Taking place under grey skies and largely stormy weather, Zharnel Hughes (coach: Glen Mills, club: Shaftesbury Barnet) and Molly Caudery (Stuart Caudery, Thames Valley) lit up proceedings as part of a stacked day of action on day one of the UK Athletics Championships in Manchester.
The first of the two showpiece sprint finals that brought the curtain down on day one, the men’s 100m took place against a background biblical rain. With thunder cracking overhead, it was 9.93 man Eugene Amo-Dadzie (Steve Fudge, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) who got out best, stealing a march on the rest.
Come the 50m mark it was new British record holder Zharnel Hughes who began to power through, however, with his lead building from that point and seeing him scorch away to clock a magnificent time of 10.03 for his first British 100m title victory since 2015.
Reece Prescod (Marco Airale, Enfield & Haringey) also reined in Amo-Dadzie, coming through strongly over the second half of the race to snatch silver in 10.14. with Amo-Dadzie taking third in 10.18. For Hughes and Prescod, spots on the British team for Budapest were secured as a result of their top-two finishes. After setting both a Welsh record and personal best of 10.08 (0.3) as part of hugely entertaining semi-final qualifying, 2022 champion Jeremiah Azu (Marco Airale, Cardiff) took fourth in 10.28.
An elated Hughes said: “It means everything to me to be British Champion. I train in these conditions sometimes in Jamaica…but I am soaked – these conditions are the worst ever. It has been a long journey to get the title back I last won in 2015. I thank my team, my coach and everyone who came to support me. I’ll come back for the 200m tomorrow and hope the conditions are better.”
In her finest competition showing, Caudery went joint-second on the all-time British list, first with a clearance 4.61m, before then going one better to go over 4.71m on her first attempt, securing the World Athletics qualifying standard ahead of next month’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest.
In gradual return to action after an injury setback earlier this year, Olympic bronze medallist Holly Bradshaw (Scott Simpson, Blackburn Harriers) finished a fine second with 4.61m, her best of 2022 to date and a welcome step forward in her continued recovery. Behind the duo, Felicia Miloro (Kate Rooney, Sutton-in-Ashfield) took bronze with 4.15m.
“It is unbelievable; it really hasn’t sunk in,” said Caudery. “After 11 months of rehab following two foot surgeries, to get two PBs here and the world standard is really unexpected and so exciting. It was even raining when I jumped that 4.71m, so I feel there is more to come. All the hard work is paying off. I love training with Holly (Bradshaw) in Loughborough and it was great that she got what she needed today as well. I am so excited for the worlds now and I really hope to be able to get to the final there.”
The final event of the day, and only taking place after a 20-minute delay on account of the rainfall, it was Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie, Blackheath & Bromley) who held her nerve in the women’s 100m, storming away from the field to clock a swift 11.06 (0.2) to take back her British crown.
Already holding the qualifying time for Budapest, Imani Lansiquot (Ryan Freckleton, Sutton & District) crossed over in second in 11.26, with Bianca Williams (Thames Valley) snatching bronze in 11.29.
On racing in unprecedented conditions and booking her spot in Budapest, Asher-Smith said: “It has been a very British day; a very northern day! Welcome to the north of England!
“But, for me, it is all about performing irrespective of everything, and being ready for anything: today the rain came down so I thought I need to focus and deal with whatever it throws at you. It is great to be national champion again and today’s priority was two book my place on the plane so I am glad that is done.”
After opting to enter at 1.81m, Morgan Lake (Robbie Grabarz, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) was a stand-out victor in the women’s high jump following clearances at 1.85m and 1.90m to claim her eighth British title and secure her GB & NI team spot come Budapest.
Holding a clean scorecard up to her final successful height of 1.81m, Emily Madden Forman (Andrew Wood, Trafford) won silver ahead of Gabrielle Garber (Jessica Taylor-Jemmett, Leeds City). Garber scaling the same height of 1.81m but taking bronze on account of her scorecard carrying more fouls at previous heights. The height served as personal bests for both athletes.
On yet another national title, Lake said: “This was the objective for the weekend, although I wanted to get some heights in as well.
“I am happy with 1.90 but then the rain came down so heavy I couldn’t really focus and see in front of me. It is good to secure my ticket to Budapest. I have been trying something new in training so once I had the win it was a good time to try although the rain, in retrospect, did really affect me.”
The first track medal of the weekend went the way of event favourite and British number one Cindy Sember (Chris Johnson, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) in the women’s 100m hurdles. Pushed all the way by a string of season’s bests behind her, Sember dipped for the line to clock 12.98 (1.6) and secure her spot on the British team for Budapest.
Sember said: “I am very grateful to be back here – it felt really good to come back and retain the title. I felt quite rocky at the start of the season and felt a bit tired during the race. I may do one meet before Budapest, but I’ll see how I recover from today.”
Isabel Wakefield (Laura Turner-Alleyne, Harrow) came in swiftly behind Sember with 13.05 – a personal best – to win silver, with Marli Jessop (Scott Grace, Shaftesbury Barnet) also running her quickest-ever time of 13.30 for bronze. Notably, there was also a season’s best for multi-eventer Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Aston Moore, Liverpool Harriers) as she claimed fourth in 13.34.
Just 8cm separated gold from bronze in the men’s long jump, with Jacob Fincham-Dukes (Matt Barton, Leeds) using his one and only legal jump of the competition to take the British crown courtesy of 7.86m (+0.2) in round two.
