20 June 2010
Lawrence Okoye (coach: John Hillier), a relative newcomer to the sport, recorded the most impressive performance on day two of the England Under-20 Championships and World Trials in Bedford (Sunday 20 June) with an outstanding 63.92m victory in the men’s discus.
Following a first round no-throw, he opened his account with a Championship Best effort of 58.79m in round two, and although lacking the technical competency of runner up Zane Duquemin, also coached by Hillier, he went on to exceed that mark with a final round effort just short of 64m to confirm his selection onto the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team for this summer’s IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada (19-25 July) and go second on the UK All-Time list (under-20).
While Duquemin has worked hard to improve his performance over a period of time, Okoye has clearly been born with natural ability. Physically, he towered over his fellow competitors – perhaps not surprising given he’s also a talented rugby union player within the Academy set up at London Irish – but to consider what he might be capable of with increased technical input is frightening.
His innocence begged the question – did he even know that there was a World Junior Championship this summer?
“I did know about it – I got the standard a week ago,” he said. “I really wanted to get over 60m today, and I did that. I’m also really pleased for Zane; it’s fantastic that we might both be on the team.”
“John has helped me tremendously,” he added. “I threw a bit when I was younger but I’ve only started to focus the last five or six weeks. If I can throw similar to this at the World Juniors and be consistent then I’ll be pleased.”
Duquemin’s brilliant series was slightly overshadowed by the exceptional performance by Okoye, but it was a huge personal success for the Jersey-based athlete who recorded a new lifetime best and World Juniors standard of 58.59m for second. “I know what I’m capable of and I should have done that in my first competition this summer,” he said. “My technique is starting to show through and I’m becoming more consistent.”
The 800m, which promised so much, delivered in style with the top three athletes clocking sub-1:49 times. Niall Brooks (coach: Norman Poole), the only athlete in the line up with the qualifying standard prior to the final, was the brilliant winner in 1:47.29, a Championship Best performance.
“I said to my coach that if the early pace was slow I’d have to take it on, but Adam (Cotton) did a brilliant job and we went through 400m like we were in a BMC race,” he said. “I think I’m in 1:46 shape but you’ve got to run the race and keep your wits about you.”
He was followed home by Adam Cotton (coach: Geoff James) in 1:48.30 and James Bowness (coach: Norman Poole) in 1:48.67 in second and third respectively, all three recording new PBs.
While there was an expected victory for Jodie Williams (coach: Mike McFarlane) in the 200m – her second of the weekend – in a legal time of 23.15, it was topped by Kieran Showler-Davis (coach: John Davis) with a top quality win in the men’s event with a legal 20.75, a huge lifetime best; both athletes are expected to be named when the first wave of selections are announced this week.
Jack Green (coach: June Plews) had set the track standard with a last gasp victory in the men’s under-20 400mH to confirm his selection in the opening event of the day.
It had always promised to be an exciting showdown and it didn’t disappoint as Green – who leads the UK junior rankings courtesy of a lifetime best and World Juniors mark of 51.49 at the McCain Loughborough International in May - battled it out with defending champion Niall Flannery (coach: Nick Dakin), fourth in last year’s European Junior Championships.
Flannery, who clocked an impressive 51.07 PB in 2009, is currently three one-hundredths of a second outside the UKA qualifying standard in 2010 and had it all to do. He was quickest through 300m and only started to fade in the home straight as Green, who by his own admission had a technical nightmare, regained his form and composure to take the title in 51.54.
“Niall and I run very differently,” said Green, who is hopeful they both make it to Canada. “He always goes off fast, but I had a really poor race. I led with my wrong leg over the last seven hurdles and I hit the last six. I know I’ve got the speed; I just need to put it together. I made it through to the semi finals of the European Juniors last year but I had to pull out with an injury, so I really want to make up for it this year, I’ve got unfinished business. I’m more than confident I can break the UK junior record.”
Back in the field, 2009 European Youth Olympic Festival high jump finalist Isobel Pooley (coach: George Male) exceeded the World Juniors qualifying standard for the second time with 1.82m, a new lifetime best to join the trio of men on the Aviva GB & NI team sheet at this stage. “It felt achievable today,” she said, “there are some days when the bar looks really high, but it came together. Now I want 1.84m.”
The highly anticipated men’s 1500m was won by Ronnie Sparke (coach: Richard Thurston), fifth ranked in the UK (under-20) going into the race, in 3:50:38, with Harry Ellis (coach: Phil Hicken) - the only athlete on the start list with the qualifying time - fourth in 3:51.76.
Unfortunately, conditions prevailed once again in the long jump and it was Lorraine Ugen (coach: Frank Attoh) who suffered most; she recorded a huge 6.42m, 22cm in excess of the World Juniors mark and a Championship Best performance on her second jump, but the wind was illegal (+2.9) .
Full results are available now on the England Athletics website: http://www.englandathletics.org/