Bedford set for U23 and U20 track and field championships

This weekend sees Bedford host the England Athletics under 23 and under 20 track and field championships. Come and watch our best U23 and U20 athletes perform there, or follow the action on social media and on BBC Sport online where there will be live streaming.

With over 1000 individual athletes entered to contest the full spread of track and field events, it’s set to be an exciting weekend of action.  Added to the 74 gold medals is the chance to gain selection for the Age Group European championships to be held in Sweden; the city of Gävle hosts the under 23s from 11-14 July, and the city of Borås holds the U20 championships the following week.

With this weekend being the selection event (except for 5000m, 10000m and 20k walk), some athletes who already hold the qualifying standard need to win for automatic  selection, while others will need to both win and pass the set qualifying mark to gain a place on the British team.

Javelin thrower Harry Hughes (Newham & Essex Beagles AC, Mark Roberson) threw a massive 80.32m at the Loughborough International which was the longest ever by an U23 in 9 years – so eyes will be on Harry to get the qualification job done. A couple of U23 female jumpers are also just needing that gold medal performance; Morgan Lake (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow AC, Fuzz Caan) is 2nd on the all-time list with a PB of 1.97m and is well clear of the required height and just needs a win for automatic selection. And Naomi Ogbeta (Trafford Athletic Club, Tom Cullen) who jumped the furthest U23 triple jump ever in the UK last summer should be able to hang on for a win and might well break the Championship Best in the process.

All three sprint distances for the U23 women have a competitor who has already run fast enough – late entry Finette Agyapong (Newham & Essex Beagles, Coral Nourrice) will need to get through the 200m heats and semis on the Sunday before the final at the end of the day but clocked the standard time with a hundredth of a second to spare just last week in the Netherlands, while BUCS champion and Loughborough International medallist Alex Knibbs (Amber Valley and Erewash AC, Nick Dakin) has his one lap hurdles right at the start of Saturday, and the Final early on Sunday to pin his selection hopes on. Kristal Awuah (Herne Hill Harriers, Matthew Thomas) has run 100m well below the standards time and ran a season’s best in Turkey last week. Spencer Thomas (Brighton Phoenix AC, Jon Bigg) will be wanting a tenth of a second improvement over 800m to gain a win and standard which would see him onto the plane to Sweden.

Our U20 pole vaulters are already in good stead for Sweden; Defending champion Molly Caudery’s (Thames Valley Harriers, Stuart Caudery) PB is almost 40cm beyond the required minimum height for the Europeans, and outstanding young vaulter Frankie Johnson’s (Bedford & County AC, Simon Eastwood) PB is dead on the mark and will hope to retain his outdoor title to add to his indoor title. Lewis Byng (Stratford Upon Avon AC, Stuart Carlaw) lies 2nd on the all-time list with a put of 19.14m earlier this month – a metre further than the 2nd ranked athlete this year. On the track, Ethan Brown (Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC, Lloyd Cowan) is comfortably within the time needed for the U20 British team and will be hoping to turn last year’s 400m silver into gold.

Jeremiah Azu (Cardiff AAC, Helen James) needs to win the 100m or 200m for his team place, having gained the standard at both distances and broken a number of Welsh records at the same time recently, but Scotsman Praise Olatoke (Kilbarchan), who also has the standard could spoil his plans in the 200m.

The U20 women’s hammer makes a great start to the weekend’s action - the top 7 ranked athletes are entered and three already hold the European required distance. Early on the first day also sees the long journey to the U20 women’s 100m final: Amy Hunt (Charnwood AC, Joe McDonnell) already has the required time for the European team and just needs the win, as does Immanuela Aliu (Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC, Boggie Johnson), and Cassie Ann Pemberton (Birchfield Harriers, Sharon Morris) who is ranked 3rd in the UK could have a great series of heats and semis and gain a standard and win. Amy and Immanuela  also have the 200m standard, along with Georgina Adam (Loughborough Students AC, Jonas Doodo) and it's likely these heats and finals will be one of the highlights of the weekend with so many strong athletes entered.

Sunday's highlight might well be the U20 women's long jump; English and Scottish indoor champion Lucy Hadaway (City of York AC  Matt Marton), England pentathlon and heptathlon champion Holly Mills (Andover AC, Laura Turner-Alleyne) and BUCS champion Josie Oliarnyk (Halesowen ACC, Dominic McNeillis) will all by vying for the title and the automatic team place, having already secured the standard. But the U23 men's pole vault should also be one to keep an eye on in the later stages with Adam Hague (City of Sheffield and Dearne AC, Trevor Fox), Joel Leon Benitez (Notts AC/Virginia Tech, Robert Phillips and Charlie Myers (Middlesbrough AC (Mandale), Chris Boundy) entered.

The closest head to head is likely to come in the U23 men’s 100m throughout Saturday, with both indoor 60m champion Dominic Ashwell (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, Marvin Rowe) and BUCS outdoor champion Oliver Bromby (Southampton AC, Marvin Rowe) already having attained the standard for the Europeans and PBs just two hundredths of a second apart. Both women’s 400m races are also likely to see close finals; number 1 ranked Amber Anning (Brighton & Hove AC, Lloyd Cowan) has already run well under the standard of 53.90 a number of times this year done standard, but just behind her in the rankings is Ella Turner (Oxford City AC, Marcia Mariot) who has only run competitively indoors so far this year but is close to the standard time. The U23 race at the end of day 1 is likely to be very interesting with Lily Beckford (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, Linford Christie) already faster than Sweden requires, defending champion Hannah Williams (Herts Phoenix AC, Glyn Hawkes) who has previously run faster than the required 52.90 a number of times, and BUCS champion Yasmin Liverpool (Coventry Godiva Harriers, Stewart Marshall).

