Great strength in depth: U17 and U15 Combined Events and Para Champs day 1

There was a real buzz of excitement in the Sheffield Arena as the competition got under way for what has become the traditional finale to what has been a superb domestic indoor season.

Partly that’s thanks to the drama of last weekend’s World Champs in Glasgow, still fresh in everybody’s mind, but more significantly it was because the action in Sheffield was every bit as exciting as it had been in Scotland as the final national titles of the 2024 indoor season were won.

Here’s how the action unfolded:

Under 17 women’s pentathlon

An impressive run in the 60 hurdles of 8.76 from Scotland’s Shannon Brown (Coach: Nicola Caig, Club: North Ayrshire) saw her take an early lead in what is always a tightly fought contest. Indeed, just three one thousandths of a second separated the next two as Scotland took an early one-two lead in the competition with Scot, Grace Malley (Iain McEwan, Whitemoss) just getting the nod over England’s Thaila-Jade Mason (Dennis Johnson, Bedford and County) 8.85 (.847) to 8.85 (.850).

The field then moved onto the high jump which featured two pools of 16 athletes. And after close to two hours of action, it was Wales’ Matilda Quick (Steve Ingram, Swansea), who moved into contention thanks to her 1.65 clearance, while Mason kept herself in the medal hunt with 1.59. Then barely 30 minutes later, Quick took first spot once again in the shot thanks to her 12.82 throw. Behind her Imogen Lane (Steve Lane, Coventry Godiva) was also over 12 metres thanks to a 12.18 second round throw.

That put Quick in pole position heading for the long jump with Brown second and Mason in bronze. Quick opened with a modest 5.01 before being rewarded with a 5.49 that all but secured her the gold medal. Mason, in what could be described as her specialist event, did respond with 5.64 but with just the 800m to run, it looked unlikely the top three positions would change as Quick had a 165 point buffer. Quick opted for the classic combined eventer's move of covering any moves by her medal rivals and although Brown just about nipped into first place overall with 300 metres to run, Quick rallied in the final 200m to secure the gold medal with 2:44.22 and a final tally of 3629 points. Brown was rewarded with 3507 points while last year’s U15 champion Molly Mills (Jessica Taylor-Jemmett, Stockport Harriers) produced a superb final 800 of 2:24.33 to take the bronze medal.

“I only found out I was competing in this on Thursday,” said Quick. “I’m so happy. I got a call I school, and my dad then booked a hotel for us that night and now I’ve won. I have been in good shape this winter, so I knew I could do well, but I didn’t expect this,” she continued. “I’m just lucky I didn’t do anything really hard this week!”

Under 17 men’s heptathlon

In a fast and furious 60m, Arthur Reilly (Trevor Fox, City of Sheffield and Dearne) just, and only just, got the nod from Luke Pichler (Rob Wilson, Blyth) as like the U17 women’s hurdles, a mere 0.003 seconds separated two of the potential key players. Both athletes clocked 7.28, both PBs and both looking like they would be tough to beat as Reilly was 10th in the U20 champs earlier this year, while Pichler won the U15 title a few seasons’ ago.

Hughes, Reilly and Pichler finish 60m

The long jump predictably saw Pichler, the bronze medallist in this event individually a month ago edge into the overall lead thanks to his 6.66 third round jump, a big PB and good for 734pts to add to his first event’s 785 points. Reilly, however, made sure it remained close as he continued his great form with a 6.19 second round. Pichler continued to stretch his lead thanks to a 12.33 final round throw in the shot. He needed that throw as almost unnoticed Ruben Stovell (John Lane, City of Sheffield and Dearne) eased into second thanks to a massive 14.90m with his opening throw in the shot. Until then he’d been quiet with 7.36 in the 60m and 5.74m in the long jump, but with a 2:01 best in the 800m to his name and a silver medal from the U15 champs a couple of seasons back, he’ll be a name to watch on day two.

First, however, was the small matter of concluding day one, which in this event is the high jump. It was Pichler that emerged on top, his 1.80m meaning he headed for the hotel with an overnight lead to defend with 2772 points. Stovell went over 1.77 at the first time of asking to really keep the pressure on.

Under 20 para events

The long jump saw a series of superb performances highlighted by F20 Elliott Griffiths’ (Paul Rudkin, Liverpool Harriers) 5.41m in the fourth round. F64 Euan Murray (Graham Mattacks, Team Bath) was also in great form ending his series with a big leap of 5.20m to improve his lifetime best by 20cm. The women’s competition, however, was a far tighter affair as just 5cm covered the first two with F38 Elizabeth Dodds (Shrewsbury) jumping furthest with 3.68m. Just behind her was F38 Rosie Porter (Catherine Walker, Herts Phoenix) who touched down at 3.63. Northern Ireland’s T12 Freddie Wallace (City of Lisburn) displayed perfect technique to take the U15 boys’ long jump with 5.24m, exceeding five metres with four of his jumps. He then flew to victory in the 60m with a cracking 8.23, a massive 0.21 seconds faster than he’s ever run before. Also looking superb was T20 Ella Richards (Hayley Ratcliff, Torbay) who quite simply put her foot down from the gun in the 1500m to win in 5:07.23.

* Disability athletics uses the Raza point score system, which is a method used for comparing performances by athletes of differing levels of disability. In events where athletes of multiple different classifications compete, performances are converted to point scores by a formula which accounts for the athletes' classifications. This means that a more disabled athlete may beat a less disabled competitor despite finishing behind them.

Useful information

Photos by Pat Isaacs, and available to download and buy