Battling Ben Hazell and exam-free Phyllis Agbo won the senior titles at England Athletics Combined Events Championships at the Northwood Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, on 9 and 10 June as the newly-announced UK Combined Events Challenge gathered pace so dramatically that 20 of the 22 decathletes finished with lifetime best scores.
The strength in depth was better than ever as athletes aimed for places in the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland Teams at the European Cup of Combined Events in Szcecin, Poland, on 7 and 8 July as well as this summer’s World Championships, European Under 23 Championships, World University Games, European Junior Championships, IAAF World Youth Championships and European Youth Olympics Festival.
“The quality has been outstanding,” said Ian Grant, UK Event Coach for decathlon who has monitored progress ever since the Rover Combined Events Initiative sparked fresh interest five and six years ago. “The Rover money gave us the opportunity to work with athletes and their coaches, and there has been a huge spin-off from that. There has been well over 100 individual PBs today from the 73 athletes. There were some magnificent competitions throughout the day.”
The Senior Men’s decathlon was of unprecedented quality in that 15 finished the first day with over 3500 points. And at the end of a long, hot day 11 decathletes ran 400m in under 50 seconds. The quality continued throughout the second day with seven men scoring in excess of 7100 points.
Current UK No.1 decathlete Ben Hazell (Basingstoke and Mid Hants won the title with 7528 points, just 31 short of his lifetime best. He ended his weaker day on 3903, his best yet by 142 points. After a 100m in 11.25 seconds (wind: +1.2), he long jumped a PB of 6.99m, put the shot 13.22m, high jumped 1.95m, and clocked 49.31 seconds in the 400m, only a tenth outside his fastest ever. On the second day, he sprinted the 110m hurdles in 15.44 seconds (wind: -2.2), threw the discus 41.91m, pole vaulted 4.35m, threw the javelin 55.78m and ran the 1500m in 4:31.68.
Ed Dunford (Birchfield Harriers), who began the competition lying fifth in the Power of 10 rankings, finished second with 7500 points, a massive PB by 325 points. He led overnight with 4001 points, a massive improvement on his previous best first day score of 3769. He opened with a 100m legal personal best of 11.15 seconds (wind: +1.2), long jumped 6.94m (wind: +2.2), put the shot 14.30m, high jumped an outdoor PB of 2.01m and finished with his fastest 400m by far, 49.99 seconds, obliterating his previous best of 51.32 seconds. On the second day, he clocked 14.44 seconds in the 110m hurdles (wind: -1.8), threw the discus 42.10m, pole vaulted an outdoor PB of 4.15m, threw the javelin 52.13m and ran 1500m in 4:53.97.
Kevin Sempers (Belgrave Harriers) took the bronze medal with 7363 points, a PB by 106. He was second overnight with 3951, a first day PB by 153 points. He sprinted 100m in 11.01 seconds (wind: +2.3), long jumped 6.95 (wind: 0.9), put the shot 12.05m, won the high jump with 2.07m to equal his PB of four years ago when he was English Schools’ champion, and ended with a 400m PB of 50.02 seconds yet such was the quality, he finished last in the fastest 400m heat of the day! On day two, he clocked 15.07 seconds in the 110m hurdles (wind: -1.8), threw the discus 34.12m, pole vaulted an outdoor PB 4.55m, threw the javelin 54.26m and clocked 4:53.43 in the 1500m.
There were other impressive PBs by fourth and fifth placers Dean Showler-Davis (Winchester) 7187 and James Wright (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) 7116.
The Senior Women’s competition – featuring the side issue of who will join Kelly Sotherton, Jessica Ennis and Julie Hollman in the European Cup team – had as much drama as quality competition.
Phyllis Agbo (Thames Valley Harriers) celebrated the end of her exams at Cambridge University by winning with 5471 points. Drama was added to her first day’s contribution when she collided with a starter as she was warming-up for the 200m. It was a pure accident but the two clashed heads so heavily that the official had to be stretchered away. But Agbo went on to run a landmark PB in the 200m (wind: +0.2). Her time of 24.81 seconds was the first time she had got under 25 seconds. It completed her best yet first day of 3345 points. She opened with her fastest yet 100m hurdles, 13.74 seconds (wind: +2.1), and added a 1.62m high jump and 12.09m shot. On the second day she long jumped 5.77m (wind: +0.6), threw the javelin 39.20m and ran 800m in 2:29.91.
