16th August 2017


On a cold and windy evening at the Manchester Regional Arena there were seven GB Junior victories at the second edition of the Manchester International, with Joel Leon Benitez (coach: Alan Richardson) going close to the British junior pole vault record.

Benitez broke the Championship Record in the men’s pole vault, ultimately clearing 5.50m, just 1cm shy of his personal best. It was a great return to form for the youngster, who after qualifying for the European Junior Championships final with ease, no heighted.

Benitez made light work of the windy conditions though, and after a ding-dong battle with Scotland’s Jax Thoirs (Colin Sinclair) went extremely close at 5.61m, which would have been a British junior record.

Afterwards he commented: “I’m really happy with that. I managed first attempts at most of my heights and then the two of us ended up clearing height after height and built up to some decent bars in the end. If you waited the wind wasn’t too bad and you just had to tune that out and concentrate on your technique on the run.

“I jumped 5.51m the week before I went to Grosseto so I knew I was in great shape, and then coming back it was just about keeping my chin up. That was a Commonwealth Games qualifier, and I’ve got two now – I knew it was there but I just had to get it. Today was my last competition of the season as I’m going to Virginia Tech, where there’s a great group and great coach, so fingers crossed for some big heights.”

The star of the sprints was undoubtedly Alisha Rees (Willy Russell), who ran a great bend, leading all the way to take 200m victory in 23.32 (1.6). That time was a personal best for the European Junior Championship fourth placer, but agonisingly 0.02 shy of the Scottish Commonwealth Games qualifying standard.

“I didn’t expect that! It’s the end of the season and I just didn’t think I’d be running that time today, so I’m really happy,” said Rees.

“I felt like I was by myself the whole time, and when I came off the bend no one was around me, which was probably good as I just ran my own race. I’m absolutely gutted I didn’t get a medal at the Euros and it’s a bit late to make up for it now, but I’m just going to press on.”

Jemma Reekie (Andy Young) was a convincing winner in the women’s mile, storming clear over the final 200m to get the better of Charlene Thomas (Aaron Thomas), stopping the clock at 4.40.56. Having taken gold over 1500m at the European Junior Championships in Grosseto last month, Reekie noted how she is running with much more confidence.

“That was really good, windy, but I’ve grown so much in confidence after the Euros. I knew my kick was good so I just held onto the girls and knew I’d finish well. I’m quite happy with the time too, as I thought it was going to be slow after that first lap.

“I used to run all over the place but I’ve started to run more sensibly and I know I’ve got that kick now. Next up is the Scottish Athletics National Senior Championships and then I might try and chase a quick time, as at the Euros I raced three days in a row – I feel like I could go a bit quicker.”

Khahisa Mhlanga (Mick Judd) stole 800m victory on the line after a slow, tactical race, just getting the better of Hannah England (Bud Baldaro) in a thrilling race. In the men’s race, seasoned Danish international Andreas Bube took the win in another burn up, Markhim Lonsdale (Keith Lonsdale) good for second, the same place he finished in Grosseto.

In the longer events, Amelia Quirk (Beverley Kitching) obliterated her 3000m PB as she finished third in 9.21.32, taking over 15 seconds off her old best set last year.

Running over the junior height hurdles in lane eight, Robert Sakala (Piotr Spas) got the better of his more experienced competitors with a 13.6 run, albeit aided by a 3.6m/s tailwind. It was a similar story for Jake Norris (Paul Dickenson) who threw an impressive 76.70m with the 6kg hammer to take victory.

The final winner of the night was Molly Caudery (Stuart Caudery), emulating Benitez’s win in the men’s event. In a close fought event, Caudery went over 4.15m to take the win, a great end to a breakthrough summer.

In the men’s discus James Tomlinson (Paul Jensen) revised the British Youth Record he set at May’s Loughborough International Athletics meeting, launching the 1.75kg implement out to 55.40m, good for fourth place on the night.

Further field event results included a second place finish for Naomi Ogbeta (Tom Cullen) in the triple jump with a best of 13.47m, just shy of Commonwealth Games medallist Laura Samuel’s winning mark. Back on the track European Junior 200m champion Maya Bruney (John Blackie) finished strongly in the 400m, runner-up to Margaret Adeoye (Linford Christie).

Full results can be found here.