Indoor season ends in style

The curtain fell on the England Athletics indoor season in some style, the last acts of winter providing drama, excitement and even a touch of intrigue on day 2 of the England Athletics U17 and U15 Indoor Combined Event and Indoor Para Championships.

Centre stage on this occasion was the conclusion of the U17 men’s heptathlon which featured a sub-plot that included the possibility of a British record. Meanwhile, in a series of storyline twists that had the audience pondering the identity of the gold medallists as late as the final lap of the final event, the U15s played out two great pentathlon competitions. It’s been a superb past three months indoors and a wonderful prologue to what will definitely prove to be a memorable summer. Here’s how the day unfolded…

U17 men’s heptathlon

Sam Wright hurdlesLate Saturday afternoon, Sam Wright (Simon Hemmings, Chelmsford) left the Sheffield arena full of spring, having just grazed the bar off at 1.98 in the high jump after clearing 1.95. Could he continue where he’d left off? It didn’t take too long to answer that question. Drawn in lane one in the 60 hurdles, he was first to the opening hurdle, kept his form superbly and was rewarded with 8.20, a PB and No.3 in the UK this indoor season. Behind him Corey Beechal (Alexander Wort, Liverpool Harriers) clocked 8.43 to move into second.

Next up was the pole vault which can prove problematic in the U17s age group as for many it’s a new event, or at best very early days in their vaulting career. Sam is firmly in that school, but while he looked like an athlete needing a fair amount of technique work, his 2.80 clearance kept the pressure on his rivals. It also gave him a realistic shot of having a go at the UK age group record. True, he’d need a 2:45 kilometre to do that, which in the combined events is a long shot, but his first lap suggested he was ready to give it a go. Through 400 in a tick over 70 seconds, however, it became clear he’d have to settle for 2:51.91, which nonetheless was a massive improvement on his previous best and more importantly put him in the record books. He ended the day on 5017pts for No.2 on the UK All-time lists, but more significantly in this instance, an English record. Fabulous!

“The goal was to come here and have fun,” said Sam afterwards, admitting he did have half an eye on the UK record.

“I try to make every competition important, so I’m obviously really pleased with this one,”

he continued. As for that pole vault, perhaps the one chink in his armour, he concluded “It’s ‘work in progress’. I’ve only just started looking at it this winter.”

U15 girls’ pentathlon

If the opening event - the 60 hurdles ¬- was anything to go by this would be a tight fought contest. It was Molly Mills (Jessica Taylor-Jemmett, Stockport Harriers and AC) who took an early lead thanks to her 9.17 clocking as she looked to improve on her 14th of last year. But with Amelia Scott (Chelmsford) and Alice Coshell (Karl Sumon, Thurrock H) less than a stride behind it set the scene perfectly for what would be an intense day of competition.

Milana Thorpe long jumpAnd so it proved as the pack shuffled completely after the long jump thanks to a magnificent 5.23 from Gracie Osman (Andrew Fisher, Winchester). Perhaps unsurprising for a national bronze medallist in this particular discipline, that moved her to the gold medal position while Milana Thorpe (Chelmsford) moved up from fourth to second, her 4.97 combining well with her 9.28 hurdles time. Of the three early leaders, Alice was the closest after her 4.82 put her fourth.

The crowd barely had time to settle back into their seats before the shot result shuffled the field once again. This time it was Molly who returned to the gold medal position thanks to her 11.04 while Milana secured her grip on second with 9.16. The one-time leader Gracie slipped back to third with 8.63 but with just 56 points covering the first throw anything could still happen given it was the high jump next up.

Molly Mills 800mAnd happen it did. While Molly did improve her PB to 1.44 she couldn’t hold on to the top slot as Gracie cleared 1.50 to take a 10-point lead into the final event. This really would be all about the final lap of the 800 metres. In a tremendous race, Molly wasted no time in taking it on, pulling the field through 400 in 71.6. Gracie hung tough and even though Molly stretched away on the back straight for the final time, she did close the gap slightly. But it was Molly’s day as she won the gold medal with 3252pts, finishing with a 2:23.97 in a tremendous competition that perfectly sums up what makes the pentathlon so exciting.

U15 boys’ pentathlon

Joshua Dako (Alex Pope, Blackheath and Bromley Harriers) got things going with a personal best in the 60 hurdles. His 9.11 clocking put him just five points (and 0.02sec) ahead of Oliver Downs (Alex Pope, Invicta East Kent) while Harry Lee (Jade Harding, Chelmsford) was just 0.10sec back.

Joshua Dako long jumpThe competitors headed to the long jump where Joshua immediately stamped his authority on the field with a massive opening jump of 5.86, a lifetime best. Oliver matched him in the PB department with 5.41, while Luca Deakin (Solihull and Small Heath) moved into the bronze medal position with 5.79, a huge improvement on his previous best of 4.97 to add to his 9.88 in the 60H. Joshua’s 65-point lead going into the shot was reduced dramatically to that five points he enjoyed early on as the result of an 11.85 PB by Oliver. Joshua did throw a PB himself, but his 10.86 meant the pair headed to the high jump with 1815pts and 1810pts respectively.

The high jump saw Joshua stretch his lead thanks to another PB, this time in the form of a 1.74 first time clearance that all but secured him the gold medal thanks to his 102pt lead after Oliver had to settle for 1.62. The 800 was all about staying in control and not panicking, which Joshua superbly demonstrated with a comfortable 2:21.33 leading for 600m (passed by Oliver with 200m to run) on his way to a huge PB of 2825pts.

Para Champs

Para Long Jump Polly MatonA welcome addition to the programme were the Para events, which proved the perfect way to check out how that winter training is going for everyone who competed. The very first event of the day, the women’s long jump delivered in that department; improvement all round. Polly Maton, T46 (Colin Baross, Team Devizes-Moonrakers) jumped the furthest with 4.76 – a lifetime best for the European and World Champs medallist. While Ndidikama Okoh, T44 (Shirley Quinn, Chelmsford), summed up what this is all about. She entered the competition hoping for 4.30 but left overjoyed with 4.46. A fabulous summer awaits.

para .ong jump podiumIn the men’s event, Joel Mattacks, T20 (Philip Warwicker, Team Bath) and Karim Chan, T20 (Lukasz Zawila, Charnwood) had a great battle, Joel taking the honours in that particular head-to-head, thanks to his 6.23 compared to Karim’s 6.16. However, using the Raza points* system it was Barney Corrall’s, T37 (Aston Moore, Charnwood) 5.73 personal best that secured the title.

Perhaps the highlight was the 60 metres, always an exciting event. Joel exploded from the blocks and was never headed on his way to a PB-equalling 7.26. In the women’s race Sophie Kamlish (Robert Ellchuck, Bristol and West) ran an equally controlled 8.66.

* The Raza point score system is a method used for comparing throws or jumps 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.

Report by Paul Larkins, photos by Adam Roussak