Superb finale to England Athletics 2017 Championships

It took year leading marks, two UK records – and in an encouragingly large amount of cases, an all-time top 10 performance – to secure victory in a wide range of events on day two of the England Athletics Under 17 & Under 15 and Disability Age Group Championships, confirming that the current crop of age groupers is one of the best.

The U15 boys 200 and U17 women 80 hurdles saw UK age group records – one equal, one outright as Jaleel Roper (Hercules Wimbledon, Paul Miller) ran 22.13 and Pippa Earley (Kingston and Poly, John Shepherd/Lloyd Cowan) cracked the fabled 11-second barrier with 10.97 (+0.1).

The hurdles perfectly summed up the weekend. A windy 10.98 semi would have been a UK record but by the final that breeze dropped and Early flew to a legal 10.97. Oddly it wasn’t a CBP as Alicia Barrett owns that with a windy 10.87! But for once, Bedford and the weather obliged.

In what was described as the best event -thanks to its unparalleled strength in depth - Jaleel Roper (Hercules Wimbledon, Paul Miller) powered to his 22.13 in the U15 boys 200m, a day after winning the 100 – a championships record and equal to the best time ever recorded. There was an anxious wait for the wind speed – always notorious in Bedford, but good news… it was a legal 1.3 to confirm a fabulous double for Roper.

From the off, things got off to a flying start as the traditional event opener, the long hurdles provided some superb racing, literally producing some of the best hurdling ever seen in this country. A great final 150m in the U17 men’s 400H resulted in Ben Lloyd (Shaftesbury, Stanley Madiri) clocking the fastest time in the country this year – and the 10th best ever - as he powered off the final hurdle to win in 52.98. Karl Johnson (Newham and Essex Beagles, Tony Jarrett) had looked smooth and likely to win until that point but couldn’t react in time, although he too was rewarded with a 53.21 PB - certainly the future looks bright in this event as it does in the women’s. That’s because the U17 girls 300H was even more exciting as Amy Pye (Cannock and Stafford, Gary Myles) flew through the first 100m to build up a huge lead that she held onto in the final straight despite a late challenge from Jasmine Jolly (Preston Harriers, Paul Noblett). Her winning time of 41.96 was a huge PB moving her all the way down from a pre-championships best of 43.06 and up to number five on the all-time rankings.

The U17 women hammer further confirmed the strength in depth of this age group as it featured an encouragingly strong field of 20 competitors, but two names stood out as Jade Williams (Shercock) and Charlotte Williams (Blackburn, Michael Hitchon) quickly stamped their authority on the field with early 58+ efforts in the early rounds. The pair both produced a great series and it was Jade who emerged victorious thanks to her fourth round thrown of 59.77. Ben Hawkes (Worthing, Eric Davison) won the U17 men’s hammer with 71.91, just shy of his ranking topping 71.97.

As is always the case at a major championships, the middle distances produced plenty of drama, albeit for different reasons. In the U15 girls 800 Emily Misantoni (Stockport, Joe Frost) tripped on the back straight on the first lap while in the lead, tumbling to the track; she then got up and went from last back to first by the bell (67.3) and held on bravely until the final 20 metres before Emma Horsey (Walton, Andrew Kennard) pulled past for the win with 2:15.74. Misantoni hung on for third. As if to emphasise what could have been, the boys race was as exciting but for different reasons as Daniel Joyce (Tynedale, Peter Venus) hit the front just as Emily had done in the race before. This time, however, it was very different. He flew through 400 (56.7) and held on for a championships best performance of 1:56.04 for a huge win and the tenth fastest ever, far in front of the chasing field. Max Burgin (Halifax, Brian Burgin) was in a similar mood – ready to lay down the challenge from the gun. He flew through 400 in 53.4 and continued to stretch away on the back straight. A slight stumble with 200m to go did little to slow him down and the age group record holder was rewarded with a CBP of 1:50.26. No less impressive was Keely Hodgkinson (Leigh Harriers, Margaret Galvin) who whipped around the second lap in 62 seconds for a 2:06.85 win, a PB by more than a second (in a tactical race) and the suggestion there’s way more in the tank.

