9th July 2023
BEST OF BRITISH SHINE ON STACKED SECOND DAY AT UK ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Zharnel Hughes (Glen Mills, Shaftesbury Barnet), Darryl Neita (Marco Airale, Cambridge Harriers), Keely Hodgkinson (Trevor Painter, and Jazmin Sawyers (City of Stoke) all starred on a stacked second and final day of action at the UK Athletics Championships in Manchester.
After stealing the show yesterday with 100m gold in the pouring rain, Hughes made history by scorching to the 200m title in a phenomenal 19.77 (+2.3), becoming the first British man to do the British championships ‘sprint-double’ since Marlon Devonish won double gold in 2007.
Pulling off the bend already in lead, Hughes extended his lead down the straight and ensured all eyes in the stadium turned to the clock. Initially recorded at 19.78 before being rounded down, only a borderline illegal tailwind stopped Hughes smashing the long-standing British record of 19.87, held by John Regis.
Behind him, Joe Ferguson (Lewis Samuel, Sheffield & Dearne) just beat out Jona Efoloko (Clarence Callender, Sale Harriers Manchester) in the battle for silver, 20.43 to 20.45, leaving Efoloko to take bronze.
“I felt amazing, I knew I was in good shape. I wanted to make it special today as yesterday in the 100m I was soaking wet! I wanted to see what I could do in the dry conditions,” said Hughes.
“I’m relieved about the times I’m putting on display at the moment, for a long time I have known these performances have been in me but to execute them now at this stage is brilliant. I have put so much work in this season, and it’s showing. The best is yet to come, dropping these times is great. I have London before the Worlds in Budapest and hopefully I can deliver.”
Just moments before, Darryl Neita had produced brilliance of her own in running a rapid Championship Record of 22.26 (+1.3), taking the women’s equivalent title and booking her 200m spot for Budapest in the process.
Behind Neita, Bianca Williams (Linford Christie, Enfield & Haringey) clocked a brilliant world qualifying mark of 22.59, inside the 22.60 standard, to win silver and confirm her individual team spot for Hungary. An impressive personal best of 22.69 from Finette Agyapong (Mike McFarlane, Newham & Essex Beagles) saw her win British bronze.
Neita said: “I think the 200m is very wide open and I am still learning it, I am still figuring it out as it is new to me. I am coming out of the races where I want to be – it is a great stepping stone in the right direction towards the Worlds in Budapest. My aim is to go there and to come away knowing I did all I could. I think I am in amazing shape and fine form so I hope I can come away with a medal.”
Among a talented field, and made to work for the victory, Keely Hodgkinson retained her title in a swift Stadium Record time of 1:57.26 in the women’s 800m to continue her fine preparation into Budapest. Pushing her all the way was Jemma Reekie (Kilbarchan), the Scot clocking a season’s best of 1:58.93 for silver ahead of Alex Bell (Andrew Henderson, Pudsey & Bramley) who took bronze in 2:00.68, the time also a season’s best for Bell. With both carrying the qualifying mark, Hodgkinson and Reekie are sure to be heading for Budapest next month.
On the race and the summer action to come, Hodgkinson said: “I was a bit surprised the way the race went. I didn’t want to take the lead today so to sit in and then take the win was very pleasing. I am off to the European Under 23 Championships this week to gain a bit of race practice at 400m and see what I can do. I am not the fastest going into it so it will be interesting and fun to do another under 23 champs while I am still eligible! It was always part of my build up to the worlds and a great place to do some speed work.”
Katie Snowden got her tactics spot on to win a first ever British 1500m title, overhauling Laura Muir (Dundee Hawkhill) in the process. After a trademark Muir kick with 600m to go, Snowden went with the move, reeling Muir in down the home straight and coming away over the final 40m to cross the line in 4:09.86 to Muir’s 4:10.24. Both women hold the qualifying mark for Budapest, and have therefore ensured automatic selection for August’s championships. Melissa Courtney-Bryant (Rob Denmark, Poole AC) clocked 4:11.91 for bronze, and will be hoping to join the pair in the event.
Snowden said: “I knew my training had gone really well. I had been very consistent this year and had a couple of good races coming into British Champs today. I was feeling confident and psychologically ready. I knew I could come into the top two, not necessarily expecting to beat Laura. I thought this time I wanted to commit and stay with her pace.
“The race unfolded how I thought it would, I was expecting Laura (Muir) to kick on at some point during the race. Today I managed my position really well, which I haven’t always done previously.”
