Sheffield proves Number 1 for record collectors

All-time lists, championship records and personal bests were order of the day at the England Athletics Open U20, U17 and U15 indoor championships in Sheffield.

Stand-out performances included two UK records, one by Alicia Barrett (Club: Chesterfield & District, Coach: Tony Minichello) pictured above in the U20 women’s 60 hurdles where she clocked 8.20 in the heats and then 8.19 in the semis and the other in the U17 women's triple jump from Eloise Harvey (Club: Dartford Harriers, Coach: Trevor Bent) pictured below, the southern silver medallist. She entered the competition with a best of 11.54 improved that to 11.80 for an early lead and then jumped 12.02 in the third round for a UK record. It was a superb competition in which she bettered her previous best in five of the six rounds.

For Barrett, the final would be no formality as Sophie Yorke (Club: Cheltenham & County AC, Coach: Dave Warner) ran 8.30 in her semi of the U20 women’s 60 hurdles, good for fourth on the UK all-time list. She’s also been third in the senior champs this season so the four time English Schools' champion and former U15 and U17 winner Barrett had to be at her best… which she was, but she had to work for it. Yorke headed her for two hurdles, but couldn't quite maintain that as Barrett surged ahead mid-race to win in 8.25 from Yorke, 8.34.

In the U17 women's 60 hurdles Pippa Earley (Club: Kingston AC & Poly Harriers, Coach: John Shepherd / Lloyd Cowan) was also in record-breaking form, lowering the CBP to 8.44 in the semis before confirming her status as Britain’s number 1 with a 8.47 victory. She also finished second in the long jump. U15 Abigail Pawlett (Club: West Cheshire, Coach: Joe Frost) moved to sixth on the all-time list with her 8.88 after looking commanding in the heats and semis.

However, statisticians all agreed it was the victory in the men’s U20 pole vault that was arguably the real highlight of the day. Elevating himself to number 2 on the UK all-time list was Joel Leon Benitez (Club: Notts, Coach: Alan Richardson) pictured below who soared after 5.40 in the men’s U20 pole vault. He cleared 5.30 by such a margin, good for number 4 on the all-time list, it looked almost a formality he would clear the next height. And so it proved as he cleared it at his first attempt. He had three great vaults at a CBP of 5.46, but given his previous PB was a not too shabby 5.25, this really did set the bar much higher (sorry, we couldn’t resist).

Superb sprinting was order of the day as the 200m carried on where the 60m left off yesterday with a string of sensational performances. Leading the way was Jaleel Roper (Club: Hercules Wimbledon, Coach: Paul Miller) who ran 22.62 to add the U15 200m gold to the 60m one already in his kit bag from the day before. It was the fourth fastest time of all-time and concluded a brilliant weekend for the powerful-looking sprinter who won by 0.8sec, a huge margin at this level.

The women’s U20 was equally impressive as Alisha Rees (Club: Edinburgh, Coach: Willy Russell) powered her way to a Scottish record with 23.79 to cap a great weekend that saw her run 7.43 in the 60 on Saturday where she finished third. Clocking his fifth PB of the weekend Rio Mitcham (Club: Telford, Coach: Eric Cartwright) took the men’s U20 title with 21.42.

Long-striding Alicia Regis (Club: Enfield & Haringey, Coach: John Denford) won the U17 200m in 24.72, while the equivalent men's race was won by 60m silver medallist Adam Clayton (Club: Giffnock North) in 22.22. The Scottish champion improved his previous best of 22.38 but had to as 14-year-old Dominic Ogbechie (Club: Highgate Harriers, Coach: Marius Guei), winner of the high jump almost ran him down such has been his improvement over the weekend. Finally, in the U15 girls' 200m Acacia Williams-Hewitt (Club: Hallamshire Harriers Sheffield, Coach: Pat Sheldon) crossed the line first in a PB of 25.10, comfortably clear of Macey Morris (Club: Newport Harriers) who clocked 25.57.

The heats can tell you a lot and for the U20 men’s 400m they said watch out for Owen Richardson (Club: Basingstoke & Mid Hants, Coach: John Davis). He hit the front at the break, mid 22s, and held off all-comers for a 47.61 to complete a full set of titles - U15, U17 and now U20; only seniors to go! To be fair, Ellis Greatrex (Club: Wolves & Bilston, Coach: Claudio Albenese) had something to say in all of this, but couldn’t, much to his frustration, close his rival down, clocking 47.76. A great race that promises this will be an event to keep an eye on in the summer.

In a chaotic U17 300m Sophie Porter (Club: Guernsey Island AAC, Coach: Dale Garland) found herself perfectly positioned with 120m to run as she drifted in from lane 5 and faster (on paper at least) athletes couldn’t get by as she ran out strongly for a 39.99 win, the fastest English time this year.

The U20 women’s 800m featured a loaded field with internationals and national champions aplenty; it would take something very special to win this one. After a cagey 66.46 opening 400m, Isabelle Boffey (Club: Enfield & Haringey, Coach: Douglas Stone), the pace really began to heat up as Jemma Reekie (Club: Kilbarchan, Coach: Andy Young), the Scottish record holder at 2:05.22 put her head down and made a run for the line. However, Boffey, last year’s U17 champion was up to the task and finished with a 29.28 last 200 for a clear win in 2:07.57.

