Day 2 - England Athletics U20, U17 & U15 Championships

It’s early days in the track season, but one thing is for certain – judging by the performances from day two of the first national age-group championships of 2023 it’s going to be a scorching hot summer!

As the stadium commentator urged when the athletes flew off the final bend or off the last hurdle, ‘it’s time to get ready to roll’. And while the day consisted of superb performance after performance there’s no doubting the absolute winner in the department.

Few ‘rolled’ quite so spectacularly as the new British record holder in the U17 women’s 60m hurdles, Thea Brown (Joanne Harding, Sale Harriers Manchester) who powered away to 8.39, 0.02sec faster than the previous mark. Unsurprisingly, and very rarely in such a short race, there was clear daylight between her and her rivals. “I didn’t expect to run that,” Thea said amazed at her performance. Her previous best had been 8.56 although she did concede she “expected to run a bit quicker as I had been training hard this winter.” Her ambitions now include a team place at the next Commonwealth Games and certainly on this record-breaking form that’s a dream that’s very possible.

On a different day, Daniel Goriola (John Gates, Bexley) would be a contender for that top performance badge thanks to his sixth fastest time ever in the U20 men’s 60 hurdles, 7.72. The headline run on all, but this particular Sunday.

Sam Wright competes in the U17 men's long jump in Sheffield

It brought a superb day to a fitting conclusion. Eight hours earlier, spectators had barely settled into their seats when the U17 men’s long jump got under way. It may have been early on a Sunday morning, but that didn’t seem to bother the field as the competition sparked into life in the very first round.

The UK’s No.1 this season D’mitri Varlack (David Millett, Marshal Milton Keynes) got things going with 6.77, taking off a country mile behind the board, before No.2 on the rankings this year, Sam Wright (Simon Hemmings, Chelmsford) lay down the gauntlet with 6.87 a couple of jumps later. He then followed that with 6.97 compared to D’mitri’s 6.82– game on! A 6.95 from D’mitri temporarily closed the gap to just 2cm before Sam flew out to a huge 7.17, for what turned out to be the winning jump. Round five did see D’mitri edge closer with a fine 7.13, and a final round effort of 7.10, but it was Sam’s day. What a competition and what a great start to Sunday!

Meanwhile taking centre stage, the shot put was underway. A massive early season throw in Loughborough in excess of 17 metres and the best part of four metres further than anyone else this season suggested Lawson Capes (Lewis Capes, Peterborough and Nene Valley) would win the U15 boys’ shot with his very first throw. But of course, this is a stress filled national championships and not a relaxed opening meeting and for two rounds it looked as if an upset might be on the cards. His first-round throw looked to be way beyond 16 metres, but he failed to keep it in the sector and an equally shaky second round foul applied some pressure for the third-round throw, where a calmer Lawson finally got things under control as he threw 15.57. The gold all but won, it was now more a case of how far the Peterborough athlete could throw – 15.81 in the fifth round, although another massive foul hinted at much more to come

Lawson Capes competes in the boy's U15 shot put in Sheffield

“I wanted to get that big PB and yes I was a bit nervous,” said Lawson explaining his erratic start. “Yes, he was a bit down,” said coach and dad Lewis. “The trouble was he was so far in front of the pack, he didn’t have the competition whereas he did in Loughborough.”

The middle-distance races are always about choosing between sit and kick and front running. Both tactics can prove successful and indeed, the U15 girls’ 800 featured both used to perfection. After a 62-second opening 400, Caitlin McCloy (Richard Harris, Rotherham) was passed but she was having none of it and surged back to the front with a lap to go. Still, nobody could call it with 150m to run but Caitlin hung on for a very good 2:08.79 win.

The U17 boys’ final featured Tom Waterworth (Derek Darnell, Huntingdonshire) who finished fast to win in 1:57.27.

Caitlin McCloy competes in the U17 women's 800m in Sheffield

The action continued thick and fast. Charlie Platt (John Wakeman, Blackheath and Bromley) had an attempt at the championship best performance of 4.07 in the U15 boy’s pole vault after winning the title with 3.80, and in the U20 men’s competition Will Lane (Trevor Fox, Sheffield and Dearne) cleared a PB of 4.86 before bowing at 5.00.

A clear win for Will, but the U20 men’s high jump was a much more tight-fought affair, won by Morgan Williams (Mike Stayman, Leeds City) thanks to his first-time clearance at 2.05. Luke Ball (Jeremey Dale, Yate and District) and Kimani Jack (Julian Reed, Birmingham Uni) were also over that height but lost out on countback.

Back on the track, there were no surprises in the U15 girls’ 300 as one of the fastest ever indoors, Shiloh Omotosho (Sarah Robinson, Basildon) powered away from the chasing pack off the final bend to win comfortably in 40.35. That would have been the fifth fastest ever had she not run quicker herself (40.31).

Kara Dacosta (Blackburn) won the U17 girls’ 300 in 39.35, also a top 10 all-time performance, but it wasn’t a foregone conclusion as Sofia Barrett (James Wright, Rugby and Northampton) ran her close all the way to the line, clocking 39.68 for the silver medal.

Kara DaCosta (424) wins the U17 women's 300m in Sheffield

This championship often includes a double victory and that honour fell to Hans Namju (Central Park). Earlier in the day in U15 boys’ long jump Hans produced a huge PB of 6.24 – 29cm further than anyone else – in the final round to take that title. Later he then lined up in the U15 boys’ 60 hurdles final and won that title as well, clocking a very respectable 8.54. One day, two gold medals. Fabulous. “I didn’t realise I opened and then closed the meeting,” Hans laughed. As a first year in this age group he has another year so he’s looking forward to that, but in the short term “I’m looking to try the same events in the summer,” he said.

The final part of the programme is all about the long sprints and as ever, the racing was intense and exciting. Success Eduan (Sophie Richardson, Sale Harriers Manchester) led the way, looking powerful and in control and even though this was her first competition of the season she had enough in the tank to hold off all her challengers to win the U20 women’s 200 in a sparkling 23.54, the fastest in the UK this season.

U17 women's 200m race in Sheffield

“I’m tired after that,” Success laughed. She confirmed she hadn’t raced at all this indoor year, so she was keen to see how the winter was progressing. Good would be the conclusion on this form!

Also, clearly in great shape is Callia Downing (Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai, BFT Track Academy) who ran a controlled race to take the U17 girls’ 200, never seriously challenged on her way to 24.16.

And finally, in the U20 men’s and U20 women’s 400, it was finding that perfect rhythm. Ashley Nemits (Trevor Painter Wigan and District) did precisely that to win in 54.16, a huge PB (her first time inside 55sec!) and the best way possible to start her 2023 season.

The men’s race was very different as Onyeka Okoh (Julie Benterman, Chelmsford) slipped into second as the field passed the bell and then eased to the pole position with just 30 metres to run to win with 48.15.

Thanks to the officials, volunteers and everybody involved in making this championship so memorable.