While Day One may have been seen as a tough act to follow, the second day of the England Athletics U23 & U20 certainly did that. Highlights included a new British Junior record and many athletes booked places to head to European Championship locations as athlete after athlete secured European U20 or U23 qualifying performances.
Soaring high above everyone else on the day was Alicia Barrett (Chesterfield, Tony Minichiello) who clocked a UK junior record for the 100 hurdles not once, but twice as she eased to 13.07 for a heat and final win.
The defending champion was understandably happy enough, although by her own admission she needs to work on her start, which is “still not good”. And she caught the first hurdle. “After that I just kept thinking ‘trail leg, trail leg’.” Such was the dominance of her win, speculation immediately turned to a sub 13sec clocking, something coach Minichiello was quick to put in its place. “It’s a different race with people around you,” he rightly warned keen spectators already dreaming of such a run.
Of course, we may not have to wait too long as Barrett is clearly in spectacular form as are the Chalmers brothers.
Getting things under way for the family and the event was Alastair Chalmers (Guernsey, Dale Garland) who understandably declared himself more than happy with his winning 52.06 in the 400H. He looked superbly strong off the final hurdle and another day will surely eclipse the 52.00 required. “Not a problem,” he smiled. He will now be running in the Island Games in Gotland, just off the coast of Sweden in an attempt to get get that sub 52.00 standard. Watch this space as they say.
His brother Cameron (Guernsey, James Hillier) started as the favourite in the U23 400m and confirmed that status with a hugely impressive looking 45.64 to win by more than a second. “It’s really good,” he said. “The weather was nice today and I’ve been running really well. I’ve just been chipping away at my personal bests and I’m just trying to gear up to the European U23s. You need to be running low-45s to be in with a shout of winning that. That’s what I’m aiming for and building up to. It’s going to plan so far.”
The U23 400H produced one of the best races of the day as defending champion Jack Lawrie (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies, Roy Buchanan) found himself drawn in the lane outside of Jacob Paul (Windsor Slough and Eton, Marina Armstrong), who has been in sparkling form in recent weeks. Experts predicted a Paul victory on the basis he has cracked 50sec this summer and so it proved but he had to work for it as Murray, like Paul, cracked the Euro Junior qualifying mark.
“Having Jack on the lane outside me, I know he goes off quick so, obviously as much as you’ve got to run your own race, I kept one eye on him and one on my hurdles. I knew if I kicked the bend and finished strong like I usually do I had the confidence I could take that. Today was about getting top two and qualifying for the Euro U23s.” said Paul.
Despite adding a second national title to his collection, George Evans (Shaftesbury Barnet, Colin McCulloch) was less than satisfied with his 55.26 win in the U20 discus (he won the shot on day one). “I’m not sure what happened out there today; I’ll have to go away and analyse it,” he said. His winning throw was well below his best performance and training, in his own words, has been going really well. “I was over 60 metres in Portugal (with the 1.75kg implement) and strength work has been great,” he said. “But I guess it was just one of those days; after all, you can’t throw big every day.”
The U20 men’s 1500m was a real championships affair as the field dawdled through 400m in a touch over 70sec and barely accelerated on the next lap, passing 800m in a decidedly sedate 2:18.6. That was exactly the kind of race eventual winner Jake Heyward (Cardiff, Paul Darney) loves. The winner last year, he seized the initiative in the final 600m and never looked in trouble to win in 3:57.97. “Fast times are all well and good,” he said, “but the thing that really fires me up is championship racing. I went into it really confident with my ability - you have to be - and I had great belief in my kick.”
Middle distance races tend to be all about sit and kick on days like this and so it proved in the U23s. Robbie Fitzgibbon (Brighton Phoenix, Jon Bigg) pulled the field along at a moderate clip (62, 2:06) but for once the 3:36.97 man could do nothing when Neil Gourley (Giffock North, Ben Thomas) and James West (Tonbridge, George Gandy) sprinted past him in the final straight. “My plan was to be on the leader’s shoulder with 100m to go and for once those plans worked,” he said. Next on the agenda could be an 800m at Watford next weekend.
Conditions were particularly favourable for technical events like the high jump, the men’s U20 producing a great competition. Tom Gale (Team Bath, Dennis Doyle) cleared 2.18 and had to make sure of the title as Joel Khan (Worcester, Deirdre Elmhirst) was right behind him with a Euro qualifier of 2.16.
Before the heat of the day really took hold (it was merely 27 degrees rather than 31!) Cameron Corbishley (Medway and Maidstone, Andi Drake) got things under way with a comfortable victory in the 10km walk, his 41:37.44 good for third best on the UK all-time list.
Jemma Reekie (Kilbarchan, Andy Young) was equally dominant in the U20 women’s 3000m as she flew to a 10sec lead in the opening 3:05 kilometre and stayed away to add that gold to the 1500m she won on day one, her 9:37.22 not too bad in such hot conditions.
Other performances of note include Divine Oladipo (Blackheath and Bromley, John Hillier) throwing 50.50 in the U20 discus for a victory close to 5 metres ahead of the opposition, Lucy Bryan (Bristol and West, Alan Richardson) in the U23 pole vault (4.20) and Hannah Williams (Herts Phoenix, Colin Gaynor) who won the U20 400 in 53.66.