Reekie doubled back a few hours later to lead the field out in the 1500m, pulling them through in 71sec. She began to apply the pressure over the next 400m and really stretched them out, passing 800 in 2:21.9. The metronomic, level pace began to pay dividends by 1km and she broke away for a comfortable win in 4:27.94. In the same race Kiara Frizelle (Club: Cardiff) won the U17 women's championships in 4:35.00.

The front-running action continued as pre-event favourite Markhim Lonsdale (Club: Crook & Dist, Coach: Keith Lonsdale) put together 26, 53 and 28 second splits for a brilliant gun to tape 1:48.77, a championship record and the fourth fastest time ever, just a fifth of a second shy of the national record held by Jarrow’s David Sharpe. It was a stunning run that saw Ben Greenwood (Club: Perth Strathtay Harriers, Coach: Cat Tavendale) run 1:49.73 and be well beaten over the final 200m, rare indeed at this level!

As many expected in the men’s U20 high jump it was the two leading jumpers this year, Tom Gale (Club: Team Bath AC, Coach; Denis Doyle) and Joel Khan (Club: Worcester AC, Coach; Deirdre Elmhirst) who were left to battle it out for gold. Both cleared 2.10 at first attempt. However, Gale, a 2.18 performer outdoors, cleared 2.13 easily enough for the gold but couldn’t go any further on this occasion.

The U20 men’s long jump was also a tight competition, going down to the wire. Sam Talbot (Club: Exeter Harriers, Coach: Martin Brockman) opened his account with a 7.22 in the U20 men’s long jump. The talented all-rounder (he also ran the 60 hurdles, stumbling on the line to get second) knew he wouldn’t have it all his own way as Patrick Sylla (Club: Bournemouth, Coach: Zac Kerrin) responded with a 7.06 that well behind the board. He stretched that to 7.17 and 7.21 but struggled all competition to get his run-up right. Talbot, however, was in a groove and flew out to 7.37 in round four, which was a good job as finally fellow international athlete Osaze Agehdo (Club: Swansea Harriers, Coach: Steve Ingram) finally found his rhythm and to hit 7.36, just 4cm shy of his outdoor PB. A twist was yet to come however in the final round, as Reynold Banigo (Club: Leeds City AC, coach; John Crotty) used the energy of the crowd by leaping into the lead with a PB of 7.42. Not to be done however, Talbot held his nerve to jump a superb 7.48 to confirm his gold medal place.

The U17 men's long jump was equally exciting, if not more so! Ben Sutton (Club: Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC, Coach; Paul Patten) put the pressure on the rest of the field early on with his mark of 6.60, just 6cm short of his PB. But The final round was superb as Jack Sumners (Club: Stratford upon Avon, Coach: Paul Bearman) saved the best for last – literally – and jumped a winning 6.63 a personal best and good enough to take home the gold as Sutton could only respond with a foul after leading for so long.

Gaia Osborne (Club: City of Portsmouth, Coach: Mrs B Carter) threw a seemingly endless succession of PBs, stretching her lead in the fourth round with a 12.50 throw in the fourth round, followed by another lifetime best (Club: her fifth of the competition) in the fifth round of 12.81 of the U20 women’s shot. No-one could compete with this kind of form and she finished well clear of Ada’Ora Chigbo (Club: North Somerset, Coach: Fuzz Caan).

A timely personal best from Michael Burfoot (Club: Blackeath & Bromley, Coach: Herbert Kuestlinger) of 13.34 also proved enough in the U15 shot competition for the gold ahead of Jack Halpin (Club: Gateshead, Coach: Alex Giles) who threw 12.30. The men’s U20 shot saw Daniel Cartwright stamp his authority on the field with a 17.70 (Club: Birchfield Harriers) also far ahead of the rest of the field.
George Hyde (Club: West Cheshire AC) successfully retained his title in the U17 shot, his put of 15.80 enough to claim the gold ahead of Benjamin Whiteman’s best of 14.60 (Club: Perth Strathtay Harriers, Coach; Alan Erikson).

Britain’s number 1 in the U17 women's pole vault Victoria Barlow (Club: Sale Harriers Manchester, Coach: Matthew Cullen), the reigning outdoor champion opened her account with a comfortable clearance at 3.50. Jade Spencer-Smith (Club: Harrow, Coach: Ellie Span) also cleared that height along with three others. Spencer-Smith kept the pressure on by clearing 3.60, a height that saw all but two eliminated. Her big clearance at 3.70, an equal PB, saw her take the lead but after missing her first attempt at 3.80 Barlow regained it for good with a great clearance. She upped the bar to a lifetime best of 3.90 but could go no further. Exciting stuff that had the stadium enthralled.

It was a brilliant weekend that bodes well for a summer that should produce some amazing performances from a talented crew of young athletes.

Photos by Mark Shearman