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Highlights from UK Challenge weekend

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It was a big weekend in the UK Challenge with athletes in action in the three English area championships and the Welsh Championships with the quality of their performances determining their score in the Challenge, here are the highlights of the action.

 

In the South of England Championships at a sun-drenched Crystal Palace, there were plenty of top class performances. Joice Maduaka (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies), benefiting from a new weights programme, claims she is stronger than ever before and looking fast and smooth, her sprint double of 11.33 and 23.25 seconds went top of the UK rankings in both events.

Maduaka’s 11.33 seconds clocking gave her a big 230 points for one of the highest scores of the month and it was run into a slight headwind . The 23.25 for 200m, into another strong headwind scored a respectable 206 points and that indicates she could be in sub 23 shape with more competition.

 

Emma Duck (Team Southampton) confirmed her great winter indoors form by running a fast 56.65 seconds over 400m hurdles, which gained her 227 points. She finished well clear of club mate Sian Scott (58.79 seconds).

 

A superb comeback performance came from long jumper Greg Rutherford (Marshall Milton Keynes), who was badly injured in the Commonwealth Games after being in great shape prior to the Games. Rutherford, started the competition with a no jump, but moved on to jump 7.62m in the third round and 7.82 in the fifth. He left the best to last, leaping to a world-class effort of 8.09m in the final round, which gave him 209 points.

 

Surprisingly that wasn't the men's best scoring performance of the day. Emeka Udechuku (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) threw close to his best with 18.64 in the shot, which scored 212 points on the tables. Udechuku also won the discus with 57.16m (192 points), with Perris Wilkins (Banbury Harriers) returning from his drugs ban, a well-beaten third with 50.60m.

The closest race of the day was the men's 100m with James Ellington (Belgrave) pipping defending Champion Ryan Moseley (Shaftesbury Barnet), both sharing the winning time of 10.45 seconds, and both thus scoring 170 points. The top scoring sprint of the day came in the 200m heats where Marlon Devonish (Coventry Godiva) sped to a 20.91 seconds clocking (189 points). However the Olympic relay gold medallist failed to show for the final won by junior Rion Pierre (Windsor Slough, Eton & Hounslow) in 21.36 seconds.

 

In the women's 1500m, Helena Tobin (Basingstoke & Mid Hants) front ran to an easy victory of 4:19.47, in a race more notable for the disqualification of 800m international Marilyn Okoro, (Shaftesbury Barnet) due to not wearing her club vest. Okoro had finished fast for second place in 4:22.14.

 

Sarah Claxton (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) won the 100m hurdles in a fast 13.25 seconds (203 points) to equal her season's best and finish a metre up on Gemma Bennett (Shaftesbury Barnet) who still tops the UK rankings with her 13.18 seconds Inter Counties win. UK number one Joanne Duncan (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) easily won the shot with 16.17m to score 193 points.

 

The top junior performances of the meeting came in the U20 women's 400m hurdles. Perri Shakes Drayton (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets) smashed the championship best and went fifth on the UK all time junior lists with a sparkling 58.47 seconds that was well inside the Beijing qualifying time set by UK Athletics of 59.20.

 

Shakes Drayton didn't have it all her own way as she was trailing ESAA senior girls champion Ellen Howarth Brown (Portsmouth) by 5 metres at halfway but the talented 17-year-old finished full of running to pass her older rival in the straight and win by three metres.

 

Last year, Shakes Drayton won the ESAA 300m Hurdles Intermediate title in a British U17 record of 41.48, and is a fantastic talent still new to racing over 400m Hurdles, whilst Ellen Howarth Brown who started the year with a 62.24 PB and always attacks from the start, also finished inside the qualifying mark with a time of 58.74 seconds.

 

Gianni Frankis (Basildon) backed up his fast time at Bedford last week with an easy 14.06 seconds win in the 110m hurdles and is another surely Beijing bound as is World Youth Champion Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Sutton & District) , he won the 100m in 10.46 seconds from Belgrave's Wade Bennett Jackson who clocked 10.59 seconds.

 

The most competitive junior event of the weekend was the U20 women's 800m, which was far stronger than the senior race. Dani Christmas (Crawley) won in 2:07.34 from Stephanie Twell (Aldershot Farnham & District) in 2:07.69 and Jessica Sparke (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies) in 2:08.55. In a curious piece of scheduling on the Saturday, Twell had won her earlier 800m heat only around 40 minutes before she won a competitive 1500m final from team-mate Emma Pallant, in 4:25.35.

 

In the Junior age group, Rachel Blackie (Blackheath & Bromley) won the hammer with a PB and championship record 56.74m, just short of the 57.00m World Junior qualifying standard. Meanwhile, Daniel Pembroke (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) extended his UK age 14 best, winning the Under 20 javelin title with a personal best of 57.00m. Pembroke is the youngest winner of a Junior Southern Championships title, ironically he achieved the record mark with one of Steve Backley’s old javelins at the venue where the three times Olympic medallist used to train.

