England Athletics U17 and U15 and Para Championships: day 1 report

Two Championships best performances headline an exciting day

Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games stadium played host to these championships – a fabulous venue on what turned out to be a really competitive day. It’s always fascinating to watch new talent emerge at these championships but better, it’s hugely encouraging to see such amazing depth. Great performances alone didn’t win the gold medal, but outstanding ones did. It was that kind of day.

The U15 girls’ 3000m perfectly demonstrated that as Olivia Forrest (Paul Forrest, Brentwood Beagles) ran the opening 200m in 33 seconds on her way to 9:32.47. Behind her, Ireland’s Emer McKee the world record holder for the aged 12 Parkrun (16:44) matched her stride for stride but had to settle for 9:35.73 as Olivia eased away in the final 100 metres. It was a championships best performance, the third fastest time ever and just about the most thrilling gun-to-tape race you’ll see given the incredibly swift opening furlong.

Barely had the crowd settled down from that thrilling race, before Farrell Fabusiwa (Paul Weston, Croydon) blasted out of his blocks in the U15 boys’ 300. He flew to a CBP of 35.36, wiping Budapest 800m finalist Ben Pattison’s name from the record books.

The 100 metre finals produced a series of exciting races, all in different ways. The U17 women’s final getting things under way. Mabel Akande (Denise Timmis, Lincs Wellington) looked magnificent in the heats but with reigning champion Nell Desir (Lisa Wadden, Cardiff Archers) in the field nothing could be taken for granted. It was Mabel who won on this occasion in 11.77 from Nell’s 11.84. “I hoped I would win, but you never know,” said Mabel, who has only been into athletics for a couple of years now.

In the U15 girls’ 100m final Celine Obinna-Alo (Andrew Abbot, Sunderland) took the title with the fastest time in the country this year of 12.07. And then, the boys race saw Victor Redman (Patricia Hanys, Folkestone) power to the gold medal with 11.14 following on from his PB of 11.12 in qualifying.

And finally, for the sprints the U17 men’s race was won by Ebuka Nwokeji (Ty Holden, Shaftesbury Barnet) who ran a fabulous second 50 metres on his way to 10.54.

In the longer distances, being in the best shape of your life at the right moment is very handy, superbly demonstrated by Katie Gardner (Martyn Gibbons, Derby). She improved by more than four seconds on her way to gold in the U17 women’s 1500SC. She won in 5:02.25 thanks to a strong final 300, never looking like she’d lose the lead. 

Similarly, In the U17 women’s high jump Mabel-Rose Scales (Grant Brown, Hercules Wimbledon) turned a season of second places into gold as she emerged the winner thanks to her 1.70m, a height she cleared at the second time of asking. “I believed in myself, but it’s easier to believe in that more when you win,” she laughed, happy to have ended the season on a high.

The U17 women’s 1500m saw Jessica Lark (Trevor Painter, West Cheshire) seize control of things at the bell. Her 64-second last lap secured her the title with 4:32.82 as she powered away down the back-straight.

Joseph Scanes (Paul Austridge, Blackheath and Bromley) didn’t leave it so late in the U15 boys’ 3000m. Away after three laps, the 23rd fastest of all-time at this distance simply ran away from the field and crossed the line, untroubled in 8:59.61.

Elise Christian (Guildford and Godalming) opened the U15 girls’ javelin with a solid series of 41.57m, 41.61m and then 42.52m in the fourth round to win the national title and more importantly a Leonard the Lion. “Last year I was second and ever since I’ve wanted one,” laughed Elise. “And now I do.” More seriously, she was very pleased with such a consistent series.

Earlier in the discus, it took a few rounds for Gabriella Tcheukam (Paul Weston, Croydon Harriers) to find her form in the U17 girls’ final, but when she did, she was nothing but impressive. It was also a fourth-round throw of 42.14m that secured her the gold medal. “Up till then it was mostly no-throws,” Gabriella said. “But I really went for it in the fourth round and luckily it was ok. I’m really happy to have just made the podium,” she continued. “This is the first time I’ve ever won anything.”

For Para athletes this championship is all about taking their first steps on the ladder to success. Madeline Down, F38 (Dominic McNeillis, Halesowen) got things rolling with 4.43m in the U17 women’s long jump while Bebe Jackson, F44 (Michelle Dawson, Harlow) was the winner in the discus with 23.55m, following that up with a controlled win in the 200m with 30.64. Travis Anderson, T20 (Durham City) looked superb on his way to 24.28 in the 200m. A PB of 12.84 by Elliott Griffiths, T20 (Paul Rudkin, Liverpool Harriers) in the U15 boys ambulant 100m capped a great day.

Photos by Pat Isaacs