Sheffield retained the UK Indoor City Challenge cup in a Final of such high quality at the EIS Sheffield that six of the 24 competition records were broken.
The record-breakers – Celia Brown, Sarah Claxton, Julie Crane, Rikki Fifton, Ashia Hansen and Chris Reynolds – were all presented with bottles of champagne from UK Athletics sponsor partners, Heidsieck & Co Monopole. The national governing body says the marque will be an important partner in helping to celebrate success in all aspects of the athletics arena, and this partnership joins two brands – UK Athletics and Heidsieck & Co Monopole – who are both devoted to excellence and prestige in their field.
There was as much excellence as effort as Sheffield held off a magnificent late charge by last year’s runners-up, London North. Final result: 1 Sheffield 171.5; 2 London North 167; 3 Manchester 139; 4 London South 125.5; 5 Birmingham 120.5; 6 Glasgow 104.5; 7 Oxford 86; 8 Bristol 84.
Here’s how the drama unfolded, event by event …
Women’s high jump: Julie Crane survived a min-scare at 1.80m to give Birmingham their customary winning lift-off with an Indoor City Challenge record of 1.87m. She needed two attempts to clear 1.80m but then underlined her superiority by soaring over 1.83m at the first attempt and achieved a season’s best of 1.87m at the third attempt, 5cm higher than her own ICC record. She went on to have one particularly close shave at 1.90m. “I was reasonably pleased,” said Crane. “It was certainly better than the last two weeks.” 19-year-old Stephanie Pywell took second place for Sheffield with a first-time clearance at 1.80m and twice went very close at 1.83m, which would have been a PB. Result: 1 Julie Crane (Birmingham) 1.87; 2 Stephanie Pywell (Sheffield) 1.80; 3 Julia Bennett (London South) 1.74; 4 Katia Lannon (Manchester) 1.74; 5 Lucy Hodgkins (Oxford) 1.68; 6 Sade Thompson (Bristol) 1.68; equal 7 Gillian Black (Glasgow) and Eloise Newman (London North) 1.60.
Women’s long jump: Local heroine Jessica Ennis began her busy day with a victory despite having difficulty locating the board. She soared beyond her previous season’s best three times, reaching 6.16m in rounds three and five (the second time from well behind the board) and then finished with 6.19m. The indications are that, come the European Indoor Championships, 6.30m is well within her capabilities once she hits the take-off board. Result: 1 Jessica Ennis (Sheffield) 6.19; 2 Katia Lannon (Manchester) 5.83; 3 Sara Rossiter (Bristol) 5.76; 4 Sarah Wellstead (London South) 5.76; 5 Aimee Palmer (Birmingham) 5.62; 6 Hannah Frankson (London North) 5.49; 7 Aimee Richardson (Oxford) 5.48; 8 Claire Linskill (Bristol ace) 5.45; 9 Lisa Ferguson (Glasgow) 5.39.
Men’s shot: Without reaching the distance than has made him the UK No.2 in the Power of 10 rankings, Jamie Williamson completed a quick winning double for Sheffield and for coach Toni Minichiello, who looks after both him and Ennis. Both of his legal attempts – 16.07m in the first round and 16.12m in the last – were further than his closest rival. Result: 1 Jamie Williamson (Sheffield) 16.12; 2 Neil Elliot (Glasgow) 15.85; 3 Dan Brunt (Sheffield ace) 15.28; 4 Ed Dunford (Birmingham) 14.21; 5 Craig Baker (London North) 11.41; 6 Steve Killen (Manchester) 10.11; 7 Ryan Moseley (London South) 9.72.
Women’s 400m: Rebecca Sweeney powered to Manchester’s first victory of the final, leading for every step of the second heat to win in 54.50 seconds, within a fifth of a second of her lifetime best. It gave her a clear advantage of the first heat winner, Lesley Owusu (Oxford) who was pushed to a season’s best of 54.83 by Karen Harewood, guesting over the two-lap race on her way to the 800m at the European Indoors. Heat one: 1 Lesley Owusu (Oxford) 54.83; 2 Karen Harewood (guest) 55.52; 3 Sarah Tomlins (London South) 55.74; 4 Elaine O’Neill (Bristol) 58.83; 5 Nicola Martell (London North) 60.61. Heat two: 1 Rebecca Sweeney (Manchester) 54.50; 2 Seemita Gumbs (Bristol) 56.25; 3 Sarah Adams (Sheffield) 56.73; 4 Aisling McGhee (Glasgow) 60.97.
