22nd July 2017
ELEVENTH HEAVEN FOR BRITISH JUNIORS IN GROSSETO
The Great Britain junior team enjoyed a Super Saturday all of their own at the European Junior Championships as they won eleven medals to go top of the medal table.
It was in the men’s 1500m, where Britain has had so much success in the past, that the gold rush was kick-started, Jake Heyward (coach: Paul Darney) running the perfect race to take the title. In the space of a couple of hours the team had added remarkable one-two finishes in the men’s 200m and women’s 800m, with Maya Bruney (John Blackie) also winning the women’s 200m.
For Heyward, it was his second international title in as many years, having won the European Youth title last summer. In a race with added focus due to the presence of overwhelming favourite Jakob Ingebrigsten, Heyward executed his game plan perfectly, going to the front and ensuring the pace was slow. Hitting 300m to go, Ingebrigsten was tripped and left trailing, whilst the Brit pilled on the pressure, holding his lead before edging clear to a 3.56.73 victory.
“This is amazing. Everything we discussed before the race really did work out exactly as we planned and I’m just really grateful I had the help from Archie who helped me out on the outside, stopping people coming round. The plan was to turn it into a sprint finish, as I back my sprint over anything and I knew that as long I came into the final 100m nobody was beating me. It’s surreal – there’s no other feeling like crossing that line.”
Heyward ensures the title remains in Britain, with Josh Kerr, Jake Wightman and Adam Cotton having won at the last three editions. His teammate Archie Davis (Joel Kidger) didn’t quite have the same closing speed, finishing fifth just 0.33 off a medal.
In the women’s 200m Bruney ran a personal best in every round to take the title by a convincing margin. Leading off the bend, she moved away from her rivals in some style, crossing the line in 23.04 (-1.0), the fastest in Europe this year by a junior.
“That was amazing – I can’t believe that I’m European champion – it hasn’t sunk in yet. I aimed to be in the final, but after PBing in the heat I thought I could podium, and after running all out and PBing again in the semi I thought my destiny was in my own hands. The atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve ever done before and I had no idea how close everyone was because I couldn’t hear anything, that’s why I dipped for the line.”
Scot Alisha Rees (Willy Russell) also ran a strong race, but finished in the worst position of all, fourth in 23.54, just 0.05 short of a medal.
The men’s event saw Toby Harries (Jon Bigg) and Jona Efoloko (John Smith) complete a sensational British double, both men seemingly inspired by Bruney, running personal bests. Harries was never headed, crossing the line in 20.81 (-0.9) with Efoloko just a tenth back in 20.92. Afterwards the winner said:
“Last year I was on crutches and in a leg brace after having surgery. I’ve battled through all the rehab and there were times when I didn’t think I’d be back, but I kept pushing and this means the world. To come and run the final, let alone win a gold medal is making me pretty emotional. Talk about pulling it out of the bag at the right moment – getting a PB and a gold medal is just outrageous.”
There was a nail-biting finish in the women’s 800, with Khahisa Mhlanga (Mick Judd) and Ellie Baker (George Harrison) completing another thrilling British one-two. Leading off the bend it was Mhlanga who edged it, 2.06.96 to 2.07.01, but both ladies were delighted with a medal.
Despite ‘only’ winning bronze, Tom Gale (Denis Doyle) was undoubtedly one of the standout performers of the championships, thanks to a stunning 2.28m clearance in the high jump. With a first time clearance at 2.24m, a new lifetime best, Gale badly wanted a medal, going over 2.26m and 2.28m at the second time of asking. That puts him second on the British junior all-time list.
“I walked into that competition ranked second and I came third. It’s not gold but god it feels like it! I have tremendous respect for the other two athletes, and whilst I walked in thinking I’d be disappointed with anything but gold, I’m leaving feeling so good. It felt incredible.”
At the opposite end of the Stadio Carlo Zecchini, Molly Caudery (Stuart Caudery) won a surprise silver in the pole vault thanks to a 4.35m personal best. Stepping up when it mattered most she sailed over 4.30m and 4.35m at the first time of asking and still with two years left in the age-group, she was one of the youngsters to medal on a sensational day for the team.
There were also a pair of sprint hurdles silver medals, Alicia Barrett (Toni Minichiello) and Robert Sakala (Piotr Spas) taking second in their respective events. Barrett was first up, unable to stop Frenchwoman Solene Ndama, who ran a 13.15 (0.1) personal best. The British junior record holder was just over a tenth back, although hampered by a tight hamstring.
For Sakala it was a delightful silver as he ran a 13.48 (0.0) personal best from lane one, shaving over a tenth off his old mark. Stepping onto the rostrum for the first time at an international championship, he was just seven hundredths behind the winner, having been able to run his own race in the inside lane.
In the 100mH, Sophie Yorke (David Warner) was an extremely commendable fifth in 13.51, just 0.04 shy of her PB.
Hannah Williams (Colin Gaynor) was another athlete to set a personal best in her final, a brilliant 52.55 run in the 400m guiding her to bronze. Running an aggressive first 200m, Williams was rewarded with her first international medal and a 0.25 personal best. Lauren Russell (Coral Nourrice) also achieved a very commendable fifth in 53.87, just slower than the PB she set in the heats. In the men’s event, Owen Richardson (John Davis) set yet another personal best in fifth place. Running from lane one, Richardson crossed the line in 46.49 meaning he has taken 0.75 seconds off his PB at these championships.
Jemma Reekie (Andy Young) ran an extremely brave race as she went for gold in the women’s 3000m, but ultimately she faded over the final 400m, piped on line for bronze in a 9.24.81 time.
It was a similar story for Divine Oladipo (John Hillier) in the shot put, although she battled back from a neck injury that affected her discus and shot put qualifying. Producing 16.03m in round five, the young thrower can be proud of her efforts and her fourth place finish.
During the morning session discus thrower and men’s captain George Evans (Colin McCulloch) produced a first round throw of 56.91m, good for fifth in his pool and sixth overall. He’ll be back in action in tomorrow evening’s final.
A new-look women’s 4x400m team did a sterling job of booking their place in the final, Scot Jill Cherry (Allan Scott) setting the team up with a strong opening leg. Mair Edwards (John Davis) and Ella Barrett (Toni Minichiello) kept the team in a second/third place tussle with Poland, before heptathlete Holly McArthur (Iain McEwan) continued her PB setting by anchoring the team to second in 3.40.62
Markhim Lonsdale (Keith Lonsdale) lived up to his blue bib, qualifying fastest for the men’s 800m final with a classy run in the third semi-final, easing across the line in 1.48.24. Scot Ben Greenwood (Catriona Tavendale) also won his semi in 1.49.32 to progress, but Canaan Solomon (Richard Thurston) just missed out on a fastest loser spot. In the men’s 5,000m Tom Mortimer (Christopher Brown) put up a brave fight, eventually finishing twelfth.
Orla Brothers (Marina Armstrong) ran a gutsy race from lane two in the women’s 400mH semi-final, her seventh place finish just a tenth down on her personal best. Earlier in the 200m semi-finals it wasn’t to be for Nick Stewart (Ryan Freckleton), fourth in his race in 21.52 not enough to advance.
It was severe disappointment for Sam Talbot (Martin Brockman) who had to withdraw from the decathlon after the second event, the long jump, due to a hamstring injury.