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Alex Smith
Alex Smith

It was a positive start to the penultimate day of the European Under-23 Championships (Kaunas, Lithuania) with qualifying performances from Toby Sandeman (Thames Valley) and Richard Kilty (Gateshead) in the men’s 200m and Lucy Sargent (Havering Mayesbrook) in the women’s event – all three now through to their respective finals on Saturday afternoon.

Sandeman, who had scorched to victory with a new best of 20.69s at the Aviva UK Championships last weekend (12th July), won his semi final in 20.80s, the second fastest performance of the morning behind Germany’s Alexio Platini Menga (20.61s).

Kilty had to battle for his place in the final with a third place finish in the second semi final (20.99s). “I took the second half of the bend slowly like I did yesterday and I came off in about fourth,” he said. “I’m usually strong at the back end of the race anyway so I came through strong. It was tough coming off the bend but the strongest part of my race, due to the way I run it, is the last 50m, so I had more confidence coming off the bend.”

England Under-23 Championships 200m runner-up Sargent was delighted to progress through to the final with a new lifetime best (23.57s). “Oh wow, I’m really pleased with that!” she said. “I felt good, I didn’t think it would be that fast. I was running as hard as I could. I didn’t want to look at the rankings before because I knew it would scare me so I ran that as a final and actually getting into the final is a big bonus.”

Joey Duck (Marshall Milton Keynes), the English under-23 champion, missed out on a fastest loser position by one place, clocking 23.77s for fourth in semi final one. “I can run so much faster than that,” she said, rightly frustrated. “My bend was ok, but normally my second part is my strongest part. My first race is always bad, it always takes me one race to get going, but I didn’t have that here. I know I’m better than that which is just so disappointing.”

There was also disappointment for hammer duo Mark Dry (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) and Matt Lambley (City of Sheffield). English under-23 champion Dry, who secured the European Under-23 Championships qualifying mark with a PB of 69.40m on that occasion (Bedford, June 28th), failed to progress through to Sunday’s hammer final after finishing 14th overall (65.05m).

“It was just unacceptable, it’s not on,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous, I knew what I was doing, I didn’t feel bad. I felt like it was going alright, it didn’t feel as bad as it was.”

Lambley, runner-up to Dry in Bedford, missed out on qualifying by 20cm, finishing one place above Dry with 65.22m. But it was good news for Aviva UK champion Alex Smith (Sale Harriers Manchester) however, qualifying with a best effort of 68.53m. “I was confident going into that. It wasn’t technically great but it was alright. When we watched the last round of the first group we were thinking “great” – I’m not sure what was going on, a lot of guys were down on their best, but that’s the nature of qualifiers.

The former Commonwealth Youth Games champion (2004) and World Youth Games bronze medallist – who starts as fourth best qualifier - can now look forward to Sunday’s final.