25 June 2011
Swirling wind provided the toughest opposition on day one of the Aviva England Under-23 Championships in Bedford, but in a moment of calm - and more importantly a legal wind - James Alaka (coach: Clarence Callender) led the top three in the men’s 100m to the European Under-23 Championships qualifying standard with a personal best time of 10.23 (+0.9m/s).
Andrew Robertson (coach: John Smith), who, like Alaka had achieved the required standard prior to this event, finished second in PB of 10.29, while Deji Tobais (coach: Simon Duberley) secured the mark for the first time in third (10.51).
“I knew I was ready to run fast, and because I had the time there was no stress,” said Alaka. “To finish top three was great, especially in such a good, competitive race.”
There was a complete contrast and serious disappointment for the athletes in the women’s 100m however, as the top three finished inside the required qualifying time of 11.60 but with an illegal tail wind of +2.9m/s.
Former World Junior Championships silver medallist Ashleigh Nelson (coach: Michael Afilaka) secured the win in 11.45 with Torema Thompson (coach: Frank Adams) recording a new PB in second (11.54) and former World Youth Champion Asha Philip (coach: Mike McFarlane) in third (11.59).
On the infield, one of the most impressive under-23 performances of the day came from British Universities high jump champion David Smith (coach: Ken Allan) who was one of the select few to win an England Athletics title with a lifetime best in addition to a European Under-23 qualifying standard. His 2.22m victory was a three centimetre improvement on his previous best achieved at the same venue in May.
Also looking to build on early season performances, European leaders Brett Morse (coach: Nigel Bevan) and Lawrence Okoye (coach: John Hillier) went head to the head for the first time ever in the men’s discus, with 2010 England under-20 champion Okoye securing victory with a Championship Best performance of 61.05m ahead of Aviva GB & NI senior internationalist Morse with 60.61m.
Jersey’s Zane Duquemin (coach: John Hillier), once again close to the European Under-23 qualifying standard with a new Channel Islands record and PB of 57.35m, finished third, but he returned to take a deserved victory in the shot putt with 17.27m.
“I think I’ve turned the corner,” said Okoye, who has been known for his inconsistent performances mixed with moments of brilliance. “I’ve moved on in performance; my technique has improved and I’m definitely more consistent.
“This was a big day for me going up against Brett for the first time and I really wanted to see how I’d deal with it. We’re number one and two in Europe and if we throw what we’re capable of we can bring back gold and silver (from the European Under-23 Championships).”
Also turning the corner after a tough two and half years out the sport, Lynsey Sharp (coach: Dave Sunderland) - who recorded a lifetime best and European Under-23 Championships qualifying time of 2:01.98 in Prague two weeks ago - won the England under-23 800m title in 2:06.06.
It hass been a tough time for the former Commonwealth Youth Games bronze medallist who represented the Aviva GB & NI team in the 2008 World Junior Championships prior to her injury nightmare.
“It’s so good to be back; it’s been a really tough time since December 2008,” said the Edinburgh AC athlete who clocked 60 second last lap en route to victory. “I didn’t run for 6-8 months and there was no point in rushing back so I went back to basics and spent a lot of time on core and strength and conditioning. I didn’t even expect to PB this year so the Euros was very much an outside goal.
“I thought I’d have to go abroad to run a fast time so to run 2:02 at Watford was a surprise. The main purpose of going to Prague a day later was to replicate the situation of a heat and final and although I didn’t get that this weekend I got the chance to run another kind of race.
“I’m a completely different athlete now to what I was in 2008 and I can race a lot better - I’m not a one trick pony anymore!”
There were a number of other notable performances on day one.
Ross Millington (coach: Steve Vernon) won the England under-23 5000m title with ease in 14:11.69, confident in the knowledge that he’s already achieved the European Under-23 Championships standard.
James Shane (coach: Martin Brown), who represented the Aviva GB & NI senior team in last weekend’s European Team Championships, looked comfortable when leading his men’s 1500m heat from start to finish in 3:51.31 and is joined in tomorrow’s final by Dan Clorley (coach: Tony Simmons), who took victory in his heat in 3:51.81 and was the only other athlete with the standard to line up in the heats.
James Wilkinson (coach: Phil Townsend) ran a brave, solo race to take victory in the men’s 3000mSC but conditions prevented him achieving the tough 8:40 standard and he finished with a time of 8:51.67.
Nigel Levine (coach: Simon Duberley) and Luke Lennon-Ford (coach: Linford Christie), both with the 400m standard coming into the Trials, progressed as winners from their respective semi finals, while in the men’s 400mH all four athletes with the standard made it through to tomorrow’s final, Nathan Woodward (coach: Nick Dakin) clocking the quickest time of the day with 50.45.
A mention should also go to Kola Adedoyin (coach: Frank Attoh) who, although not achieving the European Under-23 Championships qualifying standard, exceeded 16m for the first time to take victory in the triple jump with a mark of 16.06m (+1.7m/s) just one week after his Aviva GB & NI senior debut at the European Team Championships.
For full results from the day please visit the England Athletics Results Website