7th August 2023


Captain Charlie Carvell (coach: Stewart Marshall, club: Telford) made a statement as the European Under-20 Championships kicked off in Jerusalem smashing his personal best as he and Laz Benjamin (Sale Harriers Manchester) advanced to their respective finals as leaders on an opening morning that saw eight Brits progress.

Carvell, named captain of the 55-strong British team alongside Zara Obamakinwa (Mark Chapman, Blackheath and Bromley), ran a near perfect race in the second of three 400m heats towards the end of the first morning in the Israeli capital, taking a huge 0.26 seconds off his personal best to clock 45.92 for the win and clear fastest overall going into Wednesday’s final.

Benjamin leapt a season’s best 5.15m in men’s pole vault qualification, never missing a beat with his three attempts, to finish as one of three joint first overall ahead of his own final on Wednesday. Elsewhere Ashley Nemits (Trevor Painter, Wigan & District) would also set a new personal best in the heats of the women’s 400m on a great morning for the GB & NI team.

She clocked 53.95 to advance to the semi-finals while Gabrielle Garber (Jessica Taylor-Jemmett, Leeds City) in the women’s high jump, Edward Bird (Mark Pauley, Poole), Bradley Giblin (Joe Pienta, Trafford) and Dafydd Jones (James Thie, Swansea) in the men’s 3000m and Hattie Reynolds (Tim & Pauline Ash, City of Norwich) in the women’s 3000m steeplechase all advanced to their finals, like Carvell and Benjamin.

Carvell said: “I always have known I have it in me [the time] and 100 per-cent I still have a better time in me. I mean, in lane two, it felt hard. I am now interested if I can go quicker. I love the heat – get me out of the UK, I want more heat.”

Carvell races in Jerusalem as an experienced campaigner having finished an agonising fourth in the 400m at the last edition of this event in 2021 before helping the British 4x400m relay team claim gold – and he laid down an impressive marker with his first outing.

Powering out the blocks and running strongly on the back straight, Carvell would come out of the bend at 300m with a significant lead and he pushed to the end to set that personal best of 45.92 – breaking 46 seconds for the first time.

He added: “I came here with the target to make it from the heat to the final so hopefully I will have a good recovery and will be ready for Wednesday. My message for my teammates is – just go out there and gain the experience. This is a junior champs – the start of your career – and try and win medals for the team.”

Benjamin was placed in Group B of the two qualification pools for the men’s pole vault and could have barely asked for a better outing as he sailed over 4.85m, 5.05m and then 5.15m. No further heights would be needed as only two others went perfect like Benjamin with the final set for Wednesday.

For the Brit it was five centimetres higher than his previous season’s best set at the end of May and he said: “It was a clean sweep. I am really happy with that. I feel comfortable. I went in there focussed and it turned out great.

“The runway was perfectly fine because of the heat – it made it softer a bit. I just felt comfortable. It really went well, I’m stuck for words, I’m really happy. I’m joint first out of both pools, so I am more than ready, focussed and comfortable going into the final.”

The British team had their biggest representation of the morning in the heats of the men’s 3000m with all three athletes progressing to the final. Gilbin was arguably the most impressive as he timed his race to perfection to finish second in the second of the two heats in 8:20.47 minutes.

Drawn in the same heat as teammates Jones, it was the Welshman who settled in second through the first 1000m with Gilbin tucked in not too far behind. Jones interchanged with second and third thereafter before Ireland’s Niall Murphy decided to take the race out with two laps to go.

He was soon reeled in and as the bell struck Gilbin made his move and comfortably finished second with little separating him and winner Emmanouil-Georgios Sgouros. Jones stuck to the task in hand to place eighth in 8:25.18 as the top eight in each heat advanced.

Gilbin said: “When you get to that last lap, I have pretty much got anyone in a kick. You have got to back yourself. You know it goes off a bit slow. I want to run quicker but I know it suits me to run a bit slower and finish fast.

“I’m through to the final, that’s the main job. All three Brits in the final, that’s what it is all about. I’ll probably be the slowest in the final going into it but who doesn’t love an underdog story. It’s championship racing, anything can happen.”

Bird was drawn in the first heat and placed himself second through the first two and a half laps. He took the lead thereafter and maintained it up until around 800m to go. The field bunched at the bell but Bird ran smartly to finish sixth in 8:32.91 and become the first of the eventual three Brits to reach Wednesday’s final.

He said: “I did what I wanted to do and made sure I got into the final. I know I’m not a fast sprinter so i had to make it a hard pace and make sure I didn’t get outs printed. If I left it to chance, I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself.

“When there were challenges [at the front] I had to tell myself it’s not the final, you’re still in the top six, conserve it and show them what you can do on Wednesday. You really need to make sure you’re in that top pack and you’re not going to get pipped at the line.”

At the same time as the men’s 3000m heats, the women’s high jump qualification featuring Garber and Halle Ferguson (Andrew Wood, Trafford) was taking place. Garber was perfect through 1.80m before a wait ensued to see if an attempt at 1.83m was needed.

It was – that height just two centimetres higher than Garber’s personal best set less than a month ago – however despite three strong efforts, she couldn’t clear. Her series still leaves her very well placed in sixth in Group B and eighth overall from qualifying going into another Wednesday final.

Garber said: “I am happy because I am one centimetre off my PB. I wanted the 1.83m but it will come. I am happy I made the final so hopefully I can improve on that. I am excited. I am just going to go out and enjoy it now. I have made it, I am happy, that was my goal for this competition. Maybe a little PB [next], that would be good, who knows.”

Whereas Garber was in Group B, Ferguson was in Group A and was perfect herself through 1.72m however she didn’t manage to clear 1.77m and unfortunately missed out on the final.

Hattie Reynolds had the honour of being the first British athlete to compete in Jerusalem and ran smartly to achieve her event goal and secure a place in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final on her European Under-20 Championship debut.

She was well positioned in the top four through the first 1000m before going wide to lead out the race shortly after. Reynolds settled back into the front pack a lap later and then proceeded to race cleverly with the top eight in each of the two heats advancing to the final.

Dropping back a few positions, Reynolds conserved her energy with a place in the final in two days time effectively secured in the remaining two laps, crossing the line in seventh in 10:38.13.

She said: “I just wanted to play it safe. I was trying to work out where i was in the pack and I thought that I don’t need to push if there are others behind. I am looking forward to the final. I have achieved my goal, which is really good.

“I thought [in leading the race at point] I don’t want to wait too much for an end kick, I don’t want to be in a pack. The experience is really great. It is great to meet so many new people and chat to different athletes from different events, I am really enjoying that.”

The women’s 400m heats rounded off the British interest on the opening morning and the team could have hardly asked for a better start as Nemits ducked under 54 seconds for the first time in her career in the first of four heats.

She ran a strong race and appeared to ease down in the final metres before stopping the clock at 53.95 for second, 0.06 better than the personal best she ran in Mannheim in June, and a time that would rank her seventh overall going into the semi-finals in less than 24 hours.

She was joined in the 400m by teammate Charlotte Kelsey (Glynn Williams, Middlesbrough) who battled valiantly in the third of four heats, clocking 55.63 but unfortunately missed out on progression as the first morning ended in Jerusalem.

Nemits has consistently lowered her personal best this season going from 55.39 to now 53.95 and she said: “My coach and I went through the race plan just before the race and it was to get to 300m, assess where I am and see how hard I need to work.

“I was in quite a good place at 300m so I just tried to get the big Q with using as little energy as I could and it was a PB so I can’t complain. I know what shape I am in from training. I know that there is more in the bag so I am looking forward to the semis”