Men’s long jump: A close competition that generated five personal best performances was won by Leigh Smith (Birmingham) – though he confessed: “My run-up’s all over the place!” His opening leap of 7.19m – 37cm shy of his ICC record – proved the winner, though he had a scare in the last round when James Groocock (Bristol) went out to 7.19m, a massive lifetime best by 10cm. But the win gives Smith a boost as he heads for the Norwich Union Jumps International at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, North London, on Wednesday. “My first senior GB vest,” he smiled. “I’ve been trying to get one for six or seven years – ever since I had my one international outing as a junior in 2000. I jumped 7.15m then – not far off what I did today. But I need a new top – my old GB one is way out of fashion!” Result: 1 Leigh Smith (Birmingham) 7.19; 2 James Groocock (Bristol) 7.18; 3 Jacob Brown (Sheffield) 7.07; 4 Jon Ramos (London North) 7.06; 5 John Carr (Glasgow) 6.93; 6 Matt Burton (London South ace) 6.61; 7 Joe Appiah (London South) 6.47; 8 Andrew Robinson (Manchester) 6.30.
Men’s 400m: Fresh from winning in a great PB of 46.69 seconds at the Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham yesterday, hurdler Steve Green stormed to victory for Bristol in 47.43. So how was his weekend? “A bit of a surprise really, but all good fun! It’s good training for rounds; that’s the main reason. I can do slower stuff in training but to get real pace you have to race.” If there were any doubts about whether his time would be fast enough to claim winning points, they evaporated just after the halfway mark of the second heat when leader Richard Buck crashed out, clutching his left calf, after appearing to have his heel clipped by Phil Taylor. “I started out with a bit of a sore Achilles and Phil came down on it,” said Buck, who also suffered at last weekend’s Norwich Union European Trials and AAA Championships when he finished first in the final and was then disqualified because a judge spotted he had stepped on the inside of a lane line. Result: heat one: 1 Steve Green (Bristol) 47.43; 2 Nick Leavey (London South) 49.18; 3 Phil Octave (London North) 49.19. Heat two: 1 Phil Taylor (Manchester) 48.07; 2 David Martin (Glasgow) 48.15; 3 Grant Baker (Sheffield ace) 48.21; 4 Scott Partyka (Glasgow ace) 51.70; dnf Richard Buck (Sheffield).
Women’s 800m: Repeating her front-running tactics of the semi-final, Celia Brown (Birmingham) scored a storming victory in 2:04.15, a personal best by 1.06 seconds. As her previous PB was the Indoor City Challenge record, this was also an ICC record by 1.06 seconds. She set such a hot pace that four athletes in her wake also achieved personal bests. Brown went through 400m in 59.6 seconds with Vicky Griffiths looking comfortable on her shoulder. Through 600m in 91.1, Brown had a lead of three metres, which she extended to 10m by the finish. Result: 1 Celia Brown (Birmingham) 2:04.15; 2 Vicky Griffiths (Manchester) 2:06.89; 3 Michaela Hutchinson (London North) 2:08.07; 4 Claire Nichols (Bristol) 2:08.30; 5 Helen Singleton (Sheffield) 2:14.74; 6 Sarah Hood (Glasgow) 2:15.30; 7 Nikki Tribe (London South) 2:16.21; 8 Abbey McGhee (Glasgow ace) 2:19.74.
Men’s 800m: Making full amends for a disappointing race at the NU Indoor Grand Prix yesterday, Chris Reynolds paced himself perfectly to lead a London North 1-2 – much needed major points for last year’s runners-up. Reynolds stormed home in an Indoor City Challenge record 1:49.27, a personal best by 0.72sec and six-hundredths quicker than the time registered in last year’s final by Sam Ellis, who went on to win the bronze medal for Norwich Union GB at last summer’s European Championships, with his team mate Darren St Clair second in 1:51.16. Reynolds, who is in the final year of a degree course in business economics at Swansea University, said: “I had a bad race yesterday. I was winning with 100m to go. Everybody else came past me and I didn’t stay head-strong, I gave up. I’m in 1:48 shape and as long as I learn from every race there are no real failures.” Result: 1 Chris Reynolds (London North) 1:49.27; 2 Darren St Claire (London North ace) 1:51.16; 3 Chris Bryant (Manchester) 1:53.28; 4 Tom Druce (Bristol) 1:55.09; 5 Martyn Gibbons (Sheffield) 1:56.11; 6 David Boyce (London South) 1:58.46; 7 Nicholas Moore (Glasgow) 1:59.61.
