U15 and U17 athletes step it up on day one of Combined Events champs

Progression is the name of the game when it comes to athletics, something that was demonstrated from the very first race as personal best followed personal best. Of course, championships are always about moving on from last year, so it was brilliant to see so many who had braved the Sheffield snow step up a level.

And as ever, this traditional final championship slot on the indoor calendar also provides a fabulous check for athletes and coaches to see how the winter has gone. And the conclusion? Superb. Here’s how the day unfolded…

U17 women's pentathlon

U17 women's pentathlon hurdles 2023.Kira Jones (Kendal) flew into an early lead with a sparkling 60 hurdles, her 8.77 good for No.7 on this year’s indoor rankings (although she already occupies the third slot thanks to the 8.73 she ran in Sheffield a month ago). It was then all change in the high jump after Ruby Tillson (Tony Benton, Havering), who had also looked sharp in the hurdles, clocking a PB of 8.96 cleared 1.68. The second event confirmed Ruby is in superb form as it resulted in another personal best and moved her into the gold medal position with 1748pts.

Meanwhile, at exactly the same moment Lauren Byrne (Barrie Hughes, Southport Waterloo) was in the other pool clearing exactly the same height, equalling her PB, to ease into second after her PB of 9.48 in the 60 hurdles. Kira slipped off the pace slightly with 1.50.

U17 women's pentathlon shot put 2023.As is so often the case, the shot proved to be pivotal as Zoe Gregory (Basildon), No.3 in the event’s rankings this year stamped her authority on the field thanks to a 12.53 in the opening round.  She followed that with 12.63 as Lauren finished with 11.49, while in B pool Ruby had to settle for 10.11, all of which meant it was Zoe who headed to the long jump in the lead with 2294pts to Ruby’s 2285pts. In between both of them was Wales’ Matilda Quick (Steve Ingram, Swansea).

Nothing separated the top two English athletes as they went into the final two events, the long jump and then the 800m. Zoe opened her account with 5.00, while on the adjoining runway, Ruby responded with a PB of 5.06 before she improved to 5.20. Seconds later Zoe jumped a PB of her own, 5.29 – game on! It all meant Zoe headed into the final event with a 35pt lead over Ruby.

In a case of who dares wins, Zoe hit the front from the gun and built up a solid lead through 400 (75.4). Ruby hung tough two metres back but a strong third lap decided the destination of the gold medal as Zoe surged ever further into the lead to take the 800 in 2:31.88. She had won in a PB of 3604pts to Ruby’s 3489pts, also a lifetime best.

“That was literally amazing,” said a very happy Zoe. “It didn’t all go to plan and the high jump was a bit of a disaster,” she laughed, quickly adding that 1.56 isn’t exactly terrible.

“But I got a PB in the long jump; that was a great competition as you could see what was going on beside you.”

Now, it’s a case of back home, and more training in the cold and dark for Zoe before an attack on the summer season.

U17 men heptathlon

U17 men's pentathlon hurdles 2023It may have been only the first event, but Sam Wright (Simon Hemmings, Chelmsford) could be excused for celebrating as he crossed the line in the 60, stopping the clock at 7.13. His previous best was 7.40 so it clearly showed his winter has gone well and he was ready to improve on his fourth from last season. That said, PBs were very much order of the day as the first four in the previous race had recorded lifetime bests, while Sam’s heat saw six do exactly that! Clearly it would take something special to win the gold.

Sam Wright hurdlesThings started to take shape in the long jump as Sam opened his account with 6.85, following that with 6.89 and a third round 6.97. Behind him the Southern champion Joe Stone (Leslie Stone, Tonbridge) followed his PB 7.25 in the 60 with a 6.50 in the long jump to move from third to second overall, while Sammy Lok (Aidan Bailey, Corby) continued the day’s PB theme with 6.46 to go with his lifetime best of 7.37 in the 60 to slot into fourth.

Sam kept the pressure on with a huge PB in the second round of the shot, firing it out to 12.36. Mind you, he had to be in that form as Adam Byrne (Barrie Hughes, Southport Waterloo) was also in the mood for massive improvement and added more than a metre to his best to throw 12.64. Not to be outdone, Joe strengthened his grip on second as he improved to 12.65, close to two metres further than he’s ever thrown before, while Corey Beechall’s (Alexander Wort, Liverpool Harriers) 13.16 was good enough for No.7 on this year’s ranking lists indoors. It also moved him into the bronze medal position behind Sam and Joe.

The day ended with the high jump, which saw Sam come in late – at 1.83 – a height which ended all but Sammy’s involvement in that competition. Sammy then cleared 1.86 but could go no further as Sam, the solid overnight leader cleared 1.89 at the first attempt before going over 1.92 at the second time of asking. A real competitor, clearly meaning business he then flew over 1.95 with his third attempt to score 2272pts for a lead of 133pts over Joe.

Report by Paul Larkins, photos by Adam Roussak