Scorching start to season

Fast times, impressive jumping and an endless string of superb throws were very much order of the day, as everybody benefitted from the fantastic conditions in Manchester on day one of the England Athletics Open Senior and U20 Combined Event Championships.

From the first gun that set the men’s 100 on their way at 10am, it was all about how many PBs would be recorded as the following wind was just about a perfect 1.5m/s and the stadium temperature hovered around 20 degrees.  The standout performance amongst all those amazing opening event times had to be Abigail Pawlet’s (Ashley Bryant, Trafford) 13.13 in the women’s heptathlon 100 hurdles – a huge improvement on her previous best of 13.42 and a performance that set the tone for the day, concluded by an equally stunning 400 in the U20 men’s decathlon by Sammy Ball  (Michael Dyer, Reading). Here’s how it all unfolded.

Women’s Heptathlon

Abigail Pawlet (Ashley Bryant, Trafford), the UK record holder for the U17 pentathlon flew to 13.13 in the 100 hurdles which was not only easily her best time, it was an outright qualifier for the European U23 Champs in that event. It certainly got everybody talking about what she could do - as it was more than 0.6sec faster than her run in the Multistars World Athletics Combined Events Tour Gold in Italy earlier this season. And it almost made Jodie Smith’s (Ashley Bryant, Brunel) 13.49 look ordinary, which of course it wasn’t as it too was a lifetime best! This would be an interesting contest as Pawlett then grazed the bar off at 1.69m and had to settle for a moderate for her 1.66m while Smith scaled 1.72m at the second time of asking, which eased her into the lead 1931pts to 1911pts.

Abigail Pawlett

Smith, clearly in form then opened her shot account with another PB of 12.96m, while Pawlett hit 12.64m with her second round effort before a magnificent 13.96m final throw. That meant she moved back into the gold medal slot with a slender 28pt lead. But as the day started, so it ended with Pawlett scorching to another huge PB, this time her 23.71 200m giving her a comfortable overnight lead from Smith with a hugely impressive 3693pts. To her credit, Smith again ran superbly with a PB of her own, clocking 24.50 meaning this competition is far from over as 3589 is also an excellent overnight score.

“I’m relieved,” laughed Pawlett after the 200m. “I’m also super pleased with how it’s all gone although I’m a little bit disappointed with the high jump,” she added, explaining her relief that it all came together after that slight hiccup. “I’ve been going a lot better in training. Now it's a case of ice baths and protein,” she laughed.

Training partner Smith was also really happy with a PB day one and three PBs from four events. “Like Abi it’s just now a case of keeping it going,” she said, adding that along with that protein she might opt for a plate of spaghetti!

Men’s Decathlon

The 100m saw Scotland’s Adam Hoole (East Lothian) get things rolling with a superb PB of 10.70 – legal wind, perfect temperature. Behind him Charlie Roe (Stewart Marshall, Coventry Godiva Harriers) and Ewan Bradley (David, Feeney, Loughborough Students) both clocked lifetime bests of 11.05 and 11.11 to keep it all tight at the front end. Roe opened his account in the long jump with 7.04m but couldn’t respond to the 7.15 and 7.16 from Hoole in round two and three, both outdoor PBs. Bradley was also in the form of his life, reaching 7.06m with his final jump. With six athletes within 12cm of each other in the shot after two rounds, it was Lewis Church (David Hull, Tonbridge) who finally found his rhythm to hit 13.31m with his final throw, which moved him into the bronze medal slot. Hoole however, kept the pressure on up front with 13.06m.

Lewis Church

The high jump saw that gap close even more as Church cleared 1.96 compared to Hoole and Bradley’s 1.84m. It meant that going into the 400m, the Scot held a marginal lead of just 67pts from Church who now occupied the silver medal position. But a below par 400 from Church – “the slowest I’ve ever run,” he joked to a fellow competitor after seeing his 50.64 – meant it was Hoole (50.29) who headed back to the hotel the overnight leader, although Church, still in second more often than not has a really strong second day. All to play for.

U20 Women’s Heptathlon

Freya Dockerty (Jessica Taylor-Jemmett, Sale Harriers) kept the PB ball that had been rolling all morning with a massive lifetime best of 14.19 in the 100m hurdles, far quicker than her previous mark of 14.93, while it was Bryony Bovell (John Shepherd, Guildford and Godalming) who shone in the high jump thanks to a PB-equalling 1.73m. That saw her move from the bronze medal position after one event to the gold medal slot after two.

Bryony Bovell

It was a case of shuffle the pack after the shot as Ellise Fryer-Francis (Jessica Taylor-Jemmett, Sale Harriers) threw 11.47m to close the gap on Bovell who had to be content with 10.00m, good enough to keep her in the gold medal slot, but close to a metre below her best. Her 26.37 in the 200m kept her in the gold medal position, but behind her the pack is closing.

U20 Men’s Decathlon

Sammy Ball (Michael Dyer, Reading) showed he meant business, powering out of the blocks in the 100m to stop the clock at 10.86. It actually read 10.76 but was quickly revised to that 892pt mark. His 7.02m final round jump in the long jump was solid, although given the amazing conditions, it was frustratingly 15cm or so shy of his PB such was the expectation the day had created. He did get things back on track in a big way in the next event, the shot where improved to 15.77m, his best ever distance. Conrad Winter (City of Norwich) moved to second thanks to 11.53, 6.62 and 13.09m. Next up, it was the high jump which confirmed just how dominant Ball is in the decathlon. He eased further into the lead thanks to a massive clearance at 2.00m and an equally impressive 2.03m.

Sammy Ball

Back in January such was his clearance at 1.95m on his way to gold indoors, it looked like there would be a big improvement soon and once again that looks to be the case as he had three decent efforts at 2.06m. As we reported from Sheffield in the winter, there’s certainly more to come. And we didn’t have to wait long for that to be confirmed as he flew around the 400m in a stunning 48.05, a whopping improvement on his 48.43 he clocked in Santiago de Cali, Colombia last season.

Photos by Pat Isaacs