In the U17 men’s 1500, the drama continued as it was a case of never say die for Oliver Dustin (Border H, Graham Mason) who sprinted past Luke Duffy (Mansfield, Richard Massey) in the final strides just as Duffy looked to have taken the title. Dustin’s last lap was a not-too-shabby 56-odd seconds, possibly a shade quicker given he came from mid pack. Picture Kyle Langford, London 2017, 800 to conjure up a mental image of that last straight – only much more successful in this instance!

On the subject of championships records, Sam Brereton (Newquay and Par, Clive Marsh) really rose to the occasion in the U15 boys high jump and flew over 1.97 before a close effort at 2.01. It was a 1cm improvement on the 11-year-old record but just shy of his PB of 2.00. But confirmation nonetheless of a sensational season of improvement.

Conditions were clearly perfect for sprinting as in the U17 men’s 200 as multi eventer Dominic Ogbechie (Highgate Harriers, Marcus Guei) powered to 21.52 (a PB by half a second), admittedly well short of any records on this occasion but not bad for a combined eventer who is a great high jumper (2.07i) and just happens to be one of the best long jumpers (7.33w) in the country.

Things continued apace in the U17 men’s 400 as Ethan Brown (Blackheath and Bromley, Lloyd Cowan) not only took gold with his 47.84, but also the No.1 clocking for the year, which in turn was the 11th fastest ever. Not be outdone, George Sudderick (Walton, Andrew Kennard) won the U15 boys 300 in 35.79, the eighth quickest ever and like Brown, the quickest time of 2017. And finally Tia Anderson (Durham City, Peter Wileman) showed everybody who is No1 by lowering the championship best to 40.35; tremendous sprinting on what turned out to be a perfect weekend for sprinters.

In the field, Max Law (Havering, Sam Harrison) won the javelin with 62.24, while Ben Copley (Kingston upon Hull, Dave Bennett) confirmed his No.1 status with a 47.18 win. An athlete with big improvement on his mind was Oyare Aneju (Radley, Peter O’Keefe) – he flew out to a massive PB to win the U15 boys triple jump in 13.31, far in excess of his pre-competition mark of 12.43.

Oisin Lane (Mullingar Harriers, Michael Lane) was in a similar mind set and seized the initiative from the gun in the U17 men’s 5km walk and was never headed, winning in 24:07.58. The women’s title took longer to decide as Sarah Glennon (Mullingar Harriers, Michael Lane) took a couple of kilometres (2km 9:55.8) to stamp her authority on the field, easing away over the final eight laps to record 26:02.66. The walk also featured an U15 boys 3km event at the same time, won by Alex Macheath (Cambridge Harriers, Noel Carmedy) in 16:43.64 after Jack Childs (Medway and Maidstone, Peter Selby) was dq’d with less than a kilometre left. The U15 girls race produced a great finish as Hannah Hopper (Cambridge Harriers, Noel Carmedy) passed Lois Carty (Aldershot Farnham and District, Verity Snook) with just a couple of laps to go, finishing with a huge PB in 18:01.77.

Standout performances in the IPC events included European record holder Craig Boardman (City of Portsmouth, Paul Smith) who was a clear winner in the T34 100 and 200. In the 400 Isaac Towers (Blackpool, Peter Wyman) reversed the result and beat his T34 rival 53.40 to 54.27. He also won the 1500 in 3:29.18.

Irish guest Shauna Bocquet took the 100, 400 and 1500 titles with Olivia Gallagher (Weir Archer Academy, Jenny Archer) breaking the run in the 200, posting 48.98 (-1.6).

Finally in the field, Abigail Birch (Cornwall, Mo Pearson) added to her medal haul yesterday with gold in the discus and silver in the shot.