In the men’s 400m, Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) pushed through the pain on the home-straight, with a time of 45.97 seeing the 23-year-old clinch his first British outdoor title. A near photo-finish separated silver from bronze, with Lewis Davis’ (Trevor Painter, Newham & Essex Beagles) season’s best of 46.40 earning him a deserved silver ahead of Michael Ohioze (Craig Cox, Shaftesbury Barnet). Sadly, defending champion Matt Hudson-Smith (Birchfield Harriers) pulled up early on the back straight.
Haydock-Wilson said: “I had been feeling so frustrated as I have achieved in Europe but not here at the nationals, so I am so relieved to finally get the win here. Even today I hesitated on the back straight but I told myself: this is yours, just go get it. This opens the doors for London Diamond League and I’ll try and get the standard. This gives me lots more faith and freedom that I can do it.”
An event with no shortage of athletes holding the qualifying time for Budapest, the men’s 1500m bookended the weekend and kicked off in the pouring rain as the heavens opened. One of those athletes, George Mills (Brighton Pheonix) wrestled into the lead with 300m to go, only for Neil Gourley (Ben Thomas, Giffnock North) to then pick up the pace and and ultimately the title in 3:46.16. Stealing in for silver, Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg, Birchfield) continued his impressive showings moving up in distance to clock 3:46.48 and join Gourley in rubber stamping his spot for Budapest.
“I have not had racing conditions like that for a while so it was fun! I did very little until the last 50m I would say. I sat in and just took my time, just wanting to be patient.
“There’s a lot of pressure in the sense I needed to be top two today. Given what others have done this season and the condition Josh (Kerr) feels he’s in I knew I needed to be top two. As for winning it that was more for me -I really wanted to win it for me. It’s been four years since I took an outdoor title, so it is a big relief and something to celebrate.”
The women’s one-lap action saw Victoria Ohuruogu (Newham & Essex Beagles) produce an utterly dominant display to take the title in 50.89, booking her team spot in doing so. Running through the line, silver went to Ama Pipi (Marco Airale, Enfield & Haringey) in 51.52, with world junior champion Yemi Mary John taking bronze in 51.61.
Post-race, Ohuruogu said: “I knew I was in good shape coming into today and had had a few races before here but I still needed to come and deliver and stick to my race plan and I am so glad I did. Although I had the time it’s a championship, so I still wanted the win you can’t afford to let your guard down at any point.”
UK leader Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) got the job done pre-Budapest, with her title-winning run of 54.99 in the 400m Hurdles sealing her spot on the British team for what will be her second world championships. Lina Nielsen (Shaftesbury Barnet) matched the silver won last time out, clocking 55.62, while Emily Newnham (Nick Dakin, Shaftesbury Barnet) lowered her personal best to 57.13 to clinch bronze.
Knight reflected: “The feeling never gets better – I’m very proud to be British Champion; I always put my flag pictures up around the house. I’ll be celebrating with a 4.5 hour drive home and getting ready for work in the morning – but I’ll be taking this medal proudly to school tomorrow!”
In the men’s equivalent, a close finish saw Alastair Chalmers (Matt Elias, Guernsey) hold off the late charge of UK lead Seamus Derbyshire (Nick Dakin, City of Stoke) to take gold in a notable season’s best of 49.49, Derbyshire coming home in 49.58 courtesy of a big dip on the line. Maranga Mokaya (Emma Louise Hooper, Notts) got up for bronze in a time of 50.32.
“I feel relieved, it has been a hard season,” said Chalmers.
“It’s all about turning up at the right time in these events, and today that’s what happened. I’m really happy with my time – under 50 seconds and a PB under these conditions as it was windy down on the track today.”
In field action, European indoor long jump champion Jazmin Sawyers (City of Stoke) sailed out to 6.86m (+2.5) in round six to improve her winning mark, having already tied up gold courtesy of 6.79m (+2.6) in round four.
Multievent specialist Jade O’Dowda (John Lane, Newham & Essex Beagles) leapt a windy 6.64m (+2.6) for silver, with Lucy Hadaway taking bronze with 6.60m (+2.6).
Sawyers said: ‘It was lovely and sunny for us so we made the most of the tailwind out there today. I got a few good windy jumps in. I would have liked the 6.86m to be legal as it is the Olympic qualifier but I feel I am in good shape so I know I can jump that.
“Last week I had a bit of a scare in Stockholm (Diamond League) when I slipped on the board and rolled my ankle. We’ve taped it up and it’s a bit sore, but I am a woman made of tape now and it didn’t hinder me. I shall go into another block of training now for the Worlds now that my ticket is booked.
“I have never won a world medal and I know I am capable of those distances so I think it would be silly of me not to be aiming for anything less than a medal. On the day I will be fighting for gold but I think anything on the podium is success.”
