22 July 2011
European rankings leader and UK junior record holder Andy Pozzi (coach: Malcolm Arnold) led the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland 110mH trio into this afternoon’s semi finals after an eventful first round at the European Junior Championships in Tallinn, Estonia (21-24 July), which saw European number two Gregor Traber (Germany) disqualified.
Going off in heat one, England Athletics age group champion Pozzi was oblivious to what lay ahead for his biggest rival: “I think I have a pretty good chance of winning here, despite the strong competition, especially from the German (Traber),” he said after clocking 13.50 (-0.7m/s) for victory in heat one, the fastest mark of the morning.
“I decided last night that I was just going to go for it; I had to be safe, because if you’re too laid back you can lose your stride pattern and that’s when you hit hurdles. I felt a bit energy sapped with the heat, but I’m happy with that time.”
European number four Jack Meredith (coach: Donald Moss), the 2010 World Junior bronze medallist, also played it safe when qualifying as second quickest overall with victory in heat three (13.61/-1.1m/s), while Ben Kelk (coach: Bob Smith) qualified automatically in third from the final heat in 14.04 (-2.2m/s).
Three from three Brits also progressed in the women’s 400mH with Megan Southwart (coach: Colin Bovell), Sophie Wood (coach: John Baron) and Abigayle Fitzpatrick (coach: Morris Condon) making it through to tomorrow’s semi final.
“I went for it, I had to,” admitted English Schools champion Fitzpatrick who clocked a lifetime best of 59.44 with victory in heat four. “My training has been pointing to a PB; I just needed to get my timing right, which I did there.”
Southwart (1:00.16) and Wood (1:00.70), both fourth in their heats, earned fastest loser spots.
In the men’s 400mH, both Paul Bennett (coach: Judith Golding) with 52.80 and Ben Hopkins (coach: Marina Hopkins) with 53.39 missed out on qualification from round one, but both athletes delivered credible career best performances.
“I went off way too slowly,” said Hopkins, “I just didn’t know what to expect out there. I think I’d have held on if I’d gone off a bit quicker because I had so much energy left at the finish.
“I’ve really enjoyed it out here though; it’s been a great experience.”
In the only Aviva GB & NI endurance event of the morning, there was a welcome return to form for Scottish junior indoor record holder Guy Learmonth (coach: Henry Gray) with victory in heat four of the 800m (1:51.19) after a tough couple of months out following a car crash and injury.
“I’m starting to feel strong and I’m buzzing now,” said the Aviva UK Indoor bronze medallist who clocked a lifetime best of 1:48.58 to win the British Universities indoor title in February. “I was boxed in a bit at the bell but that was my own fault, but coming through to win that has given me confidence. I’ve been missing my kick since the indoors but it’s starting to come now and I’m really chuffed with that.”
There was significantly less British success on the in field, however, with no Aviva GB & NI athletes progressing to their respective finals and Katarina Johnson-Thompson (coach: Mike Holmes) recording a best of 6.05m (-0.6m/s) in the Heptathlon long jump, worth 865 points and third place overall (4376) going into the final two rounds.
In the women’s high jump, Isobel Pooley (coach: George Male) finished outside the final 12 in 14th overall with a best height of 1.80m, while UK champion Emma Nuttall (coach: Laurier Primeau), with a best of 1.83m indoors but only 1.77m on the day, finished 15th.
It was a step in the right direction for Pooley, however, who wasn’t too downhearted: “I spent quite a long period out injured and I learnt so much about the event during that time, but now I just need to put that into practice,” she said. “I think this just came a little bit too early, but I’m really happy with an outdoor season’s best and I’m so pleased to be on the team and jumping again. I’m looking forward to the senior trials now.”
Myra Perkins (coach: Alan Bertram) and Abbi Carter (coach: Dave Smith) - both with a best distance of 57.13m - missed out in the women’s hammer, while in the men’s pole vault, Cameron Walker-Shepherd (coach: Charles Preston) finished seventh in qualifying group B in the men’s pole vault with a best height of 4.85m, but it wasn’t enough to finish top 12 overall.
The European Junior Championships will be shown daily on Eurosport - 17:00-18:25 today - in addition to being streamed live by European Athletics through their website at www.european-athletics.org.
Daily session reports will be published on the UKA website: www.uka.org.uk