Grace Clements (Dartford Harriers) took the silver medal with 5436 points, a massive PB. She was third after the opening day with 3186 points – 14.56 seconds 100m hurdles (wind: +2.1), 1.65m high jump, 11.95m shot and 25.61 seconds 200m (wind: +0.2). On the second day, she picked up the pace with a 5.62m long jump (+1.6), an ultimately decisive 40.56m javelin throw and 800m in 2:18.99.
Ever-reliable Julia Bennett (Epsom and Ewell) finished third with 5302. She was second overnight with 3280 points – 15.12 seconds 100m hurdles (wind: +0.9), 1.83m high jump, 11.70m shot, 26.00 seconds 200m (wind: +0.2). On the second day she long jumped 5.81m (wind: +0.8), threw the javelin 29.95m and ran 800m in 2:25.21.
In fourth place, Naida Bromley also scored a PB, 5278 points, to prove she is back in form after long-term injury.
The Under 20 Women’s heptathlon was won by Jenny Lumley (Leeds City), who scored 5238 to win the first of the UK Combined Events Challenge meetings at Woodford. She totalled 5105 on this occasion. She lay second with 3120 points on the first day – 100m hurdles in 15.07 seconds (wind: +0.7), 1.74 high jump within 1cm of her best, 10.09m shot and 25.41 (+0.9). And she followed up on day two with a 5.55m long jump (wind: +0.8), 36.07m javelin throw and 2:31.18 800m.
Hannah Francis-Smithson (Leeds City AC) was second on 5067 points. She had led day one with 3135 points – a 100m hurdles PB in 13.88 seconds (wind: +0.7), 1.59m high jump, 10.47m shot, 25.27 seconds 200m (wind: +0.9). On day two, she long jumped 5.68m (wind: +1.1), threw the javelin 25.32m and ran 800m in 2:22.42.
Eleanor Markendale (Pendle AC) took the bronze medal with 4855 points – 100m hurdles in 15.37 seconds (wind: +0.8), high jump 1.62m, shot 8.13m, 200m in 25.20 (wind: +0.9), long jump 5.76m (wind: +1.5), javelin 27.47m and 800m in 2:20.25.
The Junior Men were lacking World Juniors competitor Daniel Awde and the injured Guy Stroud and Neil Crossley. But they still contributed to the PB toll.
Joe Lancaster (Sale Harriers Manchester) won with a PB of 6639 points. He was second at the end of the first day with 3580 points – 100m in a PB of 11.36 (wind: +1.8), long jump 6.66m (wind: +1.1), 11.93m shot, 1.93m high jump just missing another PB at 1.96m, and a 52.07 seconds PB for 400m. On the second day he sprinted the 110m hurdles in 15.29 seconds (wind: -1.5), threw the discus 35.47m, pole vaulted 3.95m, threw the javelin a PB of 46.40m, and clocked 5:04.84 in the 1500m.
Robert Kite (Basingstoke and Mid Hants) finished second with 6595 points. He was third overnight with 3497, his best first day by 51 points – 100m in 11.58 seconds (wind: +1.8), long jump 6.35m (+0.9), shot 13.28m, high jump 1.90m and 400m 52.60 seconds. And on the second day he ran the 110m hurdles in 15.60 seconds into a head wind (-1.5), threw the discus 39.00m, pole vaulted a PB 3.65m, threw the javelin 45.67m and ran the 1500m in 4:48.28.
Matthew George (Vale of Aylesbury AC) struck bronze with 6504 points – 100m in 11.91 (wind: +0.6), 6.25m long jump (wind: +1.0), 13.73m shot, 1.75m high jump, 52.24 seconds 400m, 15.51 seconds 110m hurdles (wind: -1.5), 37.41m discus, 3.45m pole vault, 55.50m javelin and 4:46.03 1500m.