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UK Athletics

UK Indoor City Challenge semi-final 1 preview

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This winter’s UK Indoor City Challenge springs into action at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall on Sunday 21 January with Edinburgh, Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle facing defending champions Sheffield.


The leading three teams are guaranteed places in the final at the EIS, Sheffield, on Sunday 18 February as are the top three from the second semi-final between Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London North, London South and Oxford at the newly opened Lee Valley Centre on Sunday 28 January.


But with two additional places due to be filled in the eight-team final by the next-highest scoring teams, every place point will count as athletes chase a prize pot of £8,500 put together by the UK Athletics Competitions Department.


All teams are a heady mixture of improving seniors and talented teenagers – and the organisers at UKA will have every reason to be disappointed if the three matches don’t beat last winter’s record of 83 personal bests.


Sheffield manager Simon Richardson has taken thoughtful advantage of being able to call upon athletes based in the East Midlands as well as Humberside and Yorkshire. He has enlisted the UK’s current No.1 pole vaulters, Steve Lewis who took his PB to 5.51m last weekend, and Kate Dennison, who are both at Loughborough University being coached by Steve Rippon, the UK Athletics’ Senior Performance Manager for the region. In addition, Zara Hohn tackles the women’s 60m having performed brilliantly last summer to finish fifth in the 100m hurdles final at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing.


Belfast’s bid for major points will be headed by World Student Games finalist Anna Boyle, the Irish 100m and 60m record holder, and teenage Paralympian Jason Smyth, who tackles the 60m as he prepares to aim for medals in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 in a team that also includes.


Edinburgh manager Alison Grey calls on eight gold medal winners from last weekend’s Scottish Closed Indoor Championships: sprinter Gemma Nicol, 800m runners Graeme Oudney and Kathryn Evans, 1500m runner Joanna Ross, pole vaulter Kirsty Maguire, long jumper Steven Fleming and teenage high jumper Jayne Nisbet, while long jump champ Gillian Cooke takes in the 60m sprint.


Glasgow, determined to make amends for missing a final place by only three points last winter, will be spearheaded by Scottish triple jump record holder Gillian Kerr and rapidly improving shot putter Alison Rodger, who is now advised by former Olympian Sean Pickering. Other Scottish Closed champions in the team selected by manager Brian Donaldson are 200m sprinter Alan Low, 400m runner David Martin and shot putter Neil Elliott.


Manchester call on Jenny Meadows, who could be in form to get close to her 400m best after breaking through to world class over 600m a fortnight ago, Vicky Griffiths in the 800m and England’s newly crowned indoor pentathlon champion Katia Lannon, who is set for the high and long jumps – plus the 1500m if team managers Val Rutter and Trevor Painter cannot find a middle distance specialist.


If it’s any consolation to Manchester, 1500m volunteers have been hard for most teams to find. But there’s no shortage down the start lists of athletes who have already responded to the invigorating challenge laid down by UK Athletics to use these meetings to pursue personal bests.


Newcastle, for example, call upon Suote Nyanyano, who won the long jump title outdoors at last summer’s UK Challenge Final. He’s happy to double-up this time by also tackling the 60m hurdles.


The Kelvin Hall action begins at 12.30pm on Sunday. Entry for spectators is free; programmes cost £2.


For more details about the semi-final, please visit the Indoor City Challenge web page.