After eight of the 24 events, the team scores were: 1 Sheffield 60; 2 Manchester 50; 3 Glasgow 46; 4 Birmingham 45.5; 5 London South 45.5; 6 London North 41.5; 7 Bristol 41; 8 Oxford 15.
Women’s 200m: Joey Duck not only scored Oxford’s first win of the day. She broke Ellena Ruddock’s ICC domination of the one-lap event so conclusively that she clocked an Indoor City Challenge record of 24.14. Ruddock, who held the previous record at 24.33, won the other heat in 24.37. Results: heat one: 1 Joey Duck (Oxford) 24.14 (ICC record); 2 Emma Heath (Bristol) 24.83; 3 Kelly Massey (Birmingham ace) 24.94; 4 Susan Bovill (London South) 24.95; 5 Heather Shepherd (London North) 26.64. Heat two: 1 Ellena Ruddock (Birmingham) 24.37; 2 Rebecca Sweeney (Manchester) 24.51; 3 Sarah Adams (Sheffield) 25.47.
Women’s shot: Jo Duncan (London North) continued her reign, winning with a third round effort of 15.89m and Eleanor Gatrell and Alison Rodger initially pushed the champion back to third place. Gatrell impressed in the second round with 15.05m and Rodger in the third with 15.25m before Duncan four her rhythm sufficiently to impose her authority. Result: 1 Jo Duncan (London North) 15.89; 2 Alison Rodger (Glasgow) 15.25; 3 Eleanor Gatrell (London South) 15.05; 4 Kara Nwidobie (Manchester ace) 14.99; 5 Eden Francis (Sheffield ace) 14.99; 6 Gemma Llewellyn (Manchester) 11.61; 7 Julia Bennett (London South) 11.51; 8 Sophie Thomas (Bristol) 10.13.
Men’s pole vault: In the absence of ICC record holder Steve Lewis, who opted to concentrate on preparing for the European Indoors, guest Scott Simpson gate-crashed the party to such good effect that he won at 5.30m and went mighty close with his first effort at 5.45m, which would have been a new Welsh record. He cleared the bar but dislodged it with a foot on the way down. Result: 1 Scott Simpson (Birchfield Harriers, guest) 5.30; 2 Christian North (Bristol) 5.00; 3 Luke Cutts (Sheffield) 5.00; 4 Andy Marsh (Birmingham) 4.50; 5 Chris Mills (Oxford) 4.50; 6 Rob Proctor (Manchester) 4.30; 7 Matthew Dorrian (Glasgow) 4.10; 8 James Wright (London North) 4.10.
Men’s high jump: Tom Parsons, the UK Challenge champion outdoors, piled on the points for Birmingham – and went close to raising his ICC record to 2.24m. As it was, his 2.21m clearance, at the third attempt, earned him an easy win. Result: 1 Tom Parsons 2.21; 2 Rob Mitchell (Manchester) 2.12; 3 Martin Lloyd (London South) 2.12; 4 Robbie Grabarz (Oxford) 2.09; 5 Matt Roberts (Birmingham ace) 2.06; 6 Darren Hammond (Manchester ace) 2.06; 7 Wani Mkandawire (Sheffield) 2.00; 8 Craig Baker (London North) 1.90; 9 Edward Mason (Bristol) 1.85.
Men’s 200m: Rikki Fifton (London North) lowered his own Indoor City Challenge record by seven hundredths of a second in scoring maximum points in 21.28 seconds to follow his 60m PB of 6.65 seconds at the NU Indoor Grand Prix. Results: heat one: 1 Rikki Fifton (London North) 21.28; 2 James Bridge (London South) 22.32; 3 Adam Daish (Oxford) 22.73; 4 Tom O’Brien (Manchester ace) 22.91. Heat two: 1 Somto Eruchie (London North) 21.28; 2 Alan Low (Glasgow) 22.11; 3 Andy Wilkinson (Manchester) 22.33.
