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Norwich Union England U23 & U20 Champs day 2 report

In-form heptathlete Jessica Ennis (City of Sheffield AC) twice lowered the UK Under 23 Women’s 100m hurdles record on day 2 of the Norwich Union England Under 23 and Under 20 Championships and European Trials at Bedford on Sunday 24 June.

 

On a weekend when eight meeting records fell, Ennis flew to victory in the final in 13.01 seconds (wind: 0.0) to go second on the UK Under 23 Women’s all-time rankings behind Sally Gunnell, who went on to win the 1992 Olympic 400m hurdles title.

 

This came after Ennis swept home in her heat in 13.18 seconds into a head wind, eclipsing the previous championship best of 13.50 by former World Junior champion Julie Pratt in 2000.

 

Ennis was thrilled: “I think I snagged the second to last hurdle with my knee, but it was a great run.” Then she dashed off to compete in the javelin – the main reason for her opting to compete in Bedford rather than at the European Cup First League in Vaasa.

 

She explained: “After I did the UK Women’s League in Manchester [where she long jumped and hurdled PBs and won the 200m] I wanted to get a few solid weeks of training in. And I want to have an opportunity to throw the javelin before I go out to compete in the European Cup Combined Events. The fast hurdles is a great bonus.”

 

The javelin did not fly as far as she hoped: 35.82m for eighth place in a competition won by Lianne Clarke (Cardiff AAC) with 50.96m. “I’m disappointed with it yet again,” said Ennis. “I’m not going to be pleased until I throw over 40 metres but it’s slowly getting better. I shall keep training – starting with another session on Tuesday – so that by August and the World Championships I shall be able to throw better and get a few more points. I shall keep going back to the drawing board for as long as it takes to get over 40 metres!”

 

Eden Francis (Leicester Coritanian) completed a unique set of records. She extended the Under 20 Women’s Championships Best in the shot to 15.48m, 40cm further than the previous record by Alison Grey (Edinburgh Woollen Mill) in 1992. It means that Francis now holds the Under 15, Under 17 and Under 20 CBPs – and that she has qualified for a place in the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland Junior Team for the fourth successive year.

 

So it will come as no surprise to learn of her attitude to major championships: “I love them! I’ve not stopped grinning all week. Everyone has been nervous but me; I can’t wait!”

 

But her verdict on her latest CBP was honest: “It was not very good. It was slow. It was snatchy. And it was very ugly. But it was very wet.”

 

Neither was she overly impressed by her discus victory with a throw of 49.01m, even though it was over the European Juniors standard of 48.00m. “I’ve still got one or two things to work on,” she added.

 

Brett Morse (Cardiff AAC) won the Under 20 Men’s discus with 56.15m, again exceeding the qualifying standard of 55.50m for Hengelo.

 

Day 2 had begun with some blistering 400m hurdles races in steady rain, to the obvious approval of the spectating David Hemery, the 1968 Olympic champion who was here to present the medals.

 

Toby Ulm (Swindon Harriers), who is being mentored by Hemery, won the Under 20 Men’s title impressively in 51.60 seconds. He finished well clear of a field devoid of the other teenager to have achieved the qualifying standard of 52.25 seconds for the European Junior Championships to be staged in Hengelo, Nathan Woodward (Tamworth), who is nursing a minor knee injury.

 

Then came a fabulous race for the Under 20 Women’s 400m hurdles title between the only two athletes to have beaten the Euro Juniors standard of 59.50 seconds. Meghan Beesley (Tamworth AC) won in 57.33 seconds to go second on the UK all-time list behind UK Junior record holder Vicki Jamison (Lagan Valley), who ran 57.27 here in 1996 and went on to win the silver medal at that year’s IAAF World Junior Championships in Sydney. Perri Shakes-Drayton (Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets AC), who started the day as second in the all-time rankings with her 57.52 at last year’s World Junior Championships in Beijing, clattered the final hurdle hard but still knocked four-hundredths of a second off her PB to set up the prospect of a double charge for medals in Hengelo.

 

The pair get on as well off the track as they race closely on it – to the point of agreeing pre-race that, in the depressing conditions, 58 seconds was the best that could be expected. “It was an entertaining race,” said Shakes-Drayton. “It was good even though I kicked the last hurdle.”

