England Athletics Senior and Para Open Championships Report – Day 2

Day two was all about applying the finishing touches whether that was for the domestic season as a whole or for anyone advancing from the qualifying rounds of day one. And as ever, at an event of this stature, it was all very much about the head-to-head competition rather than chasing times or performances. And that in turn created a day of exciting competition which included a touch of drama here and there, all the way to the final act – the men’s shot.

The first two events followed that dramatic script precisely, impossible to call even with 20 metres to run. In the first final of the day, the women’s 400 hurdles it was all down to great last hurdle from Hayley McLean (Chris Zah, Shaftesbury Barnet) after nine not-so-smooth clearances. It won her the gold medal in 56.38 in what she describes as a scrappy race. She said she was too close to the hurdles on the back straight thanks to the strong following breeze and then too far away for the final two.

“It might have been exciting for people watching, but it was a bit close,”

she laughed, describing how she just put her head down and sprinted as hard as she could for the final 20 metres.

And the men’s 400 hurdles was even closer as three reached the final hurdle at the same time. It was Jacob Paul (Marina Armstrong, Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) who won, the stadium clock stopping at 50.03. “I thought if only it was 0.04 faster,” said Paul, celebrating what was his ninth title at this Championships as the result was confirmed at a far faster time of 49.99. “That makes all the difference,” he said, relieved to have rediscovered his form after a season blighted by injury.

“For me this stadium is great, and the wind was perfect down the back straight and I could run 13s for those hurdles.”

The drama continued in the one-lap races and the women’s 400m promised something special - given it included the recent European U23 champion Yemi Mary John (Alan James, Woodford Green with Essex Ladies). She ran a great race, looking in fully in control as she crossed the line in 51.55.

“I was hoping for a bit more,” said Yemi, now aiming towards the Worlds in Budapest next month. “That’s my focus for the rest of the season,”

she continued, adding that she was a little tired after travelling back from Finland and those U23 Champs just last week.

The dust had barely settled before the men took to the track for a burn-up that saw Dan Putnam (Blackheath and Bromley) run a superb back straight to ease into the lead going around the top bend. He held on for a fine 46.41 victory to improve on his bronze from last year.

“I knew I had to put myself in a good position coming off the bend because of the wind. So, I made my move on the back straight and from then on it was a case of seeing it out,”

said Dan, excited to have finally won his first-ever national title at the age of 31.

“This ranks right up there,” he said, rightly proud to be England champion.

Khahisa Mhlanga (Herts Phoenix) will agree as she headed up an impressively deep 1500m field. She front-ran her way to 4:12.84, for the gold medal and a two-second PB in less than ideal conditions.

The ambulant 1500s also produced some solid performances. Erin Barry (Keswick, T20) 5:25.07 simply ran away from the field for her win.

“I’m very happy with that,” said Erin after she had been awarded her much-deserved gold medal.

In the men’s race it was all about the final 60 metres as Brandon Ballard (Denise Korkmaz, Hunts, T20) eased into the gold medal position to win in a PB of 4:08.66.

In the field, the women’s hammer is always one of the best events at this Championships and so it proved once again. The opening two rounds saw four over 60 metres, with two hitting PBs but it was Katie Head (Paul Head, Newham and Essex Beagles) who emerged the winner with 67.04 in the fifth round.

“That was my third comp in 11 days,” said a happy Katie, pleased to be on top the podium again, this her first senior title after a successful age group career. “I was a bit disappointed with the distance, but I always want more,” she said.

The nagging headwind did ease slightly as the day progressed, good news for the 200 metre races. Luke Dorrell (AFD) won the men’s in 21.09 into a gentle 0.3m/s breeze, while earlier Louise Evans (Linford Christie, Blackheath and Bromley) won the women’s gold medal with 23.82 into a similar wind reading.

Finally, concluding a great day of competition Youcef Zatat (Scott Rider, Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) threw just 18.73, 5cm below his best in the second round of the shot to secure the gold medal. But that was just the start. The fifth round saw him fire the ball out to 19.04, more than two metres in front of his closest competitor. And more significantly, it moved him to 14th on the UK All-time list. A magnificent ending to a great weekend.

“I thought it was going to be one of those frustratingly consistent days,” said Yucef, explaining that he throws right around 18.70 almost every time out. “Now I’ve got that barrier behind me [beating 19m], hopefully that might mean there’s more to come as the pressure is off. Plus, I’m really please as I’ve been working with Scott Rider and I’ve beaten his PB and it was also a club record. I’m happy!”

*Thanks to the officials who helped make the two days go so smoothly, which given the wind and rain can be described as ‘testing’ conditions.

Full results

Report by Paul Larkins

Photo by Paul Halford