With 24 finals taking place over the course of the day, field events were at the fore on day one of the 2016 New Balance English Schools' Championships at Gateshead International Stadium.
The Junior Boys' triple jumpers were among the athletes with early starts and they didn’t disappoint in overcast conditions. In front of a large crowd congregated on the home straight, Matt Blondswell (County: Notts) picked a fine time to produce a personal best, moving to the top of the UK rankings with a 12.91m leap, which was 31cm further than he’d ever jumped before and enough to beat silver medalist Olowasubomi Bello (County: London; Club: Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets; Coach: Alf Vickers) by 38cm.
The Junior Girls' high jump was another early event and it was closely contested in the morning gloom. Emma Sherwood (County: West Mids; Club: Dudley and Stourbridge; Coach: Kenneth Dworak) was already UK number one this year, but she improved her PB to 1.75m in taking gold, 3cm ahead of her close rival Danielle Hopkins (Hereford and Worcestershire, Worcester, Deirdre Elmhurst). Hopkins herself also set a 2cm PB and will no doubt look forward to renewing the rivalry later this season.
The sun eventually shone and conditions for most of the day were almost perfect for winning national schools' titles. The Senior Girls' high jumpers took advantage in what was an even tighter event. Emily Borthwick (Greater Manchester; Wigan and District; Fuzz Caan) equalled her season’s best with a 1.75m jump, but was matched by Laura Amorgie (Essex; Herts Phoenix; Roger Amorgie) who did likewise, with the Manchester athlete taking the title on countback.
Another even contest was the Inter Boys triple jump, where UK number 1 Wesley Matsuka-Williams (Norfolk; City of Norwich; Denis Costello) edged out Bedfordshire’s Teepee Princewell (Harrow; Daniel Sawyers), who produced his best when it counted in adding 74 cm to his outdoor PB to take silver . Matsuka-Williams jumped 14.46 to Princewell’s 14.44. Emmanual Odubanjo (Greater Manchester; Sale Harriers Manchester; Keith Hunter) was just 3cm back in 3rd with 14.41.
The New Balance English Schools' Championships always sees a number of athletes really raise their games with medals on offer and that was the case in the Inter Boys' shot put. George Hyde (Cheshire; West Cheshire) entered the day with a PB of 14.95cm, but ended it with a 15.54m throw to his name and gold medal round his neck, showing how much a difference the atmosphere at a national championships can make.
Shortly after, it was the turn of Bethan Rees (Staffs; Cannock and Stafford; Mark Pinner) to break a milestone, going over 50m for the first time in the Inter Girls' javelin (50.12m) and winning by more than 4m from Paula Holguin (Surrey; Piotr Spas), who threw 45.93 for silver
With the track finals all to be contested on the Saturday the Friday action whetted the appetite for what lies ahead
Hannah Williams (Herts, Herts Phoenix, Colin Gaynor) will go head-to-head with Ella Barrett (Derbys, Chesterfield, Daniel Duke) after the two moved smoothly through qualification for the Senior Girls' 400m with times of 55.77 and 56.69 respectively. The championship best of 54.33 could well be in danger as Hannah has run 53.45 this year and Ella 54.63.
The Inter Boys' 100m was set up beautifully as Daniel Afolabi (Greater Manchester, Sale) made a major breakthrough to lower his PB in both heat and semi-final, going under 11sec for the first time and ending the day with a new best of 10.78 (+1.9). Charles Hilliard (West Mids, Halesowen, Dominic McNeillis) looks set to make a race of the final having clocked 10.79 (+1.9) in the first semi-final
Tilly Simpson (Derby, Hallam, Steve Marshall) prepared for the final of the Inter Girls' 1500m with a very fresh looking win in her heat of 4:31.28.
A championship record fell in the heats of the Junior Boys' 4 x 100m as London scorched through the line in heat one with 43.46 to knock 0.05 off Surrey’s 2005 mark. The performance makes them ones to watch in tomorrow’s final.
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