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EURO U23 PREVIEW

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UK Champion Luke Cutts

GB & NI under-23 athletes concluded their final preparations ahead of this week’s European Under-23 Championships (Kaunas, Lithuania, 16-19th July), winning four senior titles at the Aviva UK Championships & World Trials in Birmingham at the weekend. Three of the four champions also equalled or achieved lifetime best performances.

Former Commonwealth youth champion Alex Smith (Sale Harriers Manchester) set the standard for the weekend with victory and a PB in the men’s hammer (69.79m) on Friday evening (July 10th).

Smith’s gold was matched by top ranked European under-23 discus thrower Eden Francis, who will double up in the shot put and discus in Lithuania, and earned podium places in both events on Saturday. She opened her medal account with victory in the shot put with 16.33m, following it up with a second place finish in the discus with 56.06m.

The Birchfield athlete, second ranked on the UK All-Time U23 list in the discus, recorded personal best performances in both events at the Bedford International Games in May and will be aiming to exceed those distances when she competes against the best in Europe this week.

Luke Cutts (Dearneside High), fourth ranked European under-23 in the pole vault, equalled his best ever mark when clearing 5.55m for victory in Birmingham ahead of UK number one and Commonwealth bronze medallist Steve Lewis (Newham & Essex Beagles).

The England under-23 champion – who has reached a height of 5.62m indoors – and now with a UK senior title to his name, will undoubtedly want to add the European under-23 gold medal to his collection as well as seeking the IAAF World Championships ‘A’ standard  of 5.70m.

Second ranked European under-23 Toby Sandeman (Thames Valley Harriers), who clocked an impressive lifetime best performance for victory in the men’s 200m with 20.69secs ahead of Olympian and former national champion Marlon Devonish, was the fourth senior title winner over the weekend.

He won the England Under-23 Championships 200m title a fortnight ago in a personal best at the time of 20.72s, but having eclipsed that mark on a breezy night in the Alexander Stadium, his medal prospects in Kaunas are now looking better than ever.

Other notable under-23 performances over the weekend came from Callum Priestly (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), who clocked a new PB to finish second in the men’s 110m H with 13.69; top ranked European under-23 400m hurdles star Perri Shakes-Drayton (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets) who finished second in the flat 400m in a new PB  of 51.81s; Brett Morse (Birchfield) and Joey Duck (Milton Keynes) who won silver medals in the discus and 200m respectively; and bronze medal winners Sarah Holt (Sale) in the hammer, Jade Nicholls (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) in the discus, Gianni Frankis (Newham & Essex Beagles) in the 110mH and Zara Hohn (Wakefield) in the 100mH.

The GB & NI team won 11 medals in the previous edition of the European Under-23 Championships in Debrecen, Hungary and will be aiming to match or exceed that total on this occasion.

Team Leader John Trower said: “We have a very strong team of athletes who are ranked well in Europe, along with an excellent support team and a group ofcommitted personal coaches, some of whom will be in attendance with their athletes in Lithuania. It should be a successful event for the team but it is never easy to win medals at any Championships, but that’s what we’re here to do.”