Final countdown: England U17 and U15 Indoor Combined Events and Junior Para Championships - Day Two Report

Day two of the last indoor meeting of the season is all about adding the finishing touches to winter training and looking forward to the spring and summer to see what they bring. And judging by the intense competition that saw leads swing back and forth with each event, the 2024 outdoor track season will be something special indeed. Here’s how the final day unfolded:

Under 17 men’s heptathlon

As day two includes the pole vault, it’d be wrong to conclude the gold medal’s destination was done and dusted after the 60m hurdles. But overnight leader, Luke Pichler (Coach: Rob Wilson, Club: Blyth), did start Sunday morning in the best way by clocking a super sharp 8.26, just 0.002 behind the event winner Edward Hughes (Steve Mitchell, Chelmsford). His closest rival Ruben Stovell (John Lane, City of Sheffield and Dearne) is still getting to grips with the event and had to settle for 9.27, which saw him drift back to fifth. Meanwhile Joshua Dako (Alex Pope, Blackheath and Bromley) continued where he left off on Saturday and clocked 8.58 to keep himself in the hunt for a medal, moving to second overall.

In the vault, he departed with a very solid looking 2.90m, while Pichler calmly entered the competition at that height although he could go no higher than 3.00m. Interestingly, although they more both than 300 points adrift at this point, the attention turned to Stovell and Arthur Reilly (Brendan Reilly, Sheffield and Dearne) both of whom are fantastic vaulters. Could either of them close the gap and challenge for a medal? A flying clearance by Stovell at his opening height of 3.30m suggested that maybe, just maybe that would occur. He was equally impressive at 3.50m which edged him 125 points closer. He called it a day at 3.60m leaving it to Reilly to take over. He cleared 4.30m which took him to second and then had three very close efforts at 4.40m which would have given him a one-point lead overall. And what it did do is pose some interesting questions going into the 1000m final event.

Very rarely in a combined events competition, it would be down to who could run the five laps the best. Two would have to chase; one would have to gamble on how much he should save for the final lap. Stovells hit the front immediately, while his rivals opted for a more controlled opening lap. A sub 60 first 400 suggested Stovell meant business, while Pichler followed far behind (but ahead of Reilly). Stovell stopped the clock with an amazing time of 2:36.63 at which point everybody started counting the seconds. Was it enough? It was and Stovell emerged with the gold medal, while Pichler actually disqualified for a lane infringement, stepping off the inside of the track. Rarely will you see something quite so dramatic in a combined events championship.

Under 15 girls’ pentathlon

Talia Northcott (City of York) set the early pace in the 60m hurdles with 9.22 closely tracked by Jasmine Nkoso (Anthony Mayhew, Herne Hill) and English Schools fifth placer Seni Purnell (Andrew Fisher, Winchester) who clocked 9.27 and 9.31 respectively. It was still close after the high jump as Nkoso cleared 1.56m at the third time of asking to edge away from Purnell who jumped 1.53m. She also took the lead overall as Northcott ended her competition at 1.50m. But it was close as Abbie Ely (Gary Tunstall, Preston Harriers) cleared a magnificent 1.62m to add 759pts to her 773 she scored for her 9.68 hurdles to move to within a few points in second. She had been in 12th after the first event so it’s easy to see how everything can change in a blink of an eye especially when you do a big 7cm PB!

She was clearly in superb form as she followed that with another PB of 10.03m in the shot. However, Nkoso cemented her lead in the competition with a personal best-equalling 12.49m, while Purnell moved back into medal contention thanks to her 10.07m PB. She closed slightly on Nkoso in the long jump thanks to a very impressive 5.10m compared to the competition leader’s 4.86m. That meant Nkoso had a 137pt lead heading into the 800m. It was more than enough as Nkoso ran a wonderfully controlled 2:39.08, more than enough for the gold medal. Purnell secured the silver medal and Northcott continued her charge back through the field after leading after event one, to take home the bronze.

“Last year I was sixth and I remember standing in the stadium thinking I want to breath that atmosphere that the winner experienced and now I’ve done it,” an excited Nkoso said. “I’m really pleased with how it all went today.

Under 15 boys’ pentathlon

Wales’ Aidan Angilletta (Amy Billington, Deeside) confirmed his pre-event tag: ‘one to watch’ with a commanding run in the 60m hurdles of 8.68. Given his indoor form this season includes a Welsh record in both the triple jump and 60m hurdles, it’s well-deserved. And as the long jump was the next event, it was no surprise when Angilletta, the Welsh indoor champion this year stretched his lead thanks to his 5.83m – a 7cm PB – second round jump. Behind him Scotland’s Murray Taylor (Inverness) and Tristan Lamprecht (Alexander Wort, Mansfield) were fighting it out for second and third with an 8.80 60m hurdles and 5.47m long jump by Taylor and 8.94 and 5.38m by Lamprecht in the first two disciplines.

Thomas Webb (Folkestone) was the leading athlete in the shot, with his second-round throw of 11.14m adding more than a metre to his PB. On this occasion Angilletta finished down the field slightly, although his 10.58m back in sixth was just 4cm shy of his best ever. However, he stretched his lead overall. It was all about staying in control in the high jump which Angilletta appeared to do, clearing 1.74 with his second attempt. A combined events championship is never over until the last runner has crossed the line in the 800m. Taylor’s spectacular clearance in the high jump of 1.77m meant a win was possible, a long shot, but possible. And when he clocked 2:16.58 for a huge personal best, that victory looked even more likely as the seconds ticked by as the crowd waited for Angilletta to cross the line. His 2:27.74 meant the gold would head to Scotland as Taylor picked up 2847pts to Angilletta’s 2816pts. Drama until the very end.

It was a great way to end the weekend and thanks to officials, volunteers, athletes, coaches and parents.

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