19th February 2023
BRILLIANT BAKER BREAKS 37-YEAR-OLD RECORD TO CAP 2023 UK INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
Ellie Baker (coach: Jon Bigg; club: Shaftesbury Barnet) broke a 37-year-old record on the final day of the UK Athletics Indoor Championships, leading the way as a string of impressive performances saw a further 18 champions crowned and host of athletes on their way to the European Indoor Championships next month.
Baker had it all to do in Birmingham with no qualifying standard in the women’s 1500m and she put in one of the best performances in UK Athletics Indoor Championships history as she powered to gold in a time of 4:06,73 minutes, bettering Zola Budd’s mark from 1986.
In an impressive weekend all round, Paralympic champion Aled Davies (Ryan Spencer-Jones; Cardiff) broke an indoor world record in the F63 shot put, Callum Wilkinson (Enfield & Haringey) set a world lead in the men’s 3000m race walk and Jazmin Sawyers (Aston Moore; City of Stoke), Neil Gourley (Ben Thomas; Giffnock North) and Melissa Courtney-Bryant (Rob Denmark; Poole) followed Baker’s lead in booking a place to Istanbul with gold.
James West (Thomas; Tonbridge) in the 3000m, Guy Learmonth (Lasswade), Isabelle Boffey (Luke Gunn; Enfield & Haringey) – both in the 800m – and Morgan Lake (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow;) in the high jump completed that set of gold-medal winners on day two who booked European Indoors places while silvers for Hannah Nuttall (Helen Clitheroe; Charnwood), George Mills (Brighton Phoenix) and Katie Snowden (Daniel Stepney; Herne Hill) will see them on that British team too.
On a bumper day, 18 golds were handed out with Success Eduan (Anita Richardson; Sale Harriers Manchester) and Sophie McKinna (Paul Wilson; Great Yarmouth) leading the way in the women’s 200m and women’s shot put respectivelty as Will Grimsey (Graham Ravenscroft; Woodford Green Essex Ladies), Scott Lincoln (Wilson; City of York), Richard Akinyebo (BFT Track Academy; Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai), Ama Pipi (Marco Airale; Enfield & Haringey), Samuel Reardon (Nigel Stickings; Blackheath & Bromley), Abigail Jennings (Verity Snook, Aldershot Farnham and District) and Jude Bright-Davies (David Johnson; Thames Valley Harriers) also topped the podium.
Baker recorded arguably the performance of the entire weekend with a truly impressive effort in the women’s 1500m final. Without a European indoor standard despite her best efforts this season, Baker grabbed the chance with both hands in Birmingham.
With two laps to go it was Baker, Snowden and Erin Wallace (Giffnock North) clear and away, setting up an exciting finish. At the bell, eventual bronze medallist Wallace was dropped as Baker kicked on.
Baker then held on supremely well to give Snowden no chance of reeling her in at the line, finishing so strongly that 4:06.73 flashed up as she crossed – to make it a great weekend with gold, a European indoors place and a historic championship record.
Snowden also didn’t have the European indoor standard coming into the weekend but her time of 4:06.98 secured her place while Baker broke Zola Budd’s Championship Record that has stood since 1986 and she said: “I honestly cannot believe it. I knew I was in great shape coming into the indoor season, but it hasn’t been showing in my races which for me has been super frustrating.
“But I kept my mindset and to come away with the Championship Record and my first UK Championships gold, in my very first British Championships competing in the 1500m it’s all a lot of firsts and I’m delighted with everything. I knew I had the European standard in my locker, but the Championship Record was not in my sights at all, to get this ticked off is a very happy moment for myself.”
Sawyers’ strong start to the season continued as she did everything she needed to do to make certain of her spot at the European Indoor Championships with gold in the women’s long jump.
Having hit the standard exactly two weeks ago, Sawyers would arrive in Birmingham in good spirits and it showed in her series as she registered a mark in all six of her attempts. Her best came in the fifth round with a leap of 6.73m that would guarantee gold.
Sawyers was always in the lead after a 6.62m opener with Lucy Hadaway (Matt Barton; City of York) posting a best of 6.56m with her first effort which would be enough for silver while Jodie Smith (Ashley Bryant; Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) claimed bronze with 6.16m.
Sawyers said: “I’m so happy to be the UK champion, it’s what I came here to do and to achieve that, I’m delighted. I was hoping to jump a little further, but I think that is just the competitor within me coming out.
“I feel like I have more in the tank, but the consistency I have been showing is telling me I have a big jump coming, which I hope comes at the Europeans in a few weeks’ time.”
Gourley was class act in the men’s 1500m final as he powered to gold to secure his European indoors place. Mills pushed the race on with three laps to go with Gourley joining him before making his move for the lead on the back straight of the final lap.
Such was Gourley’s kick the race was won as soon as he made it. He clocked 3:41.20 for victory but there was some consolation for Mills, who was second 1.67 behind, as silver guaranteed him a place on the British team for Istanbul.