 

“I think you were just ahead until then,” Beesley said. “And I knew you have a strong finish.” Yet it was the Tamworth tigress who maintained her rhythm best in the final few strides of a breath-taking battle.

 

What do they hope for in Hengelo? “I was hoping for 57 but I’ve done that now, so I’m not sure,” replied Beesley. “Maybe 56 I would think,” said Shakes-Drayton, her smile illuminating a grey morning.

 

Eilidh Child (Pitreavie AAC) knows what she is hoping for at the European Under 23 Championships in Debrecen after winning the 400m hurdles title in Bedford with a Scottish Under 23 record of 57.81 seconds: “Just the experience.”

 

She richly earned her major championships debut by defying the conditions to achieve her sixth personal best of the season – a feat for which she gives fulsome credit to her new strength and conditioning coach Neil Donald. She is ranked ninth among European Under 23s.

 

Johanna Jackson (Redcar RWC) lowered her Under 23 5km walk CBP to 22:38.19, 17 seconds quicker than her time in 2005.

 

Alan McKie (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow), who has already beaten the Hengelo high jump qualifying standard of 2.15m, succeeded his erstwhile training partner Robbie Grabarz (Bedford and County) as Under 20 champion with a first time clearance at 2.12m, 7cm clear of the opposition.

 

The Under 20 Women’s long jump produced great class. Heptathlete Jade Surman (Birchfield) won with 6.27m (wind: +0.8) from Jade Nimmo (Flakirk Victoria Harriers), whose 6.14m (+1.0) was also beyond the Euro Juniors qualifying standard.

 

And more sensationally, 17-year-old Abigail Irozuru (Sale Harriers Manchester) improved her PB from 5.82m last year to 6.11m (into a head wind measured at 2.5) to pass the qualifying guideline for the World Youth Championships in Ostrava. The performance was another delight for UK Event Coach John Crotty – and Irozuru was quick to share the credit for her great improvement: “I went warm weather training to Portugal with John’s group and that boosted my confidence. I felt really determined to do it [the qualifying distance] because we have sorted out a competition programme and a training programme; I’ve never had them before. Before last winter, I didn’t take it really seriously. This outdoor season has been really bad and I was delighted to sort it out today. My first jump was over 6 metres but it was a no jump. I thought then, ‘I’m doing it today!”

 

The versatile Surman also won the Under 20 Women’s 100m hurdles final in 13.77 seconds, three-hundredths inside the Euro Juniors standard.

 

Gianni Frankis (Newham and Essex Beagles), bronze medallist at the 2005 World Youth Championships and finalist at the 2006 World Junior Championships, further enhanced his burgeoning reputation by winning the Under 20 Men’s 110m hurdles (wind: +1.6) in 13.66 seconds, two-hundredths quicker than the CBP he set last year. Amazingly considering the battles in the event earlier this summer, he was the only man to beat the Euro Juniors standard of 13.80.

 

All three medallists in the Under 20 Women’s 3000m beat the World Youths qualifying standard of 9:35.00. Jess Coulson (Stockport Harriers) kicked in a 75-second lap with 1km to go and went on to win by 50m in 9:24.30 from 5000m silver medallist Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham and District), who was second in 9:32.45, with early leader Beth Potter (City of Glasgow) third in 9:34.17. Potter, who is hoping for World Youths 3000m selection, and Purdue, who is hoping for a 5000m place, meet again at Watford next Saturday night in a 1500m at the BMC Nike Grand Prix.

 

Fortune favoured the braves in the Men’s 800m finals. Richard Hill (Notts AC) clinched his first national gold medal, front-running his way to a CBP of 1:47.59 in the Under 23s’ race.

 

After beating the CBP of 1:48.68 by Tim Bayley (Belgrave) in 2003, he said: “At last, a title! I’ve been the bridesmaid twice indoors and I missed the junior trial two years ago because of my sister’s wedding. To win it like that, beat every one of my rivals and do it from the front … people cannot slate front-running any more because it works. It was the perfect race so far as I’m concerned.”

 

James Brewer (Cheltenham and County Harriers), winner of the Under bronze in 2005 and silver in 2006, led all the way in the Under 20 final, winning in 1:48.23 under relentless pursuit from runner-up Mark Mitchell (Forres Harriers) with bronze medallist Ed Aston (Cambridge and Coleridge) also under the Euro Juniors qualifying standard of 1:48.23.