Women’s 60m: Montell Douglas got to within three-hundredths of a second of Laura Turner’s ICC record in winning in 7.36 seconds – pushed all the way by the multi-talented Ennis, who took six hundredths of a second off her previous best. Result: 1 Montell Douglas (London South) 7.36; 2 Jessica Ennis (Sheffield) 7.47; 3 Gemma Bennett (London North) 7.61; 4 Emma Bailey (Oxford) 7.64; 5 Katey Read (Manchester) 7.81; 6 Emma Heath (Bristol) 7.93; 7 Sara Whigham (Glasgow) 7.96; 8 Aimee Palmer (Birmingham) 7.97.
Men’s 60m: A cracking race that reminded spectators of the tremendous depth of talent in the men’s sprints ended in victory for Leevan Yearwood (London North) just a hundredth ahead of Alex Nelson (Birmingham), whose starts are hampered by an ankle problem. Result: 1 Leevan Yearwood (London North) 6.82; 2 Alex Nelson (Birmingham) 6.83; 3 Ryan Moseley (London South) 6.90; 4 Tom Martin (Manchester) 6.94; 5 William Sharman (Oxford) 6.95; 6 Somto Eruchie (Sheffield) 6.99; 7 Neil Burnside (Glasgow) 7.20.
Women’s triple jump: Ashia Hansen, continuing her return from the career-threatening knee injury she suffered two winters ago, won with 13.46m. It was 19cm further than runner-up Nadia Williams, the second semi-final’s Athlete of the Match – but not far enough to persuade Hansen she is in shape to do herself justice at the European Indoors. She will now head for the Jumps International back in her old stomping ground of North London on Wednesday aiming for a 14m-plus leap. Result: 1 Ashia Hansen (Birmingham) 13.46; 2 Nadia Williams (London North) 13.27; 3 Stephanie Aneto (London North ace) 12.63; 4 Denae Matthew (Sheffield) 12.62; 5 Nony Mordi (Glasgow) 12.57; 6 Claire Linskill (Bristol) 11.99; 7 Imogen Miles (Oxford) 11.45; 8 Julia Bennett (London South) 11.39; 9 Katia Lannon (Manchester) 10.45; 10 Sophie Bell-Morgan (guest) 10.26.
Points totals after 16 of the 24 events: 1 Sheffield 111; 2 Manchester 102; 3 London North 95.5; 4 London South 91; 5 Birmingham 87; 6 Glasgow 73.5; 7 Bristol 63; 8 Oxford 51.
Women’s pole vault: 19-year-old Notts AC starlet Emma Lyons gave herself the perfect boost before Wednesday’s Jumps International by winning with a second-time clearance at 4.05m, a personal best by 5cm. Result: 1 Emma Lyons (Sheffield) 4.05; 2 Louise Butterworth (Bristol) 3.90; 3 Jennifer Graham (Glasgow) 3.80; 4 Fiona Harrison (Sheffield ace) 3.70; 5 Michelle Sharrock (Manchester) 3.40; 6 Eilidh Dorrian (Glasgow) 3.40; 7 Kerry Passmore (Birmingham) 2.80.
Women’s 60m hurdles: GB internationals Sarah Claxton and Gemma Bennett had a tremendous battle – and the result showed what a fine judge London North manager Geoff Morphitis is. Claxton, the London North ace, won in 8.13m, just a hundredth ahead of Bennett, who was running as a guest. Jessica Ennis completed her busy day by taking third place in 8.31, commenting afterwards that she “felt kind of floaty” over the hurdles. Result: 1 Sarah Claxton (London ace) 8.13; 2 Gemma Bennett (guest) 8.14; 3 Jessica Ennis (Sheffield) 8.31; 4 Serita Solomon (London South) 8.46; 5 Fiona Harrison (Sheffield ace) 8.54; 6 Katey Read (Manchester) 8.57; 7 Julie Pratt (London North) 8.68; 8 Nony Mordi (Glasgow) 8.94; 9 Helen Asher (Manchester ace) 9.01; 10 Lauren Amrbose (Oxford) 9.40.
Men’s 60m hurdles: Junior Gianni Frankis scored a great victory – for himself as well as London North’s late chargers – in a landmark personal best of 7.87 seconds, the first time he has dipped under 8 seconds. Result: 1 Gianni Frankis (London North) 7.87; 2 William Sharman (Oxford) 7.93; 3 Duncan Malins (London South) 7.96; 4 Dominic Girdler (Sheffield) 7.98; 5 Nick Gayle (Birmingham) 8.08; 6 Ed Dunford (Birmingham ace) 8.45; 7 Neale Kelly (Glasgow) 8.69; 8 Ashley Pritchard (Manchester) 9.00.
