England Athletics Senior and Para Open Championships Report - Day 1

The next generation of athletes keen to continue their journey to the top were in Chelmsford to compete for the national titles on offer and put the finishing touches to their seasons.

This is an event all about head-to-head competition and getting it right on the day and it was great to see just that all day long. From the very first event early in the morning - the hammer - to the 100m in the afternoon it would take a performance of the highest order to secure gold.

That was perfectly demonstrated in that opener - the men’s hammer. Spectators were still queuing for an early morning coffee when Jake Norris (Paul Dickenson, Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) opened his account with a monster 73.93m, a throw which won the former World Junior champion the gold medal. It also demonstrated the great form he’s in this year. Two weeks ago he threw a PB of 74.75m and has followed that up with four throws beyond his previous best, which had remained unbroken for almost five years.

“I was pleased with the competition,” he laughed, “but after throwing that far in the opening round I thought I might go a bit further.”

It’s been a great season so far and now he’s looking to a National League before heading to Finland and a throws meeting.

Kristian Brown javelin at Senior champs

In the men’s javelin Kristian Brown (Greg Richards, Chelmsford) was also in top form, his 68.83m winning throw a massive four metre PB.

“I’ve done a lot of specialist plyometric work and there’s more to come,”

said a more than happy decathlete turned javelin thrower as he moved from No.17 this season to into the top 10 to go with that gold medal.

By the time the men and women set their blocks for the 100m, the weather had turned distinctly wet. But that didn’t dampen the intensity in any way as first up Darcey Kuypers (Linford Christie, Blackheath and Bromley Harriers) who clocked 11.88 to win the women’s 100.

“That was my first ever title,” said an excited Darcey afterwards. “I told myself I was going to win beforehand so I suppose that shows positive thinking works,”

she joked, adding that yes, the weather was indeed pretty tricky for her race.

Men 100m at Senior champs

“Agreed,” said men’s 100 winner Nicholas Walsh (Sale Harriers). He won in a respectable 10.49 and reported “those were definitely not perfect conditions.” That said, he had everything under control and despite the rain and headwind, the result didn’t look in doubt from 60 metres onwards.

“My back end of the race is always strong, so I was confident,” he said.

Understandably the wind played a role in the longer track events in particular. For instance, forget the first five laps in the men’s 5000m as the field dawdled along early on. It was all about the final 3000m, covered in 8:10 with a comfortable sub 60-second final circuit for eventual winner and England champion Alfie Manthorpe (John Wood, Sheffield and Dearne). He won in a moderate looking 14:20.44, but what was a good time given that early pace and by this point in the afternoon, foul weather.

Men 5000m at Senior champs

The men’s 3000m steeplechase was a little more honest in terms of the pace early on, but with three laps to go the field had whittled down to just two. In the end, it was US-based Lewis Mills (David Liston, Blackheath and Bromley) who eased away in the final 350 metres to win in 9:07.97.

Amelia Strickler (Zane Duquemin, Thamas Valley Harriers) won the women’s shot with 16.89m but admitted there’s work to do.

“I’ve made some technical changes this season and I’m struggling with the ‘feeling’,” she explained. “I need to smooth things out and knuckle down to some work,”

she said, adding she’s looking forward to throwing in Leverkusen, Germany next.

Amelia Strickler shot put at Senior champs

Needless to say given the wet conditions, athletes in the technical events did struggle to find a consistent rhythm so credit to Jude Bright-Davies (David Johnson, TVH) who produced a monster 16.50w in the final round of the triple jump. That is far in excess of his legal best of 16.28 but sometimes a 5.3m/s following wind can be tricky to control especially as it varied from a legal 2m/s or less to much more.

Indeed, in her first season as a parathlete Didi Okoh (Jade Surman, Chelmsford) said just that as she took the women’s long jump with 4.34m despite the testing conditions. She too ‘enjoyed’ a blustery tailwind which proved both a help and hindrance for athletes all day long making it hard to judge run-ups.

“It was half good,” laughed Didi, but I think I’m good at adjusting for things like that.”

In what she describes as a trial and error season the gold and national title was undoubtedly the highlight. “That’s what I was aiming for,” she said.

Amy Thompson (Dave Brown, Liverpool Pembroke Sefton) had precisely the same goal – to win a national title. And she threw a PB of 7.98 in the women’s ambulant shot to do just that.

“I felt good for this competition, and my training showed I was ready for it.”

Despite the cool conditions, we may all still be pondering where to set up our deckchairs on the beach for the summer holidays, but Amy says she is already giving the winter some thought and a season in the weight room to further improve her strength.

Other highlights in the ambulant events included a 14.02 in the 100 for Hetty Bartlett (Dennis Costello, City of Norwich T28) and a smooth looking 17.26 in the wheelchair 100 from Hilmy Shawwal (Jenny Archer, Weir Archer Academy).

Wheelchair 400m at England Para champs

Full results

Report by Paul Larkins

Photos by Mark Easton