26th February 2022


12 UK champions were crowned on day one of the UK Athletics Indoor Championships at the Utilita Arena Birmingham, with five athletes securing their places at next month’s World Athletics Indoor Championships in the process.

The competitors really rose to the occasion, and nowhere was that more evident than on the sprint straight, with the men’s 60m proving to be a top-class affair.

The semi-final stage provided some real fireworks, with European U23 champion Jeremiah Azu (coach: Helen Patricia James, club: Cardiff) clocking a UK lead and PB of 6.56 and defending champion Andrew Robertson (Sale Harriers Manchester) also running inside the Belgrade qualifying standard of 6.60 again with a season’s best of 6.59.

Adam Thomas (Bracknell) looked in fine form, too, as he equalled his PB of 6.61 to progress, and it was the 2019 silver medallist who prevailed in the final.

Raising his game further, Thomas clocked 6.56 to not only hold off Robertson’s season’s best of 6.58 but also break the Scottish 60m record. Azu had to settle for bronze in 6.61 on what was still a breakthrough day for the 20-year-old.

“I am really pleased with those performances today and to finish with the win and become British Champion is just so exciting. I am over the moon,” said Thomas, who had been fastest in the opening heats with a run of 6.67.“It is hard to keep coming back with a heat, a semi and a final but I felt I was recovering, building and improving each time.“I really didn’t think I had won at the end – it was really all on that last stride.  I think I just out-dipped Andy (Robertson) on the line. To know I am going to Belgrade is beyond my wildest dream. I cannot wait to be in the British team – my first time – and receive the kit and British vest, I will be so proud.”

In the women’s 60m, there was an opened door of opportunity for the athletes involved and it was Cheyanne Evans-Gray (Nat Senior, Croydon) who seized her chance.

Fastest to qualify from the semi-finals, with a run of 7.25, the 23-year-old matched that time exactly to take the first major title of her career and seal her Belgrade spot.

Alisha Rees (Leon Baptiste, Edinburgh) was just outside the world indoors qualifying standard but lowered her PB and Scottish indoor record to 7.31 for silver, while Kimbely Baptiste (Steve Fudge, Crawley) took bronze with 7.33.

“I’m not surprised and I trained for this,” said Evans-Gray. “My weakness is my top end speed so I’ve been working a lot on that and I feel like I’m in the shape that I was in two years ago. I’ve changed my coach so that’s a big difference.”

There was an emotional win for Megan Marrs (Alex Nwenwu, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) as she booked her place in the team for Belgrade with a 60m hurdles win which she dedicated to her late cousin.

Already with the world indoors qualifying time to her name, Marrs clocked a season’s best 8.15m to win ahead of Holly Mills (Laura Turner-Alleyne, Andover) (8.20) and Alicia Barrett (Benke Blomkvist, Trafford) (8.23).

“I just couldn’t be more relieved at the minute,” said Marrs, who had been third-fastest in qualifying. “We’ve had a really tough few months as I lost my cousin at Christmas which meant I took a bit of time out. This one was for her today.

“I knew I had the qualifying time, so I knew I just had to win. Today was going to be the end of the indoor season or the start of the preparations and it was the latter, so I now need to talk to my coach in preparing for Belgrade.”

The only men’s distance final of the day produced a compelling affair in the 3000m which ebbed and flowed but ultimately saw Marc Scott (Jerry Schumacher, Richmond & Zetland) book his Belgrade place.

The European 5000m record-holder was content to sit in while Osian Perrin (Andrew Walling, Menai) took the field through 1000m in 2:45.45 and then Tom Mortimer (Chris McGeorge, Stroud) led at 2000m in 2:43.75.

Jamaine Coleman (Preston) then forced the issue in the closing stages, but Scott’s kick came to the fore as he clocked a season’s best 7:53.35 to secure the gold, just ahead of Coleman’s 7:53.92. James West (Ben Thomas, Tonbridge) was third in 7:53.95.

“I wanted to control it out there and ensure I booked my ticket on the plane,” said Scott. “It can get really messy with 16 guys on a 200m track indoors so I was keen to stay out of trouble at the front.   “I know I have a good kick at the end so I knew I could get back in the last 200 when (Coleman) took the lead. I knew I had it in me.“My plan was to make it to Belgrade, and I am confident I can go out there and do well.  I know the guys I’ll be running against, and I have seen where they are at and I do feel I have a good chance of a medal.”