Women’s 1500m: Hannah England ran a magnificently paced race to win in 4:17.70, a personal best by more than 7 seconds. She did not panic when 800m winner Celia Brown set out at her customary testing pace, nor when Brown’s legs began to tired and Ellie Stevens took over. England dominated the last 300m. Result: 1 Hannah England (Oxford) 4:17.70; 2 Charlotte Best (London South) 4:21.87; 3 Ellie Stevens (Sheffield) 4:25.15; 4 Celia Brown (Birmingham) 4:33.98; 5 Emma Reed (Bristol) 4:36.22; 6 Ruth Senior (Oxford ace) 4:36.93; 7 Bernadine Pritchett (London North) 4:42.62.
Men’s 1500m: Gavin Keight, a 24-year-old accountant who has taken his indoor best from 3:55 to 3:50.7 this winter, scored an invaluable win for Sheffield. It was a great personal triumph, too: an injury kept him out of the whole of last summer, and he has made his winter advances off only two months’ training. Result: 1 Gavin Keight (Sheffield) 3:57.49; 2 Mark Sanford (London North) 3:57.88; 3 Matthew Warley (Birmingham) 3:58.58; 4 Owain Matthews (Oxford) 4:00.81; 5 Matt Wood (Manchester) 4:01.58; 6 Richard Airey (London South) 4:10.27; 7 Martin Hayes (Glasgow) 4:13.75; 8 Dan Woodford (Bristol) 4:21.03.
Men’s triple jump: A London North 1-2 was headed by Nick Thomas on a rare day when Julian Golley took five rounds to register a legal leap. Result: 1 Nick Thomas (London North ace) 15.99; 2 Julian Golley (London North) 15.70; 3 John Carr (Glasgow) 14.96; 4 Matthew Burton (London South) 14.80; 5 David Budd (Sheffield) 14.42; 6 Paul Weston (Bristol) 14.04; 7 David Watson (Glasgow ace) 13.69; 8 Andrew Robinson (Manchester) 12.87.
Women’s medley relay (800m, 600m, 400m, 200m):1 Manchester 5:05.27; 2 Oxford 5:05.96; 3 London South 5:12.06; 4 Sheffield 5:20.76; 5 London North 5:29.75; 6 Glasgow 5:30.41.
Men’s medley relay (800m, 600m, 400m, 200m): 1 London North 4:25.57; 2 Sheffield 4:25.72; 3 Manchester 4:30.94; 4 Glasgow 4:33.88; 5 London South 4:45.36.
And the SprintsFests …
Women’s 60m final (hand timed): 1 Montell Douglas 7.4; 2 Emma Bailey 7.7; equal 3 Julia White and Katey Read 7.8; 5 Clare Spurway 7.9.
Men’s 60m A final: 1 Leevan Yearwood 6.87; 2 Nick Smith 6.88; 3 Ryan Moseley 6.90; 4 Paul Payne 6.95; 5 William Sharman 6.96; 6 Tom Martin 7.06. B final: 1 Bradley Williams 7.01; 2 Paul Judson 7.03; 3 Andrew Mensah 7.15; 4 Wynb Roberts 7.18; 5 Tim Howells 7.23.
The WGT Sport warm weather training packages for the Athlete of the Indoor City Challenge Series went to sprinter Rikki Fifton and combined eventer Katia Lannon.
The Athletes of the Match, who each received an Adidas kit package, were Gianni Frankis and Hannah England.
Adidas trainers for best performances in each team went to Serita Solomon (London South), Nony Mordi (Glasgow), Joey Duck (Oxford), Rebecca Sweeney (Manchester), Sarah Adams (Sheffield), Leevan Yearwood (London North), Tom Parsons (Birmingham) and Steve Green (Bristol).
Powerbreathe Units went to athletes who scored most points for each team: Charlotte Best (London South), Alison Rodger (Glasgow), Joey Duck (Oxford), Katey Read (Manchester), Emma Lyons (Sheffield), Chris Reynolds (London North), Celia Brown (Birmingham) and Emma Heath (Bristol).