With the selectors meeting later in the evening to finalise the team for the European U23 Championships in Finland, day two of the England Athletics U23 and U20 event in Chelmsford was all about displaying top form. Which is precisely what occurred in spectacular fashion.
Chelmsford stadium’s doors had only just been opened before Charlotte Payne (Coach: Paul Dickenson, Club: Reading) effectively won the U23 women’s hammer competition with her very first throw. That was at 9.57am and then barely 10 minutes later she wiped Olympic bronze medallist Sophie Hitchin’s name from the record books with a CBP of 71.16, more than two metres further than the 2013 mark and fully 12 metres ahead of her competitors. The earliest field record ever at these championships? Probably and one for the statisticians to ponder, although back in 1986 Fatima Whitbread sealed the deal in the javelin at 9.17am in the Europeans.
"That was a big goal," said Charlotte, thrilled that her lucky socks – the same Bart Simpson ones as reported on last year – had done their job again. "I threw 72.51 last week so it’s great to have a bit of consistency as well," she continued.
The U20 women’s 400 hurdles was equally spectacular as Emily Newnham (Nick Dakin, Shaftesbury Barnet) powered her way to 57.54, just a fraction shy of the CBP that dates back to last century.
"I knew I was in shape from the training times, but I had found it difficult to replicate that in races," she said. "But I’ve raced a bit more this year and since my PB (57.64) at BUCS I’ve got more confidence and I’ve completely changed."
The U23 men’s 5000m and U20 women’s 3000m were thrilling races for two very different reasons. The men’s race, up first was all about 10 comfortable laps before a major burn up over the final two circuits. It was Will Barnicoat (AFD) who took the gold thanks to a 27.6 last 200, his 14:09.20 impressive in the hot, humid conditions. Next up, the women’s race was all about Innes Fitzgerald (Exeter Harriers) and how much she could win by. Her 9:10.67 comfortably gave her top spot suggesting there is much more to come.
"I knew I had the speed endurance," Barnicoat said, confident that he had the pace over the final lap to handle anything that the field might throw at him, while Innes had a different plan: "I wanted to just go for the win," she said. "I was a bit nervous about the heat but wanted to run hard. Hopefully I’ll run a bit quicker later in the season when I’ve worked a bit more on speed."
Also working on speed, but from a different perspective was Lily Hulland (Femi Akinsanya, TVH) in the U20 women’s triple jump. For her it was about controlling it as for five rounds a strong following wind played havoc with her run up, resulting in a series of fouls after opening with a wind legal PB of 13.24. But after an adjustment with her marker she found her form and touched down at 13.39w to win the gold medal.
“I’ve been going off a shorter run up all season, so this was the first one off a full run up, so I knew if I got it right, I’d jump a long way,” she said.
In the men’s U20 high jump Luke Ball (Jeremy Dale, Yate) also managed the breezy conditions superbly jumping a personal best of 2.14 to win, while Lucy Fellows (Zac Harrop, Millfield School) used the wind to maximum effect to jump 6.35w – her best-ever – in the U20 women’s long jump.
Back on the track, the finals came thick and fast, led by Charlie Carvell (Stewart Marshall, Telford) who looked full of running on his way to a European U20 qualifying time in the 400m, his 46.18 taking a chunk off his previous best of 46.48.
“That wind was mental,” Charlie said, laughing. “I came off the bend and just ran straight into it. From there, it was all about trying to maintain form. Of course, it was great to run that time in this wind, it definitely shows I’ve got more to come.”
Finally, with half an eye on an impending thunderstorm, the distance runners in action over the steeplechase and what promised to be a magnificent set of 800m races had to decide how best to handle the conditions. At some points the wind surged to in excess of 5m/s into the runners’ faces in the final 100 metres.
It was the U23 men’s race which proved the most fascinating. Billed as “outrageous” by one or two in the crowd thanks to its stacked status, the field dawdled through 400m just inside 56 seconds which meant it was still anybody’s race with just 60 metres to run. It was Ethan Hussey (Andrew Henderson, Leeds City) who emerged from the pack, four abreast off the bend, to win in 1:48.52. His last lap occupied less than 53 seconds in what was a tremendous race in the truest sense of the word.
The U20 women’s 800m was all about Phoebe Gill (Deborah Steer, St Albans) who just put her head down and went for it. She destroyed the field on her way to 2:03.78 just 0.05sec shy of the 19-year-old CBP.
Also tantalisingly close to a significant mark was Hattie Reynolds (Pauline Ash, City of Norwich) winner of the U20 women’s steeplechase. She did everything right in her race, but just couldn’t raise the pace and had to be content with 10:31.83, frustratingly just 1.83 seconds shy of the mark needed for the European U20 champs in Jerusalem, Israel.
Huge thanks to the superb work by the extensive team of officials and volunteers for helping create such a smooth-running competition.
Report by Paul Larkins
Photos by Mark PainResults on Roster