18th February 2023
NEITA AND PRESCOD STAR ON DAY ONE OF UK ATHLETICS INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
In-form pair Daryll Neita (coach: Marco Airale; club: Cambridge Harriers) and Reece Prescod (Airale; Enfield & Haringey) were picture perfect as they lit up the first day of the UK Athletics Indoor Championships amongst ten winners crowned in Birmingham.
Training partners under Marco Airale in Italy and both with personal bests set this month, Neita cruised to the women’s 60m title in 7.17 seconds and then moments later Prescod followed suit in the men’s 60m in 6.54, with guaranteed European Indoor Championship selection adding to their golden glow. Silver medallists Asha Philip (Newham & Essex Beagles), in the women’s 60m, and Jeremiah Azu (Airale; Cardiff), in the men’s 60m, are also Istanbul-bound.
Meanwhile David King (Tim O’Neil; City of Plymouth) relished racing on Birmingham’s fresh new track as he ran a superb 7.62 on the way to gold in the men’s 60m hurdles and a European indoors place. Second-placed Andrew Pozzi (Stratford-upon-Avon) also secured his spot on that British team.
Cindy Sember (Woodford Green Essex Ladies) ran superbly to win the women’s 60m hurdles crown while Faye Olszowka (Coral Nourrice; Bexley) and Kevin Santos (Michael Utting; City of Norwich) were the first winners as para events were included into the Championships schedule for the first time, in the form of women’s and men’s 60m races.
In the field action, Mary Elcock (Guy Spencer; Woodford Green Essex Ladies) and Reynold Banigo (Matt Barton; Sale Harriers Manchester) won the women’s triple jump and men’s long jump respectively while Jade Ive (Sutton & District) and Charlie Myers (Chris Boundy; Birtley) took gold in the women’s and men’s pole vault respectively, the former after a jump off, to round out the day’s ten winners.
Neita could have hardly asked for a better day as she won her first ever women’s 60m British indoor title. With a lifetime best 7.05 under her belt already this season, Neita got quicker through the rounds and won the final by 0.04 in 7.17.
Neita was pushed by Philip, a multiple winner of this title, but while she couldn’t quite get close enough she was still celebrating as her time of 7.21 not only secured silver but also booked her a spot on the European indoors team at the very last attempt.
Alisha Rees (Ryan Freckleton; Edinburgh) completed the podium in third with 7.30 and Neita said: “I feel so good right now. It’s great to come here and get the win. To compete in three rounds was fun. I came here to get the gold and run some decent times, which I think I did.
“My preparation for the Europeans will be good. I will definitely go back and watch these three races with my coach to see what I can improve on as there is always something. I give a lot away in the first 60m, which is why I have come here to try and perfect the start of my races.”
The men’s 60m final followed immediately afterwards with Prescod’s performance on the day mirroring Neita’s in many ways. With a personal best run of 6.49 eight days ago, Prescod also went quicker through the three rounds but was given a race for gold by Azu.
Prescod showed his class by pushing clear in the final metres to clock 6.54 while, with seven British men inside the European indoor standard, Azu’s second in 6.57 confirmed his spot. Eugene Amo-Dadzie (Steve Fudge; Woodford Green Essex Ladies) took bronze in 6.61.
Prescod said: “Things are heading in the right direction. I’ve worked hard this winter coming into the indoor season. I ran a personal best this year and came out a national champion.
“It’s important to not get too excited, keep the momentum up and just keep working. Training has been fantastic. Living in Italy is where it’s at. We work hard, we train hard, we get the work done.”
King’s performance was every bit as good as that of Neita and Prescod with a flawless run in the men’s 60m hurdles final. With a European indoor qualifying time already secured, King could concentrate on the win, which he did and then some with his time of 7.62 putting him on the British team for next month’s continental gathering.
Pozzi would take silver in 7.81 – he too also having the European indoor time ahead of Birmingham and also now on the team – while bronze went to Cameron Fillery (Blomkvist; Woodford Green Essex Ladies) in 7.93.
King, British indoor champion for the first time since 2020, said: “I had a really good run. Again I started really well, so I’ve done some really good things out there. I’m very excited now for the rest of the indoor season. It’s really nice, especially with the preparation with being ill all week.
“I just want to keep improving, get back in the 7.50s. The goal is the European Indoors – I want to get into the final. I made the final at worlds last year with a coin toss name in the hat thing. I’d like to get into the final by right this year and then contend for a medal. I don’t see why not.”
