Paris 2024 and a slot on GB’s Olympic team may seem like a dream, but for a select few competing at these championships that will be very much a reality. Look to last week’s Tokyo 800m silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson (Leigh, Trevor Painter) for evidence of that, a winner at this event in 2018 and now the British record holder over two laps.
And she’s not alone. Team GB has plenty of former age group competitors in its line-up in Japan meaning truly, the U15/U17 England and Disability Champs are the first steps on the ladder to international vests, major finals and more. And as is traditional for this, the first day of the championships, it was the sprinters who took the first significant strides in that direction. As ever, the 100m was an event packed with action and drama.
A sparkling set of semis in every age group certainly had everybody on the edge of their seat for the finals, keenly anticipating what was about to unfold. And they weren’t disappointed.
In his semi in the U15 boys’ 100, Teddy Wilson (Be Fit Today Track Academy, Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai) ran 10.87w easing up and then in the final flew to a legal 10.78, 0.02 faster than the championship record and more significantly a UK U15 age-group best by 0.05. Wow! Fast in any conditions, let alone in the rain and cool of Manchester.
“I only took up athletics seriously in 2019 because my mum used to run,” Teddy said. “The Olympics have been really inspiring for me and I felt really good in this race,” he added modestly, stunned he’d run the record.
Not to be outdone Trezegeut Taylor (Trafford AC, Andrew Wood) powered to 11.75 in the U17 women’s 100 minutes before Rusciano Thomas-Reilly (Coventry Godiva Harriers, Ronnie Williams) concluded a fabulous afternoon of sensational sprinting winning the U17 men’s 100 in 10.75 taking it by 0.02 from Dean Patterson (Glasgow School of Sport, Norrie Hay) in a three way lean for the line that in real time looked closer than the photo-finish of GB’s 4x100 team with Italy for the gold medal in Japan. And finally, let’s not forget Nell Desir (Cardiff Archers, Lisa Waddon) who took the U15 girls’ title in 12.08 with a powerful final 15 metres.
It was an action-packed day from the very first instant, when the track action got under way with a powerful looking run from Onyekachukwu Okoh (Chelmsford AC, Jake Harding) in the U17 men’s 400H. Clearly keen to turn his silver from last month’s English Schools to gold, he ran a very fast opening 300m - despite struggling with the wind down the back straight - to give himself a big lead with 80m to run, the clock stopping at 54.65 just outside his best ever time of 54.50. “That’s my first national title so I’m really chuffed with that,” he said. Like a few competing this weekend, he’ll be back in Manchester in 10 days’ time for the International.
Similarly, in the field Lily Carlaw (Harrow, Stuart Carlaw) was equally happy with the way things went in the testing conditions – showers, and a gusting wind. The English Schools champion continued on her winning ways with a fourth round 42.74 to take home the gold in the women’s U17 discus. “I wasn’t sure how it would go today, but of course I hoped to win, so that’s great. I’m looking forward to the Schools International now,” she said, pleased with the distance given the conditions.
Amy Thompson (Wigan & District, Janie Clare/Bob Haliwell) took the U17 women’s ambulant discus title with a final throw of 19.42, warming up for the shot which took place later in the day – another win, this time 6.12 proving enough to take gold. Cleo Agyepong (Blackheath and Bromley, John Hillier) won the U17 women’s shot title with 15.13.
In the U17 men’s discus, Brydon Duncan (Blackheath & Bromley, Herbert Kuenstlinger) threw 46.25, while in the ambulant U17 men’s discus Michael Jenkins (Pembrokeshire Harriers, Ryan Spencer-Jones) fired it a tad further (but down on his 49-plus best) to 46.52 in the F38 category despite starting with two throws measured at just over 20 metres. “Trouble with my grip,” he explained. Fabio Zamperarelli (Cornwall AC, Mo Pearson) won his category with 37.30 and then the shot with 12.83.
Over on the back straight in the men’s U17 triple jump Daniel Akinradewo (Manchester Harriers, Tom Cullen) was in fabulous form, jumping 14.37, the longest leap in the country this year despite “getting here a bit late and being rushed,” said Daniel who has the School Games next on the calendar.
In the U17 women’s long jump, Molly Reville (Edinburgh AC, Linda Nicholson) was just 2cm down on her life-time best, winning with 5.87, and 5cm ahead of second placed Seren Rodgers (Taunton, Steve Shaw). “I really enjoyed it, especially given the accident I had a couple of days ago,” Molly said explaining she was in fact jumping with a broken arm, an injury she sustained just 48 hours earlier! Amazingly, it didn’t bother her in the competition. Esme O’Connell (Dacorum & Tring AC, Jake Awe) took the accompanying U17 women’s ambulant title with 4.38 (and later was first over the line in the ambulant 100 in 13.54). Next up was the U15 boys’ long jump, won by Joe Stone (Tonbridge, AC, Leslie Stone). The UK’s No.2 this season led the competition from early on thanks to his 6.38 and emerged unchallenged for gold. Joel Mattacks (Team Bath, Phillip Warwicker) took the U15 ambulant title with 5.79, before running a solo 56.31 for 400 while waiting for his medal. A couple of hours later he completed an impressive triple with a very swift 11.63 in the 100.
The throws competitions produced some great results, the U15 boys’ and girls’ hammer particularly impressive. Billy Dickensen (Swindon Harriers, Alan Brown) threw an impressive 46.50 while in the girls’ competition, Eloise McDonald (Andover, Stuart Jones) hit 47.01.
And let’s not forget Amber Brown (Trafford, Andrew Wood). In only her second ever triple jump Amber took the U17 women’s title in with an 11.34, the longest in the country in 2021 and 14th furthest ever!
On the track, titles fell using all sorts of tactics. Front running was the name of the game in the U17 men’s 1500 steeplechase as Luke Birdseye (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow, Shireen Higgins) ran 4:31.56, then in the U15 girls’ 1500 Freya Murdoch (Stockport Harriers AC, Mike Nixon) used slightly different tactics and took the pace up after a 69sec opening lap to lead through 800 in 2:23 before battling her way to the line in 4:32.58 after being caught by the early leader Lilia Harris (Rotherham, Richard Harris) with 100m to go. It looked over, but Freya had other ideas and passed her back on the line. “I’d been leading for so long, I just wanted to push on and get there. I don’t normally have a sprint finish, but I dug in deep and found it,” Freya said.
Robert Price (Vale Royal, Andrew Carter) employed yet another game plan in the U15 boys’ 3000m, hanging three or four seconds off the 2:58, 6:02 first two kilometres pace before accelerating away for a comfortable 8:58.87 win. And finally, Jess Bailey (Kendal AC) opted for the gun to tape approach in the U17 women’s 3000 to win easily in 9:36.20.
Thrilling and varied stuff and a perfect example of what this championship is all about; intense competition in every form.
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