6th May 2022
Fireworks expected in fierce middle-distance battles at the Müller UK Athletics Champs
With British middle-distance running having enjoyed a thrilling renaissance period of late in both the women and men’s events, few disciplines will be as hotly contested at this summer’s Müller UK Athletics Championships, taking place across the weekend of the 24th – 26th June.
Manchester’s Regional Arena will play host for the country’s top 800m, 1500m, 5,000m and 3000m steeplechase runners to battle for national titles and prestigious berths on the British squad for July’s World Athletics Championships in Oregon.
In a busy summer, qualification standards for the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games will also be a target for those competing in the north-west city, in a championship which is certain to go down in memory as a classic edition.
Top billing is undoubtedly afforded to British indoor and outdoor 800m record holder, Keely Hodgkinson (Trevor Painter, Leigh Harriers). The 20-year-old half-mile world star opened her 2022 campaign with an eye-catching 1:57.20 national best enroute to victory in February’s Müller Indoor Grand Prix and the Olympic silver medallist is the overwhelming favourite to capture her third consecutive British outdoor crown.
Fourth in the Tokyo Games behind her was Jemma Reekie (Andy Young, Kilbarchan), who sped to a 1:56.90 lifetime best in the process. The runner-up both last summer and in 2019, Reekie’s indoor season was blighted by illness but she is expected to be back to her best come June. Olympic seventh-placer, Alex Bell (Andrew Henderson, Pudsey and Bramley) will be another to keep her eye on – she recorded her 1:57.66 lifetime best in Tokyo.
Jenny Selman (Lewis Walker, Fife AC) was a shock winner of the British national title during the indoor season and she went on to make a popular senior championship debut at aged 30 at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade in March. She will no doubt improve on her fifth place in 2021, having registered 2:00.70 indoors in the winter.
Others set to contest the event jam-packed with talent include Ellie Baker (Jon Bigg, Shaftesbury Barnet), who was fourth last year after taking fourth position at the European Indoor Championships in Torun, and Isabelle Boffey (Luke Gunn, Enfield and Haringey) – the European under 23 champion, who finished sixth in Torun and placed second in the 2020 edition of the national championships.
The men’s equivalent meanwhile, will showcase the skills of three-time indoor and four-time outdoor champion, Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg, Birchfield Harriers,) who this summer will seek redemption for being forced to withdraw from the Belgrade final through injury.
The 27-year-old Olympic semi-finalist won the World Indoor Tour this winter and the British indoor record holder should have no problems with adding another national title to his resume.
His likely challengers will include Tokyo Olympian and European junior champion, Oliver Dustin (Graeme Mason, Border) who scorched to a 1:43.82 personal best last summer before finishing second in the British final, and Max Burgin (Ian, Burgin, Halifax) – the 19-year-old flew to a 1:44.14 European junior record last year before a hamstring injury scuppered his summer aspirations.
Other names to expect to feature prominently include Olympic semi-finalist, Daniel Rowden (Matt Yates, Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) – the winner in 2020 and bronze medallist last year, and European indoor silver medallist, Jamie Webb (Adrian Webb, Liverpool Harrier), who also ran 1:44.14 in 2021.
In the women’s 1500m, Olympic silver medallist, Laura Muir (Andy Young, Dundee Hawkhill) will unsurprisingly be the one to beat and the 28-year-old will be gunning for her ninth national crown.
The British record holder with 3:54.50 and the two-time world indoor medallist and five-time European champion, Muir was forced to miss the indoor season with a back injury but she will without doubt return with a bang during this vital championship summer.
Muir said, “I’ve got such fond memories of racing in Manchester, it’s always a lovely welcoming atmosphere – to race close to home where lots of friends and family can come and watch, and with lots of fans is great,” she explained.
“It’s such a friendly yet high-standard competition, which is always one of my favourite competitions of the year – it’s always so exciting to be a part of from an athlete and spectator point of view.”