Sember struck a similar note to Neita and Prescod as she regained the British indoor title in the women’s 60m hurdles in a season’s best 8.10 and an automatic European indoors place. She was 0.16 ahead of the personal best setting Marli Jessop (Scott Grace; Shaftesbury Barnet), who won silver in 8.26 while Alicia Barrett (Benke Blomkvist; Trafford) picked up bronze in 8.32.
Sember said: “I’m so happy to get the win. I’ve been struggling with injury a little bit. I’m finally back to full health so it’s nice to get rhythm again preparing for outdoors. I need to get my rhythm back and work on my start, but once I do that, I think I’ll be alright.”
In a flurry of finals in the middle of the schedule Faye Olszowka held her arms aloft as she blitzed to victory in the newly added women’s 60m para event. Clearly relishing the occasion, she ran superbly to clock 8.18 for the win.
Ali Smith (Blomkvist; Guildford & Godalming) placed second in a personal best 8.39 while Hetty Bartlett (Denis Costello; City of Norwich) was also in career best form with 8.41 for third. After a fine race, Olszowka said: “It was a really hard race with some great competition here in Birmingham. I’m thrilled to come away as UK Champion. The crowd were amazing, you can really feel them get behind you in the race.”
Moments later Kevin Santos took the spoils in a thrilling three-way battle in the men’s 60m para event. Santos had company in Zac Shaw (Leon Baptiste; Cleethorpes) and Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker (Joseph McDonnell; Newham & Essex Beagles) and was neck and neck with the latter in the closing stages. Both dipped at the line with Santos claiming the win after a photo finish in 7.02.
While Olszowka was arms loft, Santos backflipped to celebrate his win and he said: “It feels great to come and leave with the gold medal. I knew I was in good enough shape to win the competition, all I had to do was believe in myself and execute the race.
“It’s a huge opportunity for all of us para athletes to be competing in these competitions and having it broadcasted. The exposure is so important especially to get our names recognised within our events.”
The day came to a thrilling end as the women’s pole vault final went down to a jump off between Jade Ive and Sophie Cook (Scott Simpson; Halesowen). The pair were the last to enter the competition with Ive coming in at 4.05m and Cook at 4.15m, and both went clear through to 4.25 before failing at 4.35m.
With nothing to separate them, the battle for gold went to a jump off and it was Ive who came out top with a cool head under pressure. Bronze went to Jade Spencer-Smith (Richard Humby; Harrow) with 4.15m and Ive said: “I feel over the moon, ecstatic, beyond words honestly. It’s been a long time coming and just one of these long journeys but I’m just so glad I pulled it out of the bag today.
“I’m so, so happy and what a way to do it in a jump off. It was my first jump off, so I’m really excited about it!”
Elcock took a fantastic gold in a women’s triple jump that went down to the wire. Lily Hulland (Femi Akinsanya; Loughborough Students) was the leader after three rounds with a best 12.71m before Elcock equalled that effort, a personal best for her, in the fourth round.
They would remain level ahead of the final round however Hulland couldn’t register a mark and Elcock hit 12.71m again, which was enough to give her gold with a better series of jumps. Montana Jackson (Daniel Hooker; Thames Valley Harriers) won the bronze with a best of 12.46m and Elcock said: “This is my first UK Indoor Champs, and I have only been doing triple jump for a year so it’s been jumping in the deep end.
“I have been known for being able to pull it out of the bag when I need to, I was a little worried after my first two jumps. The third jump I went out and attacked it and thankfully it was enough, but definitely something I need to work on.”
Banigo added the British men’s long jump indoor title to the outdoor crown he won last summer with a fine series. He bettered his season’s best to 7.85m with his fourth effort – after registering 7.33m and 7.71m before that point, the latter giving him the lead.
He couldn’t improve on it with his final two jumps but gold was secured ahead of Jack Roach (Lukasz Zawila; Harrow) who leapt 7.53m with his second effort for silver while defending champion Samuel Khogali (Zawila; Woodford Green Essex Ladies) claimed bronze with 7.45m.
Banigo said: “It’s always nice to win the British Championships and this is my third win so it’s good for the indoor season and I feel like I’ve got a lot more in the tank. When I was taking my warm-up jump I sort of slipped on the board. In the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with knee pain so I’ve been cautious about that through the rounds.
