Field of dreams at U17 and U15 Champs

It may be the end of a long hot scorching summer packed with a seemingly endless string of incredible performances but tell that to England’s best age group athletes who were more than keen and - as the results show - more than ready to stamp their mark on the 2018 season.

On occasion, day one of the championships can be a low key affair with the 100m proving the only talking point, but not so in Bedford as the combination of intense competition in the field along with the stadium’s ever-friendly wind meant that for once it wasn’t just the short sprints that stole the show.

Thanks to an amazing evening in Sheffield this winter that ended with a world best of 2.23, the U17 men’s high jump is all about a certain Dominic Ogbechie (Highgate, Marius Guei/Carol Jackson) currently, but he did have to work for his title. Indeed early on, a first time failure at 1.99 meant a handful of competitors, having literally raised their game, led the indoor world record holder. That proved a minor hiccup for the multi-talented Highgate Harrier and it looked to be all over as Ogbechie comfortably scaled 2.11. However, tell that to English Schools champion Sam Brereton (Newquay and Par, Clive Marsh), who was having none of it: he slipped over that height at the third attempt for a 3cm PB to get himself into the top 10 of all time. He could go no further as Ogbechie then went clear at 2.18 at the second time of asking, an outdoor best, and a height that consigned the previous championships best of 2.12 set back in 1991 to the history books. The next height, 2.21 proved too much, but only just.

Benjamin East (Team Kennet Triathlon, Cheryl Angell) also confirmed records are for there to be broken. In the boys U15 javelin he threw 67.04, which wasn’t just a championships best performance, but also improved his own British best for the distance. Impressive throwing from the English Schools champion, who has broken that British best three times now this season.

And the records continued to fall as in the U17 women’s shot ever-consistent Serena Vincent (City of Portsmouth, Andrew Vincent) hit 16.03, the best part of two metres to the good and equal to the championship best performance.

Lewis Byng (Stratford upon Avon, Sandy Green) was in a similar mood, his fourth round winning putt of 19.45 in the U17 men’s shot good for not only a CBP, but also No.3 on the all-time list, for some the best performance of the day. But it was one of those days when great performance followed great performance – literally for one athlete.

Four PBs with his first four jumps of the U17 men’s triple jump by Archie Yeo (Scunthorpe Harmes/Bishell) earned him not only the gold medal but also the No.1 spot in the British rankings for 2018. His 14.43 (+0.5m/s) in round four proved to be the winning leap after 14.35, 14,38, and 14.40, but such was his dominance that his fifth round effort, only slightly below his previous jump at 14.31, would have still ended up top of the UK rankings, although Miami Ahmed (Glasgow School of Sport) did hit 14.38w for second.

Lazarus Benjamin (Sale Harriers Manchester, Matthew Cullen) was also in PB form, jumping a UK leading 4.01 in the boys’ U15 pole vault, well in excess of his previous mark of 3.85 and good jumping in the tricky, blustery conditions.

As all of this was going on, a string of super fast 100m heats hinted at what was to come later in the day. An early indication of how things would pan out came in the ambulant 200s as Nathan Fleetwood, T20 (Whitemoss, Brian Whittle) took the ambulant men’s 200 in a swift 23.75w (+3.1), his fastest time ever while just ten minutes later Faye Olszowka, T20 (Bexley, Christopher Harris) was equally dominant (and swift), clocking 28.25, the wind easing off to a legal +1.9m/s.

So it was no surprise when Raphael Bouju (Bedford & County, Allan Adamson) took full advantage of the 4-metre tailwind to clock a mightily impressive looking 10.50w to take the men’s U17 100 title. Yes, it’s a windy time, but the European U18 champ looked controlled and full of running and hinted that something better than his best of 10.61 is on the cards.

The wind dropped significantly for the U15 boys 100m as Remi Jokosenumi (Shaftesbury Barnet, Ty Holden) powered to a fabulous 10.84, just 0.01sec shy of the British best. Sadly the wind was frustratingly just over the limit at 2.1m/s. Still, his No.1 event is the 200, so watch this space for news of that on Sunday!

The wind frustratingly stayed at +2.1m/s for Sophie Walton (Horwich RMI, Trevor Williams), but even so her 12.11 represented a huge improvement on her previous best of 12.98.

The only question remaining was whether the wind drop just a tad more for Amy Hunt (Charnwood, Joe McDonnell) who had looked magnificent in the heats. She was equally dominant in the final, flying to 11.56 as she had done in the semis, albeit with a huge following wind. And in the final? A legal +2m/s so a PB as well!

Samantha Callaway (Southampton, David Callaway) improved from her silver of last year to take the U17 title in the discus with a 43.39 fourth round effort, coping well with Bedford’s notoriously blustery conditions. In the U17 men’s event, teammate Joshua Douglas (Southampton, William Bushell) was equally dominant, hitting 55.97 in the fifth round to add this gold to his English Schools title.

Funminiyi Olajide (Thurrock H, Geraldine Heapy) also made the best of the conditions to fly out to a 6.00w (+2.1m/s) first round jump in the U17 women’s long jump that none of her competitors could match or even come close to challenge. Jerel Livingston (Trafford, Ben Williams) was a comfortable winner in the U15 boys event, jumping 6.68.

In the first of the distance running finals, Kristian Imroth (Shaftesbury, Stephen Murphy) started as the clear No.1 in the field in the U17 men’s 3000 steeplechase. He surged hard mid-race to build up a comfortable lead by the bell and he eased around the lap to win with plenty in hand in 4:31.15.

The U15 girls’ 1500m was a straight final, the big field ripping through the first lap in a swift 65 seconds. Things slowed slightly at 800 but not much as Holly Weedall (Vale Royal AC, Andrew Carter) continued to push on through two laps in 2:20. Weedall and  Samia Jones (Menai, Stephen Lives) hit the bell well clear in 3:22 and it looked to be between those two, but both paid for that early enthusiasm as Katie Johnson (Edinburgh, David Johnson) came from way back to steal it on on the line from Jones in 4:33.41.

The U17 women’s 1500m featured a large field of 18 competitors and was a more sedate affair early on, the whole field passing 400 in 70-71sec. Not too much occurred through 800 (2:27), but no one could live with Olivia Mason (Border H, Graeme Mason)’s surge just before the bell (3:25). It hit everybody by surprise and she won in 4:33.36. The U17 men’s 1500 was a similar race, only coming alive in the closing stages. Nine or ten athletes were still in contention with 200m to go and it was Will Bellamy (Houghton H, Lynn Cooper) who proved to be the best sprinter. In the final 100m, his 59sec last lap good for a 4:03.05 win.