The excitement of representative athletics returns after two years in the shape of the Manchester International on Wednesday.
Following last year’s pandemic-enforced cancellation, hosts England will take on Wales, Northern Ireland & Ulster, Great Britain U20s and a team representing the National Athletics League in the senior match. Meanwhile, another competition running alongside sees England U20s, Scotland U20s, Northern Ireland & Ulster U20s, Wales U20s and GB U18s square off.
The England team will be looking to retain their title in the senior match, returning with a strong line-up of athletes.
Hammer thrower Jessica Mayho will arrive at the Manchester Regional Arena on a high after last week improving her PB to 69.44m. The Birchfield Harrier, coached by John Pearson, has climbed to second on the UK all-time list behind Sophie Hitchon.
Another in the team on top form is long jumper Alex Farquharson (Coventry Godiva; Andy Vincent), who earlier this month leapt to the top of the national rankings for the season with an 8.01m PB.
England 400m hurdles champion Chris McAlister (Thames Valley, Marina Armstrong), who heads the UK rankings this season with 49.16, will be looking for top points in his event as he faces Wales’ former former world 400m hurdles champion Dai Greene.
The triple jump has another English champion in the shape of UK No.3 Efe Uwaifo (Harrow, John Herbert). In the javelin, England’s UK rankings leader Freya Jones (Newham & Essex Beagles; David Callaway) could be set for a close tussle with Greece international Ioanna Malli, who represents the NAL.
Sprint-hurdler Alica Barrett (Trafford, Benke Blomqvist) will return to the venue where she picked up silver in the Olympics trials this summer. Northern Ireland & Ulster’s Megan Marrs and NAL’s Jenna Blundell should be her main challengers.
Dan Bainbridge (Shaftesbury Barnet, Mike McNeill), who lies second in Britain this year, will be favourite to win the javelin.
Sophie Cook (Halesowen; Scott Simpson) will be in the red and white in a high-quality pole vault, facing NAL’s Molly Caudery and GB Juniors’ Sophie Ashurst.
Another exciting contest could be in store in the 400m hurdles, where England has Hayley McLean (Shaftesbury Barnet; Chris Zah) taking on NAL’s Nicole Kendall.
Among others looking set to challenge for top points for England will be Miguel Perera (Harrow, Laura Turner-Alleyne) in the 110m hurdles, George Turner (Crawley, Allan Williams) in the pole vault and Craig Murch (Birchfield, Lorraine Shaw) in the hammer.
The always popular international has attracted several of the country’s top names from elsewhere too. Wales are sending European under-23 100m champion Jeremiah Azu and Olympic trials shot bronze medallist Patrick Swan.
Meanwhile, the NAL also has Lee Thompson, who was part of Britain’s men’s and mixed 4x400m relay quartets at the Olympics. Also included in their team are three throwers who rank second in the UK for their events this year: Youcef Zatat (shot), Nick Percy (discus) and Amelia Strickler (shot).
The GB U20 team features European junior 100m and 200m champions Toby Makoyawo and Derek Kinlock. The former also goes in the 4x100m alongside fellow European junior relay champion Ethan Wiltshire. Similarly on the women’s side, European junior 200m champion Success Eduan lines up in the 200m and she will be joined in the 4x100m by Joy Eze, who was part of the same European gold-winning squad in Tallinn.
In a separate match, the England under-20 team faces opposition from the equivalent age groups in each of the other home countries, plus a GB under-18 squad. England junior heptathlon champion Abigail Pawlett (Stockport T&F, Joe Frost) will compete in the long jump and relay. The relay team also have England junior 100m hurdles champion Lily Parris (Chelmsford, Julie Benterton).
Holly Aitchison (Stockport T&F, Joe Frost), who won England junior gold this summer, will line up in the triple jump.
Several English Schools' AA champions are also in action for England, including Alex Melloy (Cambridge & Coleridge; Mark Vile) in the 1500m, George Seery (Thanet; Jack Green) in the 400m hurdles and Martha Collings (Woking; Steven Gillingham) in the steeplechase.