In what is fast becoming one of the premier events on the summer calendar, England’s best athletes put the finishing touches to their 2019 season in some style. All that remains are the trials for the Doha World Champs in a little over a week.
The Manchester International sees the winners of the England Champs go head to head with select teams from as far afield as Botswana and Canada created with performance in mind. It’s all about competing at the very top level in international standard fields.
Perfectly illustrating this was the women’s hammer. Jessica Mayho (Eng/Birchfield) proved she’s finding form at the right moment and was understandably more than pleased with her huge throw of 66.44 (not to mention the other two massive efforts in her series), more than a metre better than her previous personal best. That was in similarly damp conditions at SportCity a couple of weeks ago so clearly she loves the venue and all that it provides in terms of circle speed (and not the weather). It was also the ninth best of all time, although she had already occupied that slot with her 65.18. “What a day! Three PBs, you can’t ask more than that. I’ve now just got to get my head down and get ready for the trials,” Jessica said.
Osian Jones (League/Liverpool) wasn’t far short of his best to win the men’s hammer with 73.09 to conclude what was a fabulous mixed event that highlighted the incredible strength in depth the event is currently enjoying.
As this was an meeting that was all about applying finishing touches to a season of preparation for the big champs still to come, a CBP of 11:44.64 in the men’s 3000m walk by Cameron Corbishley (AllStars/Medway and Maidstone, Andi Drake) was all he could ask as he’s getting ready for the 50km in Doha. In shape? Most definitely! Pleased? Too right.
There was a nice double in the women’s 100m and 200m from Kimbely Baptiste (Eng, Crawley) who powered to 11.61 and 23.55 into a slight headwind. Unspectacular looking at first glance, but they were her fifth and sixth successive wins on this track having defended her England champs sprint titles last month. “I was really excited to win another double, especially as it was a season’s best,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the 100m and 200m at the trials.” Efekemo Okoro (Eng/Birchfield, Tony Hadley) was in similarly good form in the men’s 400 hurdles, just half a second shy of his personal best despite the testing conditions. The third placer from last year looked like the man to beat as the race unfolded along the back straight and so it proved as he comfortably controlled things over the final two hurdles to win in 50.86, despite describing his race as “messy”.
A season’s best of 52.89 secured the win in the women’s javelin for Laura Whittingham (League/Sale, Tom Dobbing) while in the same competition the men’s gold went to Gavin Johnson (Eng/TVH, Piotr Spa), his fourth round throw touching down at 64.53. “It's really pleasing to find my form at just the right moment,” said Laura. “Considering the weather wasn’t too good, I was really happy to start off so well. This is an important competition for me as I’ve been injured this season.” Ditto for England’s Lee Thompson (Sheffield and Dearne, John Hanson) in the men’s 400m as his victory in 46.41 was also a marginal season’s best. The right form at the right moment and particularly impressive from what can be a lonely run in the outside lane. Lane eight wins are unusual, but inside sprint wins even more so, but tell that to Andrew Morgan-Harrison (Eng/Kingston upon Hull, Alex O’Gorman) who won the men’s 200m from lane one in a PB of 20.97.
This was very much an evening of athletics that was all about winning, kicking hard off an early slow pace. Elinor Kirk (Wales/Swansea, Steve Vernon) did precisely that and showed the field a clean (but distinctly soaked) pair of heels in the final 200m of the women’s 3000m to win in 9:28.30. For the Commonwealth Games marathon runner it was a handy piece of speedwork as she gets ready for the autumn and all that will bring in terms of road racing - her speciality area. “It’s taken a while to get into the season so this race was all about getting shorter races in after the marathon. Next is the 5000m at the trials then maybe I’ll run the Valencia marathon in the autumn,” she said.
2019 marked the first year that para athletes had been included into the line-up, which included Men’s and Women’s Ambulant 100m and Men’s Para 1500m. England 2018 Commonwealth Games champion, Paralympic gold medallist and world record holder, Sophie Hahn (Charnwood, Leon Baptiste) was victorious in the 100m with a strong time of 12.72. The Men’s Para 1500m was won by T20 world record holder and multiple gold medallist, Mikey Brannigan (USA guest athlete) – a strong race that featured four of the top 10 in the world. With athletics in his blood, the race also featured runner Daniel Wolff, great grandson of 1936 Olympic Games 4x400m gold medallist Freddie Wolff.
A name to watch for the future (as well as right now) is Isabelle Boffey (GB U20/Enfield, Luke Gunn) who kicked hard off a 65 opening lap to win the women’s 800m in 2:06.99. A standard, smooth-as-ever run from the European U20 champion of last month. Another sensational junior was Thomas Keen (GB U20, Cambridge & Coleridge, Mark Vile) who won the mile with a great last 200m, as he crossed the line in 4:11.49, a PB of sorts for the 3:43 1500m runner. According the cold fact his best was 4:49; the best improvement on the night?
Of course meetings like this rarely see front running heroics when points mean so much, but don’t tell that to BUCS champ and local athlete Aimee Pratt (AllStars/Sale, Vicente Modahl) who pulled the field through an opening 440 yards of 72.5 in the women’s mile. By 880 yards (2:21.3) she was long gone and didn’t look in any trouble at all over the final circuit of 67.4 to win in a very impressive 4:38.49. It looked very controlled and comfortable and hinted that there’s much more to come from the 4:13 1500m runner.
Rare too was the women’s long jump. Not because Sarah Abrams (Wales/Blackheath and Bromley, John Shepherd) won with 6.25 (one of those all-important season’s bests), but because it was only decided by the fact her third best jump was 6.12 compared to silver medalist Jazmin Sawyers’ (England/City of Stoke) 5.96. For once, consistency really did pay dividends. England captain Dan Bramble (England/Shaftesbury Barnet, Jonas Dodoo) did what team leaders should and set the perfect example for his teammates, winning the men’s event with 7.67. “This fits very well with how I would like to things to go. It allows me a bit of time to get things sorted so to come away with a win gives me the confidence boost I need for the trials,” said Dan.
And a special thanks to Botswana - the quartet flew around the 4x400m in a stunning 3:04.55 - very fast running in Manchester on a cool Wednesday evening!
Thanks to all our volunteer officials who braved the weather and returned inside from their events in various stages of soddenness for a cup of tea before going back out for another event! And of course to our supporting coaches, and the spectators who came to watch the event.
Click here for results (PDF 400kB)
Photo by Mark Shearman