says, “run through the line.”