Blake Moore (Craig Winrow; Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) claimed bronze with 3:47.74 and champion Gourley said: “It was nice and controlled and I was happy with the way I closed the last 150 metres. I am not one to ever take indoors too lightly. Obviously the focus is on outdoors and we’ve been training as such.
“But there’s no reason why I can’t give a really good account of myself at European Indoors and try and win that race – that’s the objective. That will be a good challenge with who is competing.”
The women’s 3000m proved to be one of the races of the weekend as Courtney-Bryant and Nuttall also went head-to-head in a final two lap dust up. The race came to life just before three laps to go with Courtney-Bryant injecting some pace.
Nuttall wasn’t put off by it though and stuck on Courtney-Bryant’s coat-tails and on the final lap attempted her move on the back straight. Courtney-Bryant didn’t let up however and try as she might Nuttall couldn’t get in front in the closing stages.
Such was the battle the pair were nearly ten seconds ahead of bronze medallist Eloise Walker (Trevor Painter; Edinburgh) with Courtney-Bryant’s winning time 8:50.76. She said: “I’m really pleased, it’s been a while since I’ve won a British title.
“The crowd on the last 50m was really loud, that was amazing, actually I’ve never heard it so loud in here, so that was really fun. It was hard to know when to go and also I wanted to go ahead a bit earlier but I didn’t want to do anything silly, I just wanted to book my place to the Europeans.”
As one of the form British athletes this indoor season, Lake got the job done in Birmingham claiming yet another women’s high jump title – and securing her European Indoors place – with a best leap of 1.90m. Just over two weeks after her 1.99m British record, Lake entered at 1.84m, cleared clean through to 1.90m before needing two attempts at that height.
She moved straight onto 1.94m which unfortunately proved too much on the day. Laura Zialor (Jade Surman; Marshall Milton Keynes) took silver with 1.87m and Kate Anson (Liverpool) claimed bronze with 1.84m and Lake said: “I’m feeling good and happy take the win and compete in front of a home crowd. The result was okay, I feel in better form than I actually jumped but I can take that into the next competition. The next plan is European indoors, I’m hoping to jump well there and hopefully enjoy that.”
McKinna hasn’t had it easily lately but put that behind her, like Morgan, to win another British indoor title in the women’s shot put. McKinna had a consistent series with her third-round effort of 17.20m helping her to top the podium.
There was some drama in the battle for silver as Amelia Strickler (Zane Duquemin; Thames Valley Harriers) produced a final effort of 17.01m to overtake Serena Vincent (Mike Winch; City of Portsmouth), who had to settle for bronze with a fifth-round personal best of 16.76m.
McKinna said: “It’s been a really turbulent, difficult year for me. I haven’t been able to put a run of form together which has been hard. To come away with a gold is nothing more than I wanted. The distance isn’t there. I wasn’t expecting the distance – I’m not in physical shape at all.”
Experience told as Learmonth claimed yet another British indoor title in the men’s 800m. Expected to win, and book his Istanbul place, Learmonth was joined for the duration of the race by Ben Claridge (Matt Elias; Abingdon).
It all built up to the final lap, but Learmonth wouldn’t let Claridge get past him and he even pulled away in the final metres to win a fourth title in 1:47.43. Claridge would clock a 1:48.06 personal best for silver while the battle for bronze went to James McMurray (Deborah Steer; St Albans Striders) in a 1:49.42 personal best.
Learmonth said: “This week has been very difficult as I have been under the weather and then it took me over eight hours to get to Birmingham because of traffic, so it wasn’t ideal. I wanted to come out and run very hard from the get-go and my main aim was to close out the race as strong as I possibly could. So all things considered I’m pretty happy.”
This second day in Birmingham was full of athletes securing gold and a European Indoors place in style – with Boffey epitomising that in the women’s 800m final. She impressively kicked for gold after the bell and took it with a time of 2:03.27.
Gemma Finch (Andy Sleap; Basingstoke & Mid Hants) had led the race out but Jenny Selman (Lewis Walker; Fife) came past for silver in 2:03.68 as did Abigail Ives (Luke Gunn; Basildon) for bronze in 2:03.97. With a place on the team for Istanbul secured Boffey said: “I’m buzzing and super happy with my race. I was super confident but nervous coming into the final but I’m happy to have got the automatic selection for the European Championships.
“I was really lucky to have the time already going into the race, and having that red bib number I saw it as a place of privilege, so took it like that rather than thinking about the pressures that came with the race.”
In the men’s 3000m, West showed his class to get the job done and win gold and also book his own place at the European Indoor Championships. He started to assert his dominance with a lap and a half to go and once in front wouldn’t be stopped as he clocked 7:49.78.
He was over a second ahead of silver medallist Osian Perrin (Andrew Walling; Menai) who set a personal best of 7:50.86 with Charles Wheeler (James Bennett; Milton Keynes Distance Project) taking bronze also in a personal best of 7:51.80. West said: “I ran a strong race and got the gold.
“I hit the front at around 300m to go which was the goal, hit the bell in the lead and once you’re in the lead indoors on the final lap it’s really hard for people to get past you. The goal is definitely to make the final at Europeans and then a medal is definitely up for grabs.”
