The UK CAU Inter-Counties Championships at Bedford on Sunday and Monday, 27 and 28 May, will once again unite Olympic Games heroes, county champions and highly talented teenagers in pursuit of UK Challenge points.
The organisers of these venerable championships are so athlete-friendly that they accept entries from all on the UK Athletics World Class Programmes – under-20s and under-17s as well as seniors – providing they have achieved the qualifying standards. Also eligible to compete are all athletes in the national top 20 of an event in the Power of 10 rankings, devised by UK Athletics and its governing partners to inspire improvements in standards in all events in all regions in all age groups on the way to London 2012.
“All we ask is that they ensure they are registered at least 45 minutes before the start of their event,” says the CAU secretary, Cliff Robinson. “We are here to encourage athletes to compete.”
The offer is being accepted gratefully at the start of a season in which athletes are aiming for IAAF World Championships in Osaka, World University Games in Bangkok, European Under 23 Championships in Debrecen, European Junior Championships in Hengelo, IAAF World Youth Championships in Ostrava and European Youth Olympic Festival in Belgrade.
Among those aiming to be in Osaka, Olympic 4x100m gold medallist Marlon Devonish (Coventry Godiva Harriers) and European Indoor 400m champion Nicola Sanders (Bucks) are in the 200m and Jade Johnson (Herne Hill Harriers) in the long jump, which she won in 2001 and 2002 on her way to the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
The defending long jump champion, Gillian Cooke, is already in such sparkling form this summer that she is threatening the Scottish record, while Sanders’ rivals will include Donna Fraser (Surrey) and reigning champion Kadi-Ann Thomas (also Bucks).
The women’s high jump will also reflect the present and future of the event. Susan Moncrieff (Greater Manchester), one of three joint holders of the UK senior record, seeks the sixth Inter-Counties title of her career in an entry that also features Vikki Hubbard (Lincs), who will then disappear to take her A levels in biology, maths and PE that thankfully end on the eve of the Norwich Union England Athletics Under 23 & Under 20 Championships and European Trials back at Bedford on 23 and 24 June.
The Inter-Counties Championships – supported by Bedford Borough Council and Athletics Weekly – will also feature the launch of two new campaigns by UK Athletics to drive up standards towards international level.
The Xtra Challenge – a pilot scheme to encourage the country’s best and most promising throwers and jumpers to compete against each other more often – has attracted, for youthful examples, Leicester Coritanian’s triple jump Denae Mathew and shot putter Eden Francis to take on the seasoned seniors.
In addition, the Aqua-Pura Women’s Steeplechase Series will begin its attempts to stimulate the quality and quantity of competitors in the event. The 2000m ‘chase has “generated some enthusiasm,” reports CAU honorary secretary Cliff Robinson – and no wonder. The holder of the title, Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers Sheffield) went on to have such a great winter that she finished 15th at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kenya – and she broke the Loughborough International 3000m steeplechase meeting record last weekend.
Inspirational or what!