Ball rolls to a record performance

A British record and world lead of 7870pts by Sammy Ball (Michael Dyer, Reading) provided the highlight on what was a fascinating second day at the England Athletics Open Senior and U20 Combined Event Championships.

Clearly, pasta, protein, a touch of ice, plus of course a carb-loaded dinner overnight had all played essential recovery roles for the competitors on day two of these action-packed championships. And while Ball may have grabbed the headlines, there was no let-up in the relentless pursuit of life-time bests which meant winning a medal literally meant you had to be in the form your life. Here’s how the day unfolded:

U20 Men’s Decathlon

Making it six wins from six events, the overnight leader Sammy Ball (Michael Dyer, Reading) powered to a clear victory the 110H in 14.50 to stretch ever further into the distance. The wind, a friendly following legal breeze on Saturday turned into a mild headwind Sunday morning meaning his time was a little below his best, but still he was well on course for a big score, and possibly something very memorable indeed. And while his early stutter in the javelin wasn’t exactly big news, it did actually take him two rounds to take the lead, his 39.59 just ahead of Conrad Winter’s (City of Norwich) throw of 39.45. Seven wins and counting.

Sammy Ball

Of course, the pole vault is a little difficult to predict given that for most of the athletes it’s a very new event and a worrying early failure did get everybody slightly nervous. During the indoor season, Ball revealed he’d only been vaulting for a short time but with a few more valuable months training behind him, he looked much more controlled as he cleared 4.40 on his third attempt. It also flagged up that suddenly the British record was well within his grasp and perhaps even a world lead of 7843pts. After the javelin, where he threw 46.17 (and built up more than a 1000-point lead) it was a case of reach for your calculators to see what he would have to run in the 1500m. The answer was 4:56 if he was going to crack 7691pts and the record that dated back to 2010.

He actually clocked 4:27.99, front running his way to the British record, his final tally a superb 7870pts.

“That was my aim,” said a very happy Ball immediately after that superb 1500. “I wasn’t sure what the other lads had planned so I just went out and ran my own pace. I wanted the record and the world lead, so I knew the pace I had to run.”

Amazingly he graded day two as “not so good” and one that needed a little more work after a “brilliant” day one.

“I just need to work on a few things,” he concluded, adding that he wouldn’t start that for a few days. “I’ll have a bit of rest for a day or two,” he said. He deserves it!

Men’s Decathlon

In a near repeat of Saturday’s opening event, it was a case of one-two for Scotland as Adam Hoole (East Lothian) and Ewan Bradley (David, Feeney, Loughborough Students) led the way in the 110 hurdles with 14.65 and 14.67 – both PBs. Behind them Lewis Church (David Hull, Tonbridge) clocked 15.06. For Bradley that run was particularly impressive as he had taken a fall at the end of the 400m on the previous day. In the pictures he had on his phone, it looked pretty severe so it would be a question of how well it held up over the next eight hours or so of competition. The discus potentially was always going to be the swing point in this competition as Church went into the circle as the clear favourite. A big throw could haul him back into the fight for the gold medal. And that’s exactly what occurred as he produced a huge second round PB effort of 46.39m to move 42pts ahead of the long-time leader Hoole, who was also in PB shape again, throwing 37.84m, while that bad ankle was clearly holding up as Bradley also threw a lifetime best of 39.76m. Church then added 7cm to his pole vault PB with 4.70m. That was his second lifetime best in successive events, showing form at exactly the right moment. The javelin was all about keeping his composure, which he duly did, throwing 53.72m. Behind him Bradley threw yet another PB of 46.39m which meant he clocked up seven lifetime bests in nine events. Church sealed the deal with a very competitive 4:35.58 in a1500m race he looked remarkably comfortable in.

Lewis Church

Women’s Heptathlon

The British Universities champion Jodie Smith (Ashley Bryant, Brunel) closed the gap on overnight leader and training partner Abigail Pawlett (Ashley Bryant, Trafford) thanks to a 6.17m second round leap. Pawlet had to settle for 5.86m in the first round, good enough to retain her lead – but barely.

Jodie Smith

Down to just 3pts, the pair headed to the javelin where Smith started marginal favourite thanks to her 42.39m PB. That mark lasted precisely one throw as she eased into first place with just one event to go thanks to a 42.67m opening effort. Pawlett responded with a PB of her own of 35.55m, but her competition lead was gone. All of which meant the 800m would be fascinating. If it all went to the form book, 6000 points looked a possibility for one or both of them and given 5800 is the European U23 qualifying mark that is a magnificent total for sure! Her time of 2:22.67 ticked one of those boxes easily enough but it came up just 2pts shy of 6000!

“That was frustrating,” laughed Smith, happy to have won, but obviously not happy to have come oh so close to that magical mark. It just went fractionally wrong in the third 200 and she came up a couple of centimetres (it was that close) shy.

“It does give me the motivation for the Europeans though,” she said, adding that while the jumps were good in this competition, there was room for improvement. “I plan to work on that in the next few weeks,” she said.

U20 Women’s Heptathlon

Overnight leader Bryony Bovell (John Shepherd, Guildford and Godalming) opened her account in the long jump with a PB of 5.76m which gave her a 57pt lead. Next up was the javelin, which perfectly demonstrated the great form the new-to-heptathlon athlete is enjoying.

Bryony Bovell

Bovell, a combined eventer for just a couple of seasons now, came into the event with a 32.75m lifetime best and left it with 38.07m. And encouragingly, that was actually below the form she has been showing in training where she’s been throwing in excess of 40 metres. So, there’s definitely more to come, and it certainly gave her a comfortable buffer going into the 800m where with the pressure off, she could debate whether to go out hard or have the confidence to hold back a little in that opening 200m and attempt to pick off the field. In the end it was more of the latter as she ran 2:28.11.

“It wasn’t quite how I hoped,” she said, “but to win by so much was really pleasing. It’s easily the best I’ve put together [4 PBs] and now I’m hoping I can find something perhaps in an age-group champs in Europe so I can have a go at the European qualifying.”

Photos by Pat Isaacs