Senior and U20 Combined Event Championships - Day 1 report

The indoor season starts in style! An encouraging and seemingly endless stream of personal bests provided the highlights on day one of the Senior and U20 Combined Event Championships in Sheffield.

Right from the first gun that set the U20 women’s 60 hurdles field on its way, it would need a lifetime best to really make a mark and be in contention – more than 30 PBs in the first event alone for each age group. It was the perfect way to test the water in what is the traditional opener to an action-packed indoor season. And with slots available for an England team competing in Tallinn, Estonia next month competition was understandably intense. Here’s how the day unfolded…

Men’s Heptathlon

An explosive start, both out of the blocks and in the competition itself, saw Sam Talbot (John Lane, City of Sheffield and Dearne) stop the clock in the 60 metres in a spectacular 6.89, a personal best worth 922pts. Early days for the silver medallist outdoors last summer in the decathlon, but eye-catching, nonetheless.

At the other end of the scale few outside of the in-the-know experts would have noted Lewis Church’s (David Hull, Tonbridge) 7.34. But it was significant indeed as it was a personal best that suggested the defending champion was actually in better shape than last season. True, Lewis couldn’t quite replicate that form in the long jump and had to be content with a solid rather than spectacular 6.93 second round effort (worth 797pts) but he was still tipped by many as the one to watch for.

Word in the stadium was, coach Rafer Joseph didn’t think his protégé would be a contender for that title, but the long jump certainly suggested otherwise for Caius Joseph (Rafer Joseph, Basingstoke and Mid Hants) who was clearly in magnificent form, leaping an 11cm PB of 7.23 with his very first jump, good for a whopping 869pts and the overall lead after two events.

Sam struggled to find the board and had to be content with 757pts, far below his best but still very much in contention with his best to come. And that proved to be the next event, the shot which saw him move to the lead thanks to his 14.26 personal best throw (744pts).

Caius hit 12.65 which dropped him back to bronze while Lewis edged ever closer to the top three with 13.85. That surge continued for Lewis in the final event on Saturday, the high jump. He went over 1.89 with his first attempt with Sam matching that with his second attempt, his third PB of the day. Caius had called it a day at 1.77. Lewis meanwhile closed the gap on the lead thanks to a first-time clearance at 1.92 then 1.95 and finally 1.98, reducing the gap to 62 points.

“I’ll take that,” said the overnight leader Sam. “There’s been some ups and downs but I’m happy with the three PBs. I’ll take that.”

It’s to play for on day two.

Lewis Church High Jump

U20 Men’s Heptathlon

One of the names to watch this weekend, Sammy Ball (Michael Dyer, Reading AC) winner of the decathlon title outdoors last summer, lived up that pre-event billing in the 60m running 7.22 (806pts). Unlike most of his competitors, it wasn’t a lifetime best, and it confirmed the GB international is in good shape rather than record-breaking form (although the clock did display an incredible – and incorrect – 6.98!).

The long jump was more of the same for Sammy as he stretched his lead on the chasing pack with 6.97m in the final round for a further 807pts. Will Reid (Sam Stanislaus, City of York) followed his 7.31 in the 60m with a 6.69 long jump to move to second after two events, while Conrad Winter (City of Norwich) jumped 6.75 just 1cm shy of his best for 755 points and the third place slot going into the shot. The shot saw Sammy increase his lead thanks to an opening throw of 14.30, good for 717pts.

Moving up to second, Conrad threw 13.70 with his second-round effort for a huge improvement on his previous best of 11.96 and 710pts with Will in third after an 11.45 throw. As ever, the pole vault played a significant role in proceedings led once again by Sammy clearing a personal best of 4.30 before calling it a day at 4.40. It put him on a par with last year in terms of points and confirmed he would be tough to beat on day two! Sammy leads 3062 from Conrad 2759, Will back in third with 2624.

Sammy Ball

U20 Women’s Pentathlon

This was a one-day event and Lucy Fellows (Alan Richardson, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) got things under way with a smooth looking personal best of 8.87, which scored her 937pts. Certainly this race suggested there’s been a nice progression this winter for last season’s English Schools’ long jump bronze medallist.

Behind her Bryony Bovell (John Shepherd, Guildford and Godalming) was in equally swift form, clocking 8.96 for a pb and 918pts. The two then swapped positions in the high jump as Bryony cleared 1.66 at the third time of asking to score 806pts, while Lucy scaled 1.63 first time for 771pts. Two events down and just 16 points separated the top two.

Bryony Bovell shot putIt was still tight after the shot as Lucy threw 10.74 in the second round and Bryony hit a PB with her very last throw of 10.81 to reduce that lead to just seven points. But at this stage the English pair were battling for second and third as Scotland’s Amy Kennedy (Colin Sinclair, Cumbernauld AC) had taken over the leader’s mantle thanks to a massive 13.97 throw.

That lead didn’t last long as Lucy’s final jump of 5.81 took her back into the gold medal slot, while Bryony’s opening leap of 5.62 closed the gap to just five points on her Scottish rival in second. It all meant that it was all down to the final event, the 800m with the 11pts a second on offer making all the difference.

A fabulous final lap saw Bryony cross the line in 2:29.53 to take the race and the title (PB, 3727pts), while Lucy also closed quickly in the final 80 metres to grab third in the race (2:35.21) and second place overall (PB, 3707pts) – just 20 points separating the two after what had proved to be a fabulous competition, the result in doubt all the way to the final finish line.

“I was really pleased to just be competing again,” said the winner Bryony who revealed she had spent much of last season – 14 weeks to be precise – in a boot because of a stress fracture. “It was great to feel good in all the events and it was a really exciting competition as it was so close,” she continued. “I knew I had to be five seconds ahead in the 800m, so I just went for it,” she laughed, adding that she didn’t pace it too well and was just “hoping for the best” on the final lap!

U20 women all competitors1000

Images by Mark Shearman