The men’s 110m hurdles followed the form book, with UK number one Tade Ojora (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) proving a cut above the rest as he clocked 13.16 (+3.2) for a third-straight British title in the event. The battle for minor meddles further down the order saw Josh Zeller (Adrian Brown, Bracknell) run 13.34 for silver, while Sam Bennett (Steve Surety, Basildon) clocked 13.46 to win bronze.
On his performance and further ambitions come Budapest, Ojara said: “It feels amazing to have secured a place on the British team at the Worlds. To have got the qualifying mark a few weeks ago – it took some pressure of me going into today, so I could run relaxed. Now I need to get a lot of training in before the worlds, as I don’t want to just show up there. I want to get to the final and, hopefully, on the podium.”
Among a monster field of seventeen athletes, Jess Warner-Judd (Mick Judd, Blackburn) made it three British titles over the distance after dismantling the competition. After moving to the front with ten laps to go, Warner-Judd surged with five to go, putting daylight between herself the chasing Amy-Eloise Markovc (Wakefield).
Extending her lead at the bell, Judd had the home straight to herself as she came home in 15:53.50, with Eloise-Markovc’s 15:58.87 seeing her add British silver to her ever-growing collection of domestic silverware and secure her place on the team for Budapest, owing to holding the qualifying time. Completing the podium, Abbie Donnelly (Rob Lewis, Lincoln Wellington) ran 16:04.78 for bronze.
Post-race, Judd said: “It’s an amazing feeling to be British Champion. It was slightly different for me this year, as usually I come in with the World Champs time already and just have to finish in the top two, but the 10,000m was my main focus this year.”
Ever the entertaining racer, Max Burgin (Halifax) hit the accelerator from the gun, taking the field through in a rapid 49.7 seconds before continuing to motor on for home. However he seized up on the home straight – so it was the smooth running of Daniel Rowden (Jon Bigg, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) which first passed Burgin on his way to gold in a season’s best of 1:45.13. Ben Pattison (Dave Ragan, Basingstoke & Mid Hants) shadowed Rowden to pinch in for silver in1:45.15 (SB), with Burgin tumbling for the line, pushing his torso over to grab bronze in 1:45.16.
“My race plan was to stay behind Max and follow him, but after seeing how quick he went, I knew it would cost me at the back end of the race,” said Rowden.
“I know what my pace is, and I had to trust in my training, racing experience to execute the race I wanted. In these races you have to trust your instincts and go on auto-pilot. I wanted to run the world standard, but the conditions weren’t the best. However, I am confident I can run that time in my next races to come.”
The men’s 3000m steeplechase final saw Will Battershill (Luke Gunn, Erme Valley) and Zak Seddon (Bracknell AC) go neck and neck over the final 400m in what proved a brilliant dual. Battershill ultimately came out on top, using the momentum off the final barrier to move away from Seddon and take the tape in 8:44.19 to Seddon’s 8:44.94. Jamaine Coleman completed the podium, his 8:54.40 good for bronze.
On race expectations and his approach, Battershill said: “I had in my mind that anything could happen in today’s race. I knew the form of Zak and Jamaine – I wasn’t expecting to leave them behind with my move but I’m glad it did. Everyone in this field is super dangerous, so you have to make sure your race is executed perfectly.”
Jade Lally (Zane Duquemin, Shaftesbury Barnet) racked up a ninth British title with victory in the women’s discus. Saving her best throw until last, a mark of 60.13m sealed the deal as Lally’s domestic dominance in the event continues. Down the order, a season’s best of 57.30 was enough for Kirsty Law (Zane Duquemin, Sale Harriers Manchester) to take silver, while a personal best of 55.99m saw Zara Obamakinwa (Mark Chapman, Blackheath & Bromley) to break the British junior record and take bronze.
Speaking afterwards, Lally said: “I’m obviously happy – it was a shocker of a series and I got myself very nervous. I did know it was a head thing because I warmed up fine and I know I’m not in that bad shape. Knowing it’s a psychological issue and then dealing with it is something else so luckily I got two decent throws out. Manchester historically hasn’t got good conditions so I’m very thankful it didn’t rain and very thankful I managed to pull myself together and not waste good conditions, and a good opportunity to win of course.
Adele Nicoll (Ryan Spencer-Jones, Birchfield) was a commanding victor in the women’s shot-put courtesy of two 17 metre throws over the rest of the field. Nicoll’s best on the day – 17.26m in round two – put almost half a metre between her and silver medallist Amelia Strickler (Zane Duquemin, Thames Valley), her best mark being 16.83m. Divine Oladipo (Blackheath & Bromley) threw 16.28m, winning bronze on the day.
An ecstatic Nicholl said. “I feel amazing as today means a lot after I made the decision to change my technique last year. I train for bobsleigh through the winter, so then training starts in April for me. I have a lot to take away from today as this was my best throw for me with new technique.”