 

North of England Championships

 

The North of England Championships took place in good conditions at SportCity, Manchester, where the top individual performance on points came from Emily Freeman (Wakefield).

 

Freeman, making a rare excursion over the longer sprint ran a PB 23.25 to match Maduaka's UK leading mark from the South of England. Obviously like Maduaka, she scored 206 points. Another high scorer was Shirley Webb (Trafford), who won the hammer by 15 metres to score 201 points for her 63.27m throw.

 

Another high class effort on the track came from Jenny Meadows (Wigan), who backed up her fast 2:00.16 clocking for 800m, a personal best at Gateshead with a 52.69 seconds (190 points) victory in the 400m, just outside her PB of 52.67 seconds from 3 years ago.

 

The women's high jump was a quality affair - it had just 3 competitors with Commonwealth Heptathlon bronze medallist Jessica Ennis (City of Sheffield) winning on countback with 1.82m (180 points) from junior star Vicki Hubbard (Grantham) with joint British record holder Trafford’s Susan Moncrieff (nee Jones) third with 1.80m. Ennis made it a double with a 13.51 seconds hurdles victory, which scored 185 points.

 

Keith Higham (Border) won the pole vault in 5.20m, while Richard Buck (Nestle Rowntree) won the 400m in 46.59 seconds (176 points) from Leeds' Richard Strachan.

 

Tim Ward (Border) did the sprint double, recording 10.59 and 21.22 seconds. The top junior field performance came from Alex Smith (Sale) who threw a championship record 71.60m in the hammer, again putting him well inside the World Junior Championships qualifying standard of 68.50m for a junior implement. In the women's event Sarah Holt (Sale) set a PB, championship record of 57.10 and more importantly was over the 57.00m qualifying mark for Beijing.

 

Midland Championships

 

The Midlands Championships, a one day affair at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, took place in conditions not quite as conducive for fast times and great performances.

 

Commonwealth Heptathlon champion Kelly Sotherton (Birchfield) won the shot with 13.75m (145 points) and was a close second in the 100m with 11.93 seconds to Cannock & Staffs' Kath Jones' 11.86 second clocking (151 points), run into a strong 2.1 m/s headwind. Jones completed a sprint double, recording 24.38 seconds to win the 200m.

 

Michelle Thomas (Birchfield) ran 59.78 seconds to win the 400m hurdles and her effort was the top scoring performance of the meeting with 164 points. The best men's performance was John Pearson (Charnwood) who threw 62.18 (155 points) though the most notable senior men's performer was Somto Eruchie (Leicester), who gained a 10.70 seconds and 21.42 seconds sprint double.

 

In the junior events, James Brewer (Cheltenham) took the 800m title with a swift 1:49.69 victory and was chased home by 400m star Grant Baker (Leicester) who ran 1:51.95, significantly faster than the 1:53.23 winning senior Men’s 800m time.

Julian Adeniran (Charnwood) who already has a 13.97 seconds clocking under his belt from last month, sped to a 14.18 U20 sprint hurdles win, again inside the 14.20 mark for the World Junior Championships.

 

Welsh Championships

 

The Welsh Championship took place at Cardiff on Sunday 18 June and the highest scoring performance in the UK Challenge came in a top class women's 100m race. Jeanette Kwayke (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) just got the better of Laura Turner (Harrow). Kwayke timed 11.42 seconds to earn 217 points with Turner clocking 11.44 seconds, both athletes showing good form ahead of the European Cup selections, due to be announced on Wednesday.

 

UK pole vault record holder Janine Whitlock (Belgrave), who has been struggling for form so far in 2006, achieved a season's best of 4.26m, that gave her an easy win and 216 points. The best men's performance in UK Challenge terms came from David Greene (Swansea) who won the 400m hurdles in a championship record 50.66 seconds. That scored 208 points and gave him victory by well over three seconds.

 

In the field, Sale's Rob Mitchell's cleared 2.20m in the high jump for 200 points and victory over Tom Parsons (Birchfield). Also scoring well was Scott Simpson (Birchfield), who earned 190 points for his 5.20 pole vault victory.

 

In the senior men’s 400m, Andrew Steele (Trafford) won in a respectable 46.55 seconds (178 points) with Gareth Warburton (Cardiff) also inside 47 seconds (46.86).

 

With most of the big name entries failing to show, Mark Findlay (Newham & Essex Beagles) easily won the 100m in 10.55 seconds, into a 1.9 m/s wind, and his heat time (10.54) was quicker and earned 152 points. Following second place in the 100m, Leon Baptiste took the 200m in 21.21 seconds, for 159 points.

 

Stephen Davies (Newport) won the 800m in 1:52.33 but was denied a 800m / 1500m double as Courtney Jakowski from visiting Penn University (3:48.29) narrowly pipped him. James Thie (Cardiff) took the Welsh title in the 3000m in 8:29.15.

 

The UK Challenge series provides British athletes just below that of international standard and aspiring athletes, with top-class competition throughout the summer and throughout the UK.

 

Altogether there are 48 events throughout the season to score points in culminating in a final at Manchester on the 27 August.