Adelle Tracey (Craig Winrow, Guildford and Godalming) might be better known for her 800m running but the 28-year-old captured the first 1500m title of her career with a very measured performance.

European indoor silver medallist Holly Archer (Andrew Parmenter, Cambridge and Coleridge) made a brave, front-running attempt and stayed out in the lead until she was overtaken by Erin Wallace (Andy Young, Giffnock North) with around 300m to go.

Tracey was right on the Scot’s shoulder, however, and waited until the closing 150m to surge ahead, the 2016 800m indoor champion hitting the line in 4:13.14.

That time is outside the Belgrade qualifier of 4:09.00 but the winner is merely assessing her options with the 1500m.

“Being British Champion feels really good,” said Tracey. “To step up in distance to do it indoors feels great.  It has been a while.“The world Indoors wasn’t really a target for me, hence why I stepped up to the 1500m. I am in the middle of a big training block.  I want to head into the outdoors with a little left in the tank.

Wallace, second in 4:14.72, has the qualifying time to her name, while Archer took bronze in 4:18.36.

Scott Lincoln (Paul Wilson, City of York) has been firmly at the top of British rankings for the men’s shot put this year and the Tokyo Olympian won his sixth British Indoor title with 19.72m, making sure of his Belgrade spot due to already having the qualifying mark

Youcef Zatat (Scott Rider, Woodford Green) got closest to him with a PB throw of 17.79m, followed by another PB effort of 17.09m from Patrick Swan (Ryan Spencer- Jones, Cornwall).

“Today was just a matter of getting the job done,” said Lincoln. “I’ve got the European winter throws a week before [Belgrade] and now it’s about fine tuning it.”

Seun Okome (Keith Hunter, Sale Harriers Manchester) was the first athlete of the weekend to be crowned British Indoor Champion, producing the performance of his life to win his maiden national triple jump title.

The Northern Indoor Champion had never previously leapt beyond 16m but he rectified that when improved his PB by 16cm with a jump of 16.13m in the fifth round (he fouled his first two attempts before recording 15.73m and 14.72m) to overhaul the second-round 16.05m of Olympian Ben Williams (Aston Moore, City of Stoke). Jude Bright-Davies (David Johnson, Thames Valley) produced a PB of 15.91m to take bronze.

Naomi Metzger (Tom Cullen, Trafford) won her third successive women’s triple jump gold and proved to be a convincing winner with a best leap of 13.81m in the fourth round.

A PB of 12.69m brought silver for Emily Gargan (Mike Holmes, Liverpool), while there was a season’s best of 12.64m for bronze medallist Lia Stephenson (John Herbert, Thames Valley).

In the women’s pole vault, defending champion Sophie Cook (Scott Simpson, Halesowen) came out on top in a see-saw battle with 2017 champion Jade Ive (Sutton).

A second-time clearance of 4.45m, a season’s best, proved enough to take the title as Ive cleared 4.40m and teenager Sophie Ashurst (Andy Ashurst, Sale) landed bronze with 4.15m.

“It was the most competitive competition I think I’ve ever been in,’ said Cook. “It was strssful but I love being in a competition like that. I’m stoked with the result. I can only speak for myself but I love the anxiety and stress feeling knowing you’re under pressure to clear the bar. To have that pressure helps a lot.”

Kelechi Aguocha (Blackheath) and UK leader David Smith (Paul Harrison, Shaftesbury Barnet) shared the men’s high jump gold medal – the pair could not be separated at 2.13m.

Three athletes – Joel Clarke-Khan (Emily Borthwick, Worcester), William Grimsey (Woodford Green) and Dominic Ogbechie (Highgate) – all shared bronze, having cleared 2.09m.

There might not have been any world indoors places to aim for, but the para athletes also raised the standards in the Para Mixed Ambulant 60m sprints which were part of the programme.

One week on from breaking the T12 British record at the Müller Grand Prix, Zac Shaw (Leon Baptiste, Cleethorpes) lowered his mark even further as he ran under seven seconds for the first time by winning in 6.98. T38 100m Paralympic champion Thomas Young (Joe McDonnell, Loughborough) was just outside his personal best with 7.04, while there was a PB for Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker (Newham Essex Beagles) 7.15.

“I’m not the type of athlete to get animated and emotional but that’s the first time I’ve crossed the line and showed a bit of emotion,” said Shaw, who received a cheque for $2500 for his record-breaking exploits. “I’m being deadly serious that I wasn’t thinking of running as I felt so much pressure, stress and anxiety.

