The opening day of the hugely popular England U20, U17 and U15 Indoor Championships which boasts well over 1000 entries, is always all about explosive power, with the 60m more often than not topping the bill.
And while there were plenty of stunning performances to keep the large crowd more than impressed such as the Championship Best Performance in the U15 boys' triple jump and an English record in the U15 boys' high jump, it was indeed the short sprints that provided nail biting, showcase-worthy excitement, not to mention a British age group best.
This year is, of course, an Olympic year and perhaps the senior champs might try and claim it has more significance but what was really evident for England is that it’s Los Angeles in 2028 that promises to be something special indeed given the strength in depth of the talent on display this weekend. And remember, it’s only February! There’s much, much more to come this outdoor season. Here’s how the key events on Saturday unfolded:
The first 60m final was in this age group and for many it was the race of the weekend. It saw Mabel Akande (Coach: Denise Timmis, Club: Lincoln Wellington) hold off two European Champions for a mightily impressive 7.26 clocking. Not only did it win her the gold medal, it was a massive PB and by far the quickest time in the country for an U20 - not to mention third best overall for this year not far adrift of current senior UK number one Imani Lansiquot (Ryan Freckleton, Sutton and District) who has a 7.20 to her name.
Behind Mabel, Faith Akinbileje (John Blackie, Blackheath and Bromley Harriers) was also swift, her 7.29 removing a sizeable chunk from her previous fastest time. It moved her to number two U20 and number four overall for 2024.
“I almost can’t quite believe it,” said Mabel, last year’s U17 champion, clearly surprised she had beaten such illustrious rivals (Faith, the European 200 champ and Nia Wedderburn-Goodison, the European 100 gold medallist (Ryan Freckleton, Harrow). “It feels great and I did pretty much what my coach said,” she laughed, adding that there is a bit more to come, though.
Similarly, Faith, a 200m specialist was more than happy with her run and hinted there is much more to come on Sunday.
“Today was all about coming in and executing a plan. I am a 200m runner so second in the 60 is really pleasing,” she added.
In the field Michelle Yalekhue (Keith Fleming, Amber Valley & Erewash) won the triple jump with 12.25m, starting what will be a busy two weeks with the senior champs next week and the universities the week after that. And finally, Thea Brown (Joanne Harding, Sale Harriers Manchester) won an enthralling long jump thanks to timely lifetime best of 6.10m in the fifth round. Up until that point she had trailed Daisy Snell (Blackheath and Bromley) who had led thanks to her 6.09m opening jump, also a PB.
The 60m proved a little tighter than expected as Teddy Wilson (Marvin Rowe, Shaftesbury Barnet) tweaked his hamstring with 10m to run and had to ease back for his 6.77 victory. Behind him teammate Ebuka Nwokeji (Ty Holden, Shaftesbury Barnet) closed fast but came up 0.01sec shy with 6.78, a personal best.
“I’m happy with the run though,” said Teddy afterwards, “as I had to ease up in the final part.”
On a day that was mostly made up of qualifying heats, Brandon Lee (Joe McColgan, Mansfield) won the triple jump with 14.35m. His opening jump 14.22m would have secured him the title, but he added 4cm to his PB in the second round to make sure of things.
Appropriately these 60m finals took place on the first day of the Chinese Year of the Dragon, so it was no surprise Wales’ (home of the Welsh dragon) Nell Desir (Lisa Waddon, Cardiff Archers) lived up to her pre-event favourite status to win with 7.52 thanks to a strong second 30 metres.
The shot brought the day to an end, with the competition following the form book as Issy Stamp (South London Harriers) hit 13.64m in the second round.
Joel Masters (Jon Humphries-Cuff, BFT Track Academy) put clear daylight between him and his closest rivals thanks to a fabulous 6.73 clocking in the 60m. And that’s no surprise given his time puts him number two on the all-time list.
In the field, while his Welsh countryman was winning the U15 boys' title in record-breaking style (see age group below), Luca Phillips (Philip Warwicker, Cardiff Archers) went about demolishing the field in this age group with a fourth-round jump of 14.23m. That was a monster PB taking him beyond 14 metres for the first time, but one that was needed - as 13.88m by Melchisedec Berkoh-Gyamfi (John Herbert, Basildon) had led the way until that point.
It needed a photograph to separate the first two in the 60m final, Wales’ Aliyah Afolabi (Lisa Waddon, Cardiff Archers) just hanging on for a 7.56 victory. She looked to have lost it in the final two strides as Celine Obinna-Alo (Andrew Abbott, Sunderland Harriers) finished fast, clocking 7.58; both times easily the quickest in 2024.
Earlier in the day, the title of first English winner of the weekend (Wales and Scotland shared the first three of Saturday) went to Beth Boyes (Richard Pilling, Lewes) who cleared 2.88m in the pole vault, the best by a Briton in this age group this year. Interestingly, the field included three from the Sussex club, so she also took the title of club champion as well. Very impressive given Lewes actually had four athletes ranked in the top 10 in the country going into this competition!
Also in the field, Scotland’s Leanne Elliott (Airdrie Harriers) produced a lifetime best of 1.64m to take the high jump comfortably clear of her rivals on this occasion.
It was difficult not to hang the gold medal around Divine Iheme’s (Nkiruka Iheme, Radley) neck after the semi-final of the 60m given the impressive form he showed as he strolled to 6.94. After all, a British record, 0.04sec better than his own mark in qualifying is something very special indeed! It definitely raised expectation levels for the final and he didn’t disappoint, flying away from the field in a record-equalling 6.94.
“I found that race pretty fun,” said an understandably happy Divine. “It was a great experience and it was really nice to see all the training pay off.”
Not to be outdone in the record department, Joshua Akintolu (Ian Hill, Wakefield) scaled 1.93m at the third attempt in the high jump to set an English record. He had three attempts at the British best of 1.95 but had to be content with just the one new national mark on this occasion.
“I’m really chuffed with that,” Joshua told England Athletics. “I’m really pleased to have won my first national title!”
Much earlier – indeed the weekend was barely half an hour into the programme – Wales’ Aidan Angilletta (Amy Billington, Deeside) set the first record of the day. He took the Championship Best Performance with his very first jump of 12.42m in the triple jump. It was a huge PB for the Welshman, more than 20cm better than his previous best. Michael Maguire (Reigate Priory) did close the gap with his last jump but his 12.08m, although a massive PB of more than 70cm, wasn’t quite enough.Read the full Day 2 report
Photos by Pat Isaacs and Paul Halford (Issy Stamp)
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