At the opposite end of the Arena, Jake Norris (Paul Dickenson, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) was equally as dominant in winning the men’s British hammer title. After setting his stall out with 73.72m in round one, Norris improved to 74.75m with his third attempt to increase his lead over the field and ultimately take the title.
Silver and bronze were separated by six centimetres, with Ben Hawkes’ (Adrian Palmer, Blackheath & Bromley) 70.08m securing for the second step of the podium, and Craig Murch’s (Matt Spicer, Birchfield Harriers) 70.02m helping him to bronze.
In the pole vault, Charlie Myers (Chris Boundy, Birtley) once again came out on top and add British outdoor gold to the indoor title won earlier this year, with his clearance at 5.20m standing him out from the competition. The tussle for silver and bronze ended in a joint split of the medal following both Lazarus Benjamin (Sale Harriers) and Adam Hague (Trevor Fox, Sheffield & Dearne) going clear at 5.00m at the first attempt, but then each failing three times at further heights.
Leading the competition from start to finish, Benjamin East (Luke Angell, Team Kennet) reigned supreme in the men’s javelin. In a series of six throws over 70 metres, East’s best of 72.97m was a winning margin of over three metres, with Michael Allison (Tom Dobbing, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) throwing 69.73m to win silver. Joe Dunderdale (City of Sheffield) completed the podium, a best of 68.69m taking bronze.
The newly crowned champion, East said: “I am still a bit in shock – it was great to have it done and dusted before that last throw. My parents are here so I am so delighted to be British Champion. Unfortunately, I just missed the cut for the European Under 23 Championships earlier this year, but today has made up for that and I will be looking to build on this going forward.”
On the triple jump runway, Efe Uwa (Daniel Hooker, Harrow) produced a clutch jump of 16.20m (+2.7) in the sixth and final round to move from bronze into gold as the podium order shuffled across the board.
Behing Uwa, Jude Bright-Davies (David Johnson, Thames Valley) was forced to settle for silver following a round one best of 16.05 (-0.1), while Seun Okome (Keith Hunter, Sale Harriers) leapt to a personal best of 15.93m (+2.0) in round six to secure his grip on British bronze.
On topping the podium, Uwa said: “I feel great, happy to be back here. I took a year and half off so it felt great to be back competing again. I feel as though there is more distance to gain in my jumps. This time last year I didn’t know if I could compete in this sport again, after my two knee injuries, but it goes to show what can happen in a space of 12 months.”
In other jumps action, Joel Clarke-Khan (Thames Valley) took the spoils in the high jump courtesy of a season’s best 2.18m. The only athlete to go clear at the height, Clarke-Khan was joined on the podium by silver medallist William Grimsey (Bethan Partridge, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) and bronze winner Luke Ball (Jeremy Dale, Yate), their marks 2.15m and 2.09m respectively.
Speaking after, Clarke-Khan said: “It feels pretty good. I’ve had a bit of a rocky season so I’m very happy to be where I am today. I’ve had a really bad season, the last three weeks I’ve pulled out of some competitions and I’ve managed to change a few things around. I knew I had the potential to jump really high today but I hadn’t competed, so it was just putting it altogether.”
Kicking off track action first thing in the morning, the women’s 5000m walk saw Heather Warner (Martin Bell, Pembrokeshire Harriers) put a huge lead in over reigning champion Bethan Davies (Andi Drake, Cardiff) to take the British crown in 2023. One of the three athletes to break away earlier in the race, Warner crossed the line in 22:22.50, a season’s best, with Davies walking 22:55.85 (SB). Abigail Jennings (Verity Snook, Aldershot Farnham & District) produced a personal best of 24:11.68 for bronze.
Warner said: “It feels amazing to come back here and be British Champion again. I had a tough race last year with being disqualified, so it felt good to walk a good race today.
“The cards were shown quite early on, so it was a hard race to manage with being careful not to foul and achieving a good time. I would have loved to have pushed even more, but I had to play it tactically which I did.”
Chris Snook (Andi Drake, Aldershot Farnham & District) bettered the British silver he won last year with gold this time out, his time of 21:35.72 a winning margin of over 50 seconds ahead of Cameron Corbishley’s (Andi Drake, Medway & Maidstone) 22:27.65 for silver. Luc Legon (Noel Carmody, Bexley) matched the bronze won in 2022 with a time of 22:54.91.
Post-race, Snook said: “I feel great – it’s so nice to come to the British Championships, especially when you take the win. Domestically it is the biggest race there is, and it is good to see it on the programme here as it gives us some exposure.”
The full results from the UK Athletics Championships can be found here.