With more than 350 athletes entered in the 60 metres alone, there’s no doubting the strength in depth this weekend demonstrates as once again Sheffield played host to an intensely exciting opening day of the England Athletics U20, U17 & U15 Championships.
And as ever, it was the 60m – slowly and surely whittled down to the eight competitors who raced each of the finals – that really stood out. A string of lightning fast heats and UK leading semis set the tone for a Saturday afternoon finale packed with drama and excitement.
In the U20 men’s final, Medwin Odamitten (Gladys Bird, Woodford Green and Essex Ladies) followed up his 6.67 10th fastest ever semi-final with a powerful looking run in the final to win in the same time of 6.67. Understandably, he looked a bit disappointed afterwards – not because he’d won, but rather he just missed the meeting record of 6.66! There was no such disappointment in the women’s U20 race which saw Joy Eze (Gateshead) live up to her favourite’s tag to win in a very swift 7.31, the sixth fastest of all time.
It was breathless stuff and the 20 minutes or so that made up the short sprint finals was intense to say the least. It was all about the start in the U17 men’s 60, which saw pre-event favourite Teddy Wilson (Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai, BFT Track Academy) sit in his blocks slightly. That allowed the fast-starting Nathan Hedges (Dacorum) to head the field going into the final 20 metres but a fabulous final blast from Teddy meant the photo-finish revealed he had done enough to win in 6.86 from Nathan’s 6.87.
It was a more relaxed affair in the U17 women’s final, and Oluwayemisi Akande was never headed, stretching away to win in 7.41, comfortably the quickest in the country this year. Earlier, the first 60m gold of the day was won by Farrell Fabusiwa (Croydon Harriers), who took the U15 boys’ title in 7.08, just 0.01sec shy of his PB.
“I felt I could have run a bit quicker, but I was very happy with the win,” he said.
The field events were no less action-packed. It may have taken a few rounds for the U17 men’s triple jump to really light up but when it did, it was all guns firing for the first two as they battled for the gold medal. Emmanuel Nwachokor (Keith Fleming, Basildon) finally secured the No.1 berth with his final jump of 13.86, the UK’s longest of the year. Up to then, his opening effort of 13.38 put him in the lead, but it was never going to hold up for the gold when rival Daniel Ayodele (Keith Fleming, Marshal Milton Keynes), the UK No.1 in the event was in the field. Eventually Daniel found his rhythm and closed the gap, but on this occasion, he had to settle with silver (13.70) in what was a fascinating contest.
“It could have gone either way,” said the coach to both of them, Keith Fleming. “They’re both in tremendous shape and obviously we’re all really pleased with the way it went. Next on the agenda is the outdoor season where both of them are eyeing a 14.50 jump.”
No less exciting was the U15 girls’ high jump which had a touch of Spaghetti Junction about it. Like the infamous Birmingham road system that sees cars coming from every direction, so credit to Kitty Laurence (Worksop) who had to deal with her own run up and a seemingly endless string of 60 metre heats crossing her path every couple of minutes. Calmly, she went about her business and cleared three PBs ending up with 1.60 clearance on her way to the gold medal.
Phoebe Scott (Lewes) and Grace Jones (Trevor Fox, Sheffield Dearne) tied for the gold medal in the U15 girls’ pole vault, nothing separating them all the way to their final round, first time clearance of 2.65, good for No.2 on this year’s ranking lists. Charley O’Neill (Adam Lyons, Birchfield) equalled the best clearance in the country in 2023 to win the U20 women’s title with 3.70.
Meanwhile, in the U17 women’s long jump Thea Brown (Joanne Harding, Sale) sealed the deal with her very first jump, a PB and UK leading mark of 5.94. Then, in the U15 girls’ event, it took the UK’s No.1 season Olivia Scrimshaw (Tania Williams, Deeside) until the fifth round to take the lead with 5.38. She followed that with a 5.59 jump to win the gold.
The two distance finals came in the form of the U20 women’s and the U15 girls’ 800s. Both were superb races. First up, in the U20s race Iris Downes (Colin Lancaster, Shrewsbury) hit the front from the gun and pulled the field through 400 in 63.8 and 600 in 96.7. She still had a stride lead with just three metres to run, but a late lunge from Indienne King (Trevor Painter, Wigan) saw her take the title in 2:10.07 to 2:10.16. Close.
And then to cap a great day on the track, Layla Roden (Richard Harris, Rotherham Harriers) employed similar tactics, leading through two laps in 65.1. However, the gold medal was more secure in this instance as she pulled away for a clear win in 2:14.53.
Day one concluded with two shot competitions, combined - the U15 girls’ title and the U17 women. Jessica Lamprell (Ipswich) was the leader for the whole competition in the U15s taking the title thanks to her fifth-round effort of 11.96. Meanwhile, in the U17 girls’ competition long-time leader, Ellie Bostock (Dacorum) took the title with a 12.91 fourth round throw.
*Ireland’s Connor Penney won the U15 boys’ high jump in a championship best performance, scaling 1.96 at the third time of asking, calling it as day at two metres. It was also a national record for the Craughwell athlete.
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- Written by Paul Larkins
- Images by Mark Shearman