In the field, the U20 men's long jump will feature the closely matched Dominic Ogbechie (Highgate Harriers, Marius Guei/John Herbert) and Alessandro Schenini (Giffnock North AAC, David Watson/Ryan McAllister) who both already have the standard required.  Dominic also goes in the high jump where he has also cleared the requires height of 2.15m. Last year's U20 champion in the triple jump Jude Bright-Davies (Thames Valley Harriers, David Johnson) takes on number 1 ranked Ade Mason (Shaftesbury Barnet, Harriers Alfredo Melo) who has already jumped beyond the necessary 16.15m mark. George Armstrong (Newham & Essex Beagles AC, Zane Duquemin) and George Evans (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, Andy Kokhanovsky) also go head to head in the discus, both having passed the 59m standard already, and Jake Norris (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow AC Paul Dickenson) should win the U23 men's hammer but can he pull out another 60cm for the standard distance needed?

The U20 men’s 400m hurdles is likely to be a great one to watch with the top four ranked athletes likely to feature, and hopefully including Alastair Chalmers (Guernsey AC, James Hillier) and Seamus Derbyshire (City of Stoke AC, Nick Dakin) who both easily beat the qualifying time in Geneva just a few days ago, Alistair making his time a new Age Group Best. Josh Faulds (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, James Wright) is also in the running for a medal and needs just half a second to get the qualifying 52 seconds, and Karl Johnson (Newham & Essex Beagles AC, Tony Jarrett) clocked 51.69 last year at the English Schools’. The women’s equivalent should also result in a battle for the finishing line with four athletes entered already just needing the win.

Both U20 two lap races should produce cracking finals; already with the standard are Isabelle Boffey (Enfield and Haringey AC, Luke Gunn), Keely Hodgkinson (Leigh Harriers & AC, Margaret/Joe Galvin), and Katy-Ann McDonald (Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC, Phil Kissi/ Adijat Mumunie). While the men’s final is likely to contain five hopefuls for a win for qualification, including defending champion Alex Botterill (City of York AC, Andrew Henderson) and Max Burgin (Halifax Harriers & AC, Ian Burgin) who won the u17 title last year and holds the fastest all time u17 time at 800m.). Ellie Baker (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, Jon Bigg) and Jemma Reekie (Kilbarchan AAC, Andy Young) should provide a good head to head in the U23 women's 800m - a straight final with them already having the standard under their belt.

And the weekend will finish with a bang too. Following the 800m races, the U23 men’s 400m also has lots of strong athletes entered to provide a Sunday afternoon battle for the medals and plane ticket. In the final, defending champion Ben Claridge (Abingdon AC, James Hillier) is likely to meet rank 1 Cameron Chalmers (Guernsey AC, James Hillier) who already holds the prerequisite time, and 3rd and 4th UK ranked Lee Thompson (City of Sheffield and Dearne AC, John Henson) and Alex Haydock-Wilson (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow AC, Michael Baker). There's also a strong field in the U20 women's 100m hurdles with Holly Mills holding a hat trick of standards (100mH, long jump and heptathlon) but most of the top 10 ranked hurdles athletes entered. The U23 event will see the 2018 England U20 champion Anastasia Davies (Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC, John Blackie  take on 2018 British Champion Alicia Barrett (Chesterfield & District AC, Toni Minichello) who is just two hundredths short of the standard. The final race series of the weekend is the 110m hurdles: Late entry Tade Ojora (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow, Caryl Smith-Gilbert), plus Cameron Fillery (Woodford Green AC with Essex Ladies, Mike Baker), and James Weaver (Enfield and Haringey AC, Laura Turner-Alleyne) already have the standard and the heats and semis could increase that number. the U20s see Tre Thomas (Charnwood AC, Eli Binks) and Joshua Zeller (Bracknell AC, Adrian Brown) likely to be head to head in their final.

In the field – watching Harry Hughes through the javelin rounds out will be worth waiting for as will the men’s long jump, featuring 8m+ jumper Jacob Fincham-Dukes (Leeds AC, Matt Barton) with both Reynold Banigo (Sale Harriers Manchester, Lukasz Zawila) and Samuel Khogali (Woodford Green AC with Essex Ladies, Femi Akinsanya) just a few centimetres short of the qualifying distance. The women’s javelin round off the weekend with defending champion Emma Hamplett (Birchfield Harriers, Mike McNeil), last years’ U20 champion Bethan Rees (Cannock & Stafford AC, Mark Pinner) and BUCS champion Bekah Walton (Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC, David Turner) all striving for the elusive 56m mark.

Tickets can be bought on the door: Adults 1 day £5 /weekend £8, Concessions 1 day £3 /weekend £5. If you can't make it to Bedford, there will be live streaming on BBC Sport online and we will also be providing social media live coverage.

Photo by Mark Shearman