Katie Snowdon (Daniel Stepney, Herne Hill Harriers) reached the Tokyo Olympic semi-final stage and ran a 4:02.77 personal best in Tokyo. Further challengers include 2021 winner, Revee Walcott-Nolan (Dale King-Clutterbuck, Luton) and European indoor silver medallist and 2020 champion, Holly Archer (Andrew Parmenter, Cambridge and Coleridge).
Another athlete track fans will be thrilled to see will be Olympic bronze medallist, Josh Kerr (Danny Mackey, Edinburgh AC). The US-based 24-year-old enjoyed a surprise breakthrough summer with his 3:29.05 clocking in Tokyo to shoot to second on the British all-time list behind four-time Olympic champion, Mo Farah. The 2021 winner recently set a swift 3:48.87 European indoor mile record back in February to continue his rich vein of form.
Jake Heyward (Mark Rowland, Cardiff AC) finished third last year before taking ninth in the Olympic final in a 3:32.82 lifetime best and following a 3:53.25 indoor mile this winter, looks set to continue from where he left off.
World fifth-placer Jake Wightman (Geoff Wightman, Edinburgh AC) took the 2021 title and the Olympic finalist will certainly be in the medal mix, as will three-time champion, Charles Da’Vall-Grice (Brighton Phoenix), who is enjoying a return to form with 3:33.81 last summer.
In the women’s 5,000m, British record holder Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall, Dundee) will be the one to beat as she scorched to a 14:28.55 national best last year and most recently been timed at 14:48 on the roads.
Amy Eloise-Markovc (Chris Fox, Wakefield Harriers) – the European 3,000m indoor champion – also competed in the Olympic 5,000m heats, registering a 15:03.22 lifetime best, and the 2021 runner-up set a 4:08.68 1500m best indoors this winter.
European 3,000m indoor bronze medalist, Verity Ockenden (Swansea Harriers) will be another to watch, having ran a 15:03.51 best last year, as will 2021 5,000m winner, Jess Judd (Mick Judd, Blackburn Harriers) – having contested both the Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m double, she now boasts 15:06.02 and 31:20.96 lifetime bests to her name.
The men’s race will be equally exciting courtesy of the inclusion of world indoor bronze medallist, Marc Scott (Jerry Schumacher, Richmond and Zetland), who this winter recorded a fine 12:57.08 British indoor record over the distance.
The champion in 2020 and 2018, respectively, Scott covered 10,000m in a 27:10.41 personal best in the summer before racing the 5,000m heat of the Olympic Games.
Three-time British winner, Andrew Butchart (Central AC) finished 11th in Tokyo and opened his 2022 season with a 27.36.77 over 10,000m, whilst 2021 champion, Patrick Dever (Preston Harriers, Andy Bibby) should also feature highly, having run a 27:23.88 personal best in March and 13:19.85 last summer.
The men’s 3000m steeplechase will be headed by two Olympians and one athlete who will be gunning to make his first British team in 2022.
Phil Norman (Tomaz Plibersek, Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) and Zak Seddon (Jeff Seddon, Bracknell) both competed in Tokyo last summer, while Mark Pearce (Luke Gunn, Shaftesbury Barnet) won the British title last summer but was agonisingly just outside the Tokyo standard.
Norman won in 2020, and also set a personal best of 8:20.12 in Ostrava last year to top the UK rankings in 2021, while Seddon, who won the UK titles in 2019 and 2018 will be hunting down his rivals to add a third national title to his collection. As for Pearce, his 8:24.83 PB for last summer is surely under threat during the 2022 summer season.
Two British women are leading the way in the 3000m steeplechase with Lizzie Bird (Pat McCurry, Shaftesbury Barnet) and Aimee Pratt (Vicente Modahl, Sale Harriers Manchester) both reaching Tokyo last summer.
Bird enjoyed a remarkable 2021 season where she improved Barbara Parker’s long-standing UK record with a time of 9:19.68 in the Olympic final where she finished ninth overall.
Last year’s senior outdoor champion will face tough competition from 2020 champion Pratt who also revised her lifetime best to 9:25.89 last summer to move to third on the UK all-time list.