“I want to get that consistency now and I want to win a medal at the Commonwealths and enjoy this year.”

In the women’s sprint, there were mixed feelings for Sophie Hahn (Leon Baptiste, Charnwood) as the Paralympic T38 100m champion hit the line first in 8.11, identical to the time in which she won the same event at the Müller Indoor Grand Prix.

As with last week, T20 athlete Faye Olszowka (Coral Nourrice, Bexley) was second, in 8.30, with Esme O’Connell (Robert Wright, Dacorum) third in a PB of 8.39.

“I was disappointed with the time, but it is good to be consistent,” said Hahn, who will now be targeting the Commonwealth Games. “But I do feel like something was connecting. I do feel my nerves are affecting me indoors with just the 60m. I think the outdoor 100m gives me a bit more time to relax.”

The men’s 1500m final will take place on day two and a tense opening qualifying heat saw Piers Copeland (PontyPridd) win in 3:45.03, joined by Michael Wilson (Sunderland) with 3:45.32 and 3:45.39 from defending champion George Mills (Brighton Phoenix).

Heat two saw Charlie Da’Vall Grice (Brighton Phoenix) progress in 3:47.10, alongside a PB of 3:47.58 from Simon Coppard (Tonbridge) and the 3:47.71 run by 2019 world finalist Neil Gourley (Ben Thomas, Giffnock North).

Two mouth-watering 800m finals lie in store for day two. Defending champion Guy Learmonth (Justin Rinaldi, Lasswade) was fastest in qualifying from the men’s heats. The 29-year-old, who clocked a world indoors qualifier of 1:46.46 at the Müller Indoor Grand Prix a week ago, made safe passage in winning heat three in 1:49.43.

Archie Davis (Joe Kidger, Brighton) was second-fastest, winning heat one in 1:50.32, while

British record-holder and UK leader Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg, Birchfield) won heat two in 1:50.60. Ben Greenwood (Carol Sharp, Perth Strathtay) was the other heat winner in 1:50.80.

The only surprise of the women’s 800m heats was that Isabelle Boffey (Luke Gunn, Enfield and Haringey) did not progress. The European U23 champion fell on the last lap of heat one after making contact with leader Gemma Finch (Andy Sleap, Basingstoke). She got up to finish fifth, with Finch winning in 2:08.08.

Jenny Selman (Fife) qualified fastest after winning heat two in 2:05.92, while Olympic finalist Jemma Reekie (Andy Young, Kilbarchan) qualified comfortably after taking heat three in 2:07.29.

Olympic silver medallist and British record-holder both indoors and out, Keely Hodgkinson (Trevor Painter, Leigh Harriers) opted to contest an indoor 400m for the first time. She lowered her outright PB for the distance in win the first semi-final in 52.45, while there was a big PB of 52.58 from Hannah Williams (Herts Phoenix) in the second semi.

Defending champion Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow), qualified fastest in 52.07, winning the third semi-final.

Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) qualified fastest from the men’s semis in a PB of 46.57 from semi-final one. The second semi went to Ben Higgins (Stewart Marshall, Sheffield), with a PB of 46.71, while Thomas Somers (Newham and Essex Beagles) took the third semi in 46.95.

Harry Kendall (David Hull, Tonbridge) holds a slender lead after four events of what is proving to be a keenly fought men’s heptathlon competition. The England Championships silver medallist leads on 3018 points, being followed closely by English champion, UK leader and clubmate Lewis Church (David Hull, Tonbridge) on 2987 and the 2982 of Howard Bell (Woodford Green).

Kendall took an early lead after being fastest in the opening event, the 60m, with a time 7.18. Caius Joseph (Rafer Joseph, Basingstoke) was second in 7.18 and 7.27 from Theo Adesina (Laura Tuner-Alleyne, Blackheath) were next quickest.In the long jump Elliot Thompson (Greg Richards, Enfield) landed a big PB of 7.07m from Bell’s 7.01m and Maslen’s 6.92m. Thompson led by one point at that point from Joseph, who leapt a 6.89m season’s best.

However, Kendall’s 13.83m in the shot brought him right back into contention, Church throwing second-furthest with 13.54m and Joseph third in 13.24m – a performance which handed him the overall lead with 2286 to Kendall’s 2278.

Church led the way the in the high jump with 1.99m while there was another PB for Thompson as he cleared 1.96m, the same height recorded by Bell.

Kendall’s PB of 1.93m put him in fifth for that discipline but also sent him back to the top of the pack.