Combined-eventers will be chasing medals and qualification standards at the first England Athletics championships in more than a year this weekend.
The England Athletics Senior and Under-20 Combined Events Championships in Bedford will have in the line-up three of Britain’s top six-ranked heptathletes from 2019, including Holly Mills (Laura Turner-Alleyne; Harrow). Meanwhile, Commonwealth fourth-placer John Lane heads the decathlon field.
Holly Mills will be looking to step up from her England Athletics junior gold two years ago, which was the last full season due to the pandemic. She has already proved her form with a personal best and Commonwealths qualifier of 6180 last month and will be hoping to secure her 17th England title. You can also hear more from Holly, and her coach Laura Turner-Alleyne, in the latest episode of the England Athletics podcast - click here to listen online.
The former Commonwealth and European youth long jump champion will face some tough opposition. With a PB of 6029, Katie Stainton was Britain’s No.2 heptathlete two years ago behind Katarina Johnson-Thompson. The David Feeney-coached Birchfield Harrier will be among the heptathletes seeking the Birmingham 2022 standard of 5850, which could see her on the way to her second Commonwealth Games.
Ellen Barber (Yeovil; David Feeney) is within grasp of that, too, with a PB of 5699 and she will be hoping to improve on silver in these championships two years ago. Jade O’Dowda (Newham & Essex Beagles; Toni Minichiello), who was seventh at the World Juniors in 2018, has a best of 5660. She too could have her eye on the 5850, which for her would also represent a qualifier for the European Under-23 Championships in Tallinn in July. Other leading contenders are under-23 Jodie Smith (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow; Laura Turner-Alleyne) and Lucy Turner (Gateshead; Sam Stanislaus).
John Lane (Sheffield & Dearne; Toni Minichiello), defending champion in the senior decathlon, has placed fourth and sixth respectively at the last two Commonwealth Games and a score of 7750 or more this weekend would put him in the reckoning for a third successive appearance. He scored a wind-assisted 7786 when winning the England title here two years ago. Lewis Church was third on that occasion and the David Hull-coached athlete from Tonbridge AC is back to challenge and try to improve on his best of 7513.
Another in contention is Elliot Thompson (Enfield & Haringey; Greg Richards), who won at the last Home Countries International. Harry Maslen (Gateshead; Sam Stanislaus) comes to the start line with a PB of 7496, having previously won England silver at junior level.
Under 20 Heptathlon
The junior women’s heptathlon sees the top four from the England Athletics Under-17 Championships two years ago move up an age group. Abigail Pawlett (Stockport T&F; Joe Frost) on that occasion scored 5324 to go behind only Morgan Lake on the UK age-group all-time list. In her first senior heptathlon, she will be seeking her 12th England title with an eye on qualifying standards for the two junior international age-group championships this summer. The standards she would need are 5400 for the European U20 Championships in Tallinn and 5500 for the World U20 Championships in Nairobi.
Ella Rush (Amber Valley; Michael Baker), who was second to Pawlett in those championships two years ago, is another promising talent. She won the England under-17 indoor title last year. Katie Burr (Victoria Park City of Glasgow; Joe Frost) and Emily Misantoni (Stockport T&F; Jessica Taylor-Jemmett) are also stepping up, having placed third and fourth at those championships. Rebekah O’Brien (Tonbridge), who won English Schools silver in 2019, is another contender.
Under 20 Decathlon
In the junior men’s decathlon, Adam Hoole (East Lothian) is hoping to move up successfully after winning the England under-17 title two years ago. Callum Newby (Edinburgh), who was second at the England junior indoor heptathlon last year, is another Scot making the long journey south. Sam Coupland (Southport Waterloo; Graham Pilkington), who won England under-17 decathlon bronze in 2019, and Troy McConville (North Down) should also be vying for medals. The standards they would be looking for as regards international honours are 7400 for the Worlds and 7250 for the Europeans.
Due to Covid measures, no spectators are being admitted. Stay tuned to our Twitter channel for regular updates throughout the weekend.