 

“I was looking for the championship record,” said Brewer, referring to the 1:47.69 run by Ezekiel Sepeng (South Africa) in 1993. “It was within my reach. But never mind.” He also had words of friendship for his closest rival in the age group, Richard Osagie (Harlow AC), who missed the Championships because of a lower leg injury: “I was hoping for a quick race with Osagie this weekend. It’s a shame he is not here and I genuinely mean that because it’s nice to have a good competition at home. I didn’t want a repeat of last year, when it was a blanket finish and I missed out by a couple of hundredths.”

 

The quality continued in the Under 20 Women’s 800m final with current European Juniors ranking leader Emma Jackson (City of Stoke) and silver medallist Hannah Brooks (Crawley AC) both beating the Euro Juniors standard by clocking 2:05.81 and 2:05.95 respectively. Alison Leonard (Blackburn Harriers) in third place in 2:06.08 beat the World Youths guideline.

 

The UK’s other European Junior rankings leader, Nigel Levine (Bedford and County AC) won a tremendous Under 20 Men’s 400m final in 46.69 seconds, a hundredth ahead of Chris Clarke (Marshall Milton Keynes AC), who is aiming for the World Youths. This was only Levine’s sixth race over the toughest sprint distance and his first national title – but he wants more: “It feels good,” he said. “ But my mind is set on the Europeans.”

 

Rabah Yusuf (Newham and Essex Beagles), who does not yet have a GB passport, won the Under 23s’ 400m in 46.04 seconds, beating the CBP of 46.27 set by Rob Tobin (Basingstoke Mid Hants) before he won the European Under 23 title in 2005.

 

The Under 20 Men’s 200m final featured two men who beat the Hengelo standard of 21.30. World Junior bronze medallist Alex Nelson (Sale Harriers Manchester) won in 20.99 after a prolonged battle with David Telfer-James (Enfield and Haringey), who took the silver medal in 21.25, 16-hundredths ahead of his clubmate Luke Fagan. Nelson said: “I ran a reasonable bend and David was there, which surprised me a little. Credit to him. If he can run like that after three rounds, I’m sure he can get close to 21 seconds by the time of the Europeans.”

 

Nelson also revealed a change of running spike has solved an ankle problem that was worrying him: “It turns out the pair of spikes I was wearing were causing the problem because I’m very flat-footed. I changed my spikes and haven’t felt a thing since. The important thing today was to not get hurt. I’m pleased with my times but I know that between now and the championships, I can knock something off.”

 

Under 23 200m champion Rikki Fifton (Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets AC) was in a similar frame of mind after stopping the clock at 21.10 seconds, “I could have been three-tenths better,” he said. “My first 30 metres was not as sharp as I hoped it would be based on my 100 times.”

 

Jessica Sparke (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) front-ran her way to an Under 23 Women’s 3000m steeplechase CBP of 10:29.17 in her first attempt at the distance and reported: “I’m really enjoying it. My water jump was so much better than when we’re been practising. Once I’ve sussed the barriers so that I’m able to lead off either leg, the times will come down loads. I’m training with Sarah Hopkinson, who’s hoping to steeplechase at the World Youths, and it’s really fun.”

 

To recap, the weekend’s Championships Best Performers were:

 

Jessica Ennis (City of Sheffield) 13.18 and 13.04 in the Under 23 Women’s 100m hurdles;

 

Jessica Sparke (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) 10:29.17 in the Under 23 Women’s 3000m steeplechase;

 

Johanna Jackson (Redcar RWC) 22:38.19 in the Under 23 Women’s 5km walk;

 

Asha Philip (Newham and Essex Beagles) 11.37 in the Under 20 Women’s 100m;

 

Eden Francis (Leicester Coritanian) 15.48m in the Under 20 Women’s shot;

 

Richard Hill (Notts AC) 1:47.59 in the Under 23 Men’s 800m;

 

Joe Ive (Belgrave Harriers) and Paul Walker (Sale Harriers Manchester) 5.40m in the Under 23 Men’s pole vault;

 

Gianni Frankis (Newham and Essex Beagles) 13.66 in the Under 20 Men’s 110m hurdles.

 

For the field results from Day 2, please click here

 

For the track results from Day 2, please click here