“I was a bit cautious on my running today because I normally attack it a bit harder at the start but I was rolling into it. Hopefully by next week [World Indoor Tour in Birmingham] I can attack the run up a bit more and jump further.”
In the first final of the first day Myers claimed his first British title in four years in the men’s pole vault – and was in and out in the process as he needed just one jump of 5.05m to wrap up gold.
Myers was joined on 5.05m by Ewan Bradley (David Feeney; West Cheshire), Reuben Nairne (Glasgow Jaguars) and Jack Phipps (Nick Phipps; Birchfield Harriers) but was the only one to clear as the trio behind him shared silver on countback. For Bradley it was a special performance with 4.90m his personal best.
He said: “It feels good to win a medal at this competition, last year I came last so to leave with a medal is a great feeling. I have vaulted better, but in a Championship like this it feels great to come away with a silver medal. It’s an amazing atmosphere in Birmingham, the crowd were great throughout the competition. I really hope I can come back next year.”
Guy Learmonth (Lasswade) controlled the first of two heats in the men’s 800m, leading from gun to tape to cruise into the final with a time of 1:48.69. Such was his dominance, he finished almost a full second ahead of Benjamin Murphy (Mark Hookway; Tonbridge), whose fast finish saw him lock a personal best of 1:49.49, one of four career high marks in the race.
Learmonth said: “I feel good so the final should be a good race. A lot has changed, I’m based in Melbourne now with my group and my coach is down there. I’m in a really good place after going through a lot of years of turmoil. This year we’re just having fun so I’m really looking forward to the final.”
Ben Claridge (Matt Elias; Abingdon) took the win in a slow run second heat to rank fourth fastest overall after posting 1:50.64, James McMurray (Deborah Steer; St Albans Striders) crossing in second in a personal best of 1:50.78 for a place in the final as well. Sam Wiggins (Nadeem Shaikh; Shaftesbury Barnet) and Angus Harrington (Philip O’Dell; Blackheath & Bromley) complete the final line up with personal bests of 1:49.64 and 1:49.76 respectively in the first heat.
The women’s 800m heats were packed with drama as Jenny Selman (Lewis Walker; Fife) qualified for the final as the fastest in 2:03.96. Selman went out hard in the first heat in pursuit of a European indoor qualifying time but fell just short but will have another attempt in the final.
Abigail Ives (Luke Gunn; Basildon) looked in superb form as she surged down the home straight to win the second heat in 2:05:03 and rank second overall while Isabelle Boffey (Gunn; Enfield & Haringey) avoided some commotion around the final bend in the third and final heat to cruise down the home straight for a time of 2:05.06. They’ll be joined in the final by Gemma Finch (Andy Sleap; Basingstoke & Mid Hants), Ella Greenway (Joanna Evans; Cleethorpes) and Jill Cherry (Allan Scott; Victoria Park City of Glasgow).
Towards the end of the first day in Birmingham, world medallist Laviai Nielsen was the clear fastest into the women’s 400m final after a dominant semi-final performance saw her clock 52.99. She’ll be joined by Carys McAulay (Nick Dakin; Trafford) who set a personal best of 53.39 in winning the first semi-final while Nielsen’s fellow British international Ama Pipa (Airale; Newham & Essex Beagles) was third fastest after her own victory in 53.40.
The men’s 400m semi-finals followed with Lewis Davey (Trevor Painter; Newham & Essex Beagles) entering the final as the quickest after setting a personal best of 46.69 in the first of the three semi-finals. He reeled in Ben Higgins (Stewart Marshall; City of Sheffield), who would rank second fastest overall, down the home straight while European outdoor bronze medallist Alex Haydock-Wilson (Blomkvist; Windsor Slough Eton Hounslow) was a strong winner of the last semi-final in 46.96. Joe Brier (Elias; Swansea) got the better of Lee Thompson (John Henson; City of Sheffield) to win the second semi-final in 47.00.
With the men’s 1500m going to a straight final, it was left for the women’s 1500m heats to conclude the day’s track action and it was comfortable running for Katie Snowden (Daniel Stepney; Herne Hill), who won the opening race in 4:20.74, with the next seven – including automatic qualifiers Khahisa Mhlanga (Herts Phoenix) and Lauren Church (Mark Booth; Reading) – setting personal bests.
The second heat would end up slower with Ellie Baker (Jon Bigg; Shaftesbury Barnet) coming home first in 4:23.82 after a good battle with Erin Wallace (Giffnock North). The pair ranking fourth and fifth respectively going into the final.