The men’s shot put was another memorable affair as Lincoln retained his British indoor title while Davies was once again in world-record breaking form. Lincoln grew into the competition with his best of 20.36m coming with his last attempt.
Like Sawyers, he led from start to finish with Youcef Zatat (Scott Rider; Woodford Green Essex Ladies) claiming silver and improving his best in the sixth round, finishing with 18.47m while Patrick Swan (Spencer-Jones; Cornwall) picked up bronze with a 17.39m personal best.
Lincoln said: “It was good to end with a decent throw – a season’s best indoors. I lost a bit of feeling coming into this, I’ll always aim for more but it was nice to get the season’s best.”
However the star was arguably three-time Paralympic champion Davies who set a new indoor F63 shot put world record with his third throw of 16.39m.
In the men’s walk final Wilkinson was in impressive form over 3000m as he clocked that world lead of 11:00.98. He powered his way around the fresh new Birmingham track to win by almost over a minute ahead of Chris Snook (Andi Drake; Aldershot Farnham & District) in second while Luc Legon (Noel Carmody; Bexley) was another 47 seconds behind in third.
Wilkinson said: “It’s my first indoor title, I have missed the last few through injury so it’s a great achievement to come here and get the win. I spoke to my coach about the times I want to achieve, but the main thing is to stay injury free as currently I’m in great shape and feel like I can achieve a lot this season.”
In the women’s 3000m walk, Abigail Jennings (Verity Snook; Aldershot Farnham & District) posted a career best of 13:40.33 to take the win. She said afterwards, “I’m feeling so good right now, it feels great to be UK champion once again. I just tried to stay out of trouble as best as I could and then when the final 1km came up, I knew it was time to push. The personal best was a great surprise.”
In the final event of the Championships Pipi came from behind to win the women’s 400m final and deny Laviai Nielsen (Enfield & Haringey) what looked like gold. Nielsen ran strong to hit the front but down the home straight appeared to stumble as Pipi came charging through.
Pipi would clock a season’s best 52.52 for gold with Nielsen hanging on for silver in 52.90 while Carys McAulay (Nick Dakin; Trafford) claimed bronze in a personal best of 52.98.
The highly-impressive performances kept coming on the second day as teenager Eduan claimed a first senior British title with a superb run in the women’s 200m final. What initially looked like a battle between Hannah Williams (Steve Fudge; Herts Phoenix) and Hannah Brier (Matt Elias; Swansea), Eduan made up a metre after the bend to power home and win gold in 23.49.
Brier took silver in a personal best 23.60 and Williams bronze in another personal best 23.77 and Eduan said: “I’m really proud of myself. I’m only 18. I was trying to just get through each round and focus on intent. I’m really happy and proud of myself. There was no pressure on me but I felt really good.”
On a weekend where personal bests fell at will Akinyebo smashed his to win the men’s 200m final. Another extremely tight race, Akinyebo battled with Stephen Baffour (Ronnie Williams; Coventry Godiva) for gold and had enough at the line to win a career best 21.10.
Baffour also set a personal best of 21.16 for silver while Derek Kinlock (Nat Senior; Croydon) claimed bronze in 21.46. Akinyebo said: “It’s a great feeling to come out as champion. I came here last year and didn’t even make it out of the heats, so it’s a massive improvement on last year.”
Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist; Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) was absent from the men’s 400m final meaning the gold was well and truly up for grabs and so it proved in the race. The lead changed multiple times despite the short distance and Reardon would take the gold when it mattered.
He was the only one to duck under 47 seconds in clocking 46.96 with Ben Higgins (Stewart Marshall; City of Sheffield) taking silver in 47.07 and Lee Thompson (John Henson; City of Sheffield) who was well down at one point battling back for bronze in 47.14 Reardon said: “It feels amazing to come here and take the gold after bronze last year. I originally wasn’t going to do the 400m indoor and just focus on the 800m.”
Bright-Davies was another athlete to claim gold in a personal best, this time in the men’s triple jump final. He only registered two legal jumps but it was enough for gold, his winning mark actually coming first time out as he leapt out to 16.05m.
Seun Okome (Keith Hunter; Sale Harriers Manchester) would take silver with a best of 15.40m while bronze went to Montel Never (Lukasz Zawila; Notts) just short of that mark with 15.32m.
For Grimsey in the men’s high jump final, the Championships were his season opener and he marked it with gold with a best of 2.16m. He cruised through 2.08m and 2.12m but couldn’t find enough at 2.20m.
Grimsey was the only one to attempt 2.20m with Divine Duruaku (Adam Gallie; Harrow) and Akin Coward (Carol Jackson; Shaftesbury Barnet) getting to 2.12m and failing at 2.16m. Duruaku would take silver on countback and Coward bronze.
“That was rusty for a season opener, but I’m pleased to have got the win,” said Grimsey. “I need to go back into training and then just see what happens outdoors. Hopefully with consistent training I can try to make the team for worlds.”