Report: Day 2 - England Age Group Championships

Continuing the event’s pathway to success theme, day two of the U15 /U17 and Disability National Championships produced a string of performances that confirmed the next generation is more than ready to take over in the next three or four seasons.

At one point, in just 10 exciting minutes there were three UK leading marks. In the U17 men’s javelin Theo Spurrell (Yate and District, Mark Bradford) hit 64.57 in the fourth round to win the gold before going even further in the final round with 64.86; both throws were not only PBs, they are also the first and second longest throws in the country in 2021, great consistency and form given the tricky conditions. He said,

“I felt a lot of pressure coming in as I was ranked No.1 so it took a few rounds to settle. Once I’d done that, I felt really good and was really pleased with the throws,”

A lifetime best of 1.72 – and number 1 in the UK for 2021 – secured the U15 girls’ high jump title for Thea Brown (Sale Harriers Manchester, Joanne Harding). And finally in the U15 boys’ shot Alexander Abebrese (Herne Hill Harriers, Anthony Soalla-Bell) threw 16.00 for the title and the number 1 in the UK shot.

“I knew if I got my technique right, I’d be right up there,” Alexander said. “I had been throwing high 15s in training so I’m proud and happy with the result.”

Similarly, 15 minutes of middle-distance racing produced just as much drama. As Tokyo confirmed, there are some swift runners to target, so it was no surprise to see four superbly competitive 800m races one after the other, displaying the full set of skills to win at this – and a higher – level. Shakira King (Wreake & Soar Valley, John Skevington) got the ball rolling in the U15 girls’ race with a superb gun to tape that threw out the message ‘follow me if you dare’. She flew through the opening 200 in a shade over 30 seconds and 400 in 63.7 to emerge the winner in 2:13.74.

“I took it out because I wanted to control the race at a pace I knew I would be comfortable with,” explained Shakira.

The U15 boys’ race was equally swift (59.6) at the bell, but it was all about the final 200 for Jack Kinrade (Shrewsbury, Colin Lancaster) who turned on the burners around the top bend to win in a shade over two minutes (2:00.03). “It wasn’t a race for times, it was one for positions and with 250m to go I felt there was a gap, so I went for it from there,” Jack explained. That was a certainly an impressive move, but Jake Minshull (Coventry Godiva Harriers) looked even more powerful in the U17 men’s race, surging away after a 57.2 opening lap. A final lap close to 54 seconds, all of it run in the final 150 metres saw him win in 1:52.70.

“It was a really good race and I followed the lead and felt quite good at the bell,” Jake said. “Next up is an international, so I’m really excited as to how it’s going.”

The last race of the four was more of a traditional championships race and was tactical in every sense as just about the entire field was still in touch with less than 200 metres to go after a pedestrian 68-second opening lap. Katie Johnson (Edinburgh AC) was always in command and won in 2:12.58.

The U17 men’s 1500 was also really exciting with the form book suggesting five or six athletes would be capable of taking the title. And that’s exactly how it panned out as half a dozen were still in touch at the bell (2:57). Down the back straight, the pace really started to pick up and it was George Keen (Cambridge and Coleridge, Mark Vile) who prevailed in 3:56.81, his final lap taking just 59 seconds. “From the start I decided to sit in out of the wind. I watched what was going on ahead and decided to go with 70 metres to go,” George said. It was a much clearer affair in the U17 women’s race as Kiera Brady-Jones (Wirral AC, Sarah Kearney) simply put her foot down from the gun. By 800 (2:22.1) she had built up a two-second lead that she maintained to the finish and she won gold with 4:27.18, less than a second outside her best ever.

The long sprints saw a series of swift times highlighted by Zico Jones (Shaftesbury Barnet, Ty Holden) clocking the fastest time in the country in the U15 boys’ 200 with 22.24.

“I slipped at the start, but I managed to hold the bend and once I got into the home straight, I knew I could explode forwards. Not a bad day’s work,” he concluded.

Etty Sisson (Charnwood) took the U17 women’s 300 in a PB of 38.57, while Noah Ridgeon (Sutton and District, Alexander Starr) won the U15 boys’ race in 36.78. “It was a good race. I just wanted to go better than the English Schools (third),” he said. He did! Callia Downey (Be Fit Today Track Academy, Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai) was the winner in the U15 girls’ 300 in 40.02. And in the hurdle equivalent, Stephanie Okoru (Havering, Tony Benton) looked full of running as she crossed the line far ahead of the chasing field in the U17 women’s 300H to win in 42.82. It was a lifetime best for Stephanie, but such was her dominance there’s certainly more to come. “I stuttered into the first hurdle but after that I began to feel quite fluid and easy. I said to myself ‘keep strong’,” said Stephanie who has the Schools’ International on her racing calendar.

The swirling wind proved difficult to manage in the U17 men’s long jump, so it was no surprise to see James Taylor (Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow, Daniel Sawyers) somersault with joy when he hit 6.92 – a super solid jump in the cold and wet.

“I knew I was capable (he has a PB of 7.08), so I got everyone clapping in the last round to get me going. And I was so please with the result, I did that back flip,” James laughed, his motto ‘never give up’ paying dividends.

On the track, the U17 women’s 1500 steeplechase saw Kiya Dee (Highworth) shatter her personal best by 14 seconds to win in 4:56.74. She worked her way through the field and launched a perfectly timed kick to take the title. And Calvin Smith (Shaftesbury Barnet, Nathan Roberts) confirmed his No.1 status going into the U17 men’s 400 to win comfortably in 49.13.

Lily Murray (Swale Combined) took the U17 women’s hammer with 51.68, while Ella Woods (Birchfield Harriers, Paul Harrison) emerged triumphant from a close fought U15 girls’ long jump with 5.56. Gemma Tutton (Lewis AC, Richard Pilling) was in great form in the U17 women’s pole vault, confirmed by her 4.00 clearance for the gold.

Looking good as well was Isabelle Mardle (City of Norwich, Keith Yellop) in the U15 girls’ 75 hurdles as she crossed the line in 11.11 daylight between her and the rest of the field. Elliot Hanslow (Crawley AC, Matthew Overall) won the U15 boy’s 80 hurdles in 11.61, Mia Macintosh (Dacorum & Tring, Jake Awe) took the U17 women’s 80 hurdles with 11.05 nice and controlled, while great running from Jacob Blanc (Havering, Tony Benton) made sure the gold headed south in the U17 men’s 100 hurdles thanks to his 13.08 clocking.

*Thanks to the amazing teams who put together a smooth-running competition from the efficient security guards, to the dedicated squad of track and field officials, not to mention the Kukri crew selling superb kit. And everyone in between!