Saving his best jump till late in the competition, Jack Roach (Lukasz Zawila, Harrow) leapt to a season’s best of 7.79m (+1.6) to move into silver come round five, a place he would hold onto as eventual bronze medallist Jake Burkey (Jade Surman, Birmingham University) fouled on his final jump, settling for the third step of the podium with 7.74 (+2.3)
On his maiden title, Fincham-Dukes said: “I am happy to finally get a win in my first British Champs that I have managed to compete in since 2018. Every year since then I have had either injury or Covid intervened. In the first round I think I no-jumped an 8:25/8:30 jump which would be a world qualifier but it is what it is and then I pulled a hamstring in my third jump. I know the good performances are there, but I need to get it out.”
The women’s triple jump saw Georgina Forde-Wells (Lukasz Zawila, Rugby & Northampton) produce the performance of her life to add 60cm to her personal best and secure a first-ever British title
Entering the fifth round of the competition sat in third place, Forde-Wells sailed out to 13.56m (+0.9), improving on her previous best of 12.96m and moving up into gold ahead of eventual silver medallist and current UK lead, Temi Ojora (Daniel Sawyers, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow), her best mark being 13.40 (+1.1). Adelaide Omitowoju (Benjamin Davies, Harrow) also found personal best form worthy of the podium, with her 13.10m (+1.4) securing bronze.
Post-competition, Forde-Wells said: “It feels amazing to take the win after a couple of close calls before here. I had a lot of nerves before the first round then getting a PB after that I could relax, and it was so much better. I was disappointed with my run-up at the Euro Teams so my coach and I worked on that and I was much better today.”
The first final to kick off the weekend, the women’s javelin saw Bekah Walton (David Turner, Blackheath & Bromley) continue her fine summer and take gold with 58.16m in round two. Fresh from a lifetime best at the European Team Championships two weeks’ ago, Walton asserted her dominance in round one with 57.05m, before adding over a metre to improve to 58.19m to put clear distance between herself and the rest of the field.
On her current form and retaining her title from 2022, Walton said: “I had three jobs to do this season, to get my BUCS Championships Record, win UK Champs and throw over 60m. I have done two out of three so far, and I’m really happy with the consistency of my performance today after a PB at Team Champs two weeks ago.”
Behind Walton, Freya Jones (David Callaway, Newham & Essex Beagles) produced a season’s best throw of 53.65m to win silver, with Lauren Farley (Mark Chapman, Blackheath & Bromley) clinching silver with 53.18m.
Scott Lincoln (Paul Wilson, City of York) was in a league of his own as the won a ninth-straight British title in the men’s shot put. Setting out his stall with an impressive 20.43m in round one, Lincoln improved to 20.46m with his sixth and final thrown as part of a consistent and commanding series over his competition.
In a repeat of the 1-2 from last year’s championships, Youcef Zatat (Scott Rider, Woodford Green Essex Ladies produced a personal best throw of 17.98m, adding 5cm to his previous best, to take silver, with Patrick Swan (Ryan Spencer-Jones Cornwall AC) throwing 17.59m for bronze.
Analysing his performance on the day, Lincoln reflected: “Reflecting It’s always nice to come here to these Championships and win the British title. I was slightly disappointed with my performance as there are a few things that I need to work on before I head to my next competition. I felt like I wasn’t quite connecting with the shot today. I just need to stay focused and execute the cues I have for myself when performing.”
Further throws action saw Lawrence Okoye (Zane Duquemin, Croydon) fend off Nick Percy (Zane Duquemin, Shaftesbury Barnet) for the title, European silver medallist Okoye’s third-round of 61.68m enough to see him overtake Percy’s best of 61.26m thrown in round two. Greg Thompson’s (Zane Duquemin, Shaftesbury Barnet) first round best of 58.66m saw him match the bronze medal won at 2022’s championships.
He said afterwards, “It wasn’t a great performance but it was a good result. Last year I came fifth so I can’t complain. It is great to get my title back and secure my Budapest place. I need to smooth things out a bit and sort a few technical things before Budapest. I need to get my head down for a couple of weeks then come out strongly for the Diamond League. “
All to play for with four laps to go, the men’s 5000m saw Jack Rowe (Tim Eglen, Aldershot, Farnham & District) make the first move to spring out the pack as the field came round with three to run. Stalked every step by Tom Mortimer (Sonia and Chris McGeorge, Stroud) and Charles Hicks (Ricardo Santos, Shaftesbury Barnet), it was Emile Cairess (Renato Canova, Leeds City) who moved into the lead at the bell, seeking to surge away from the breakaway pack of six.
Coinciding with a bolt of thunder in the background, James West (Helen Clitheroe, Tonbridge) kicked away from the pack with 200m to go, surging away down lane three to come home in a personal best of 13:42.03 and clinch his first outdoor 5000m title.
Cairess drove on regardless for silver, his time 13:43.17, with Mortimer getting up for bronze in 13:44.29.
“It’s a brilliant feeling, my first outdoor title,” said West. “I decided to move up to 5000m this year to trial it out and clearly it has paid off. I felt really good today, so hopefully I can push on and set some good qualifying times in the future and make those World, Olympic teams.
Returning with the intention of retaining the title she first won last year, Charlotte Payne (Paul Dickenson, Reading AC) did just that to become a two-time British hammer champion thanks to a best of 69.14m. The second of two 69m+ throws after opening with 69.03m, Payne’s second strengthened her grip on gold and ultimately proved more than enough for gold.
Coming into the competition ranked number one in the UK, Anna Purchase’s (Notts) 68.53m was good for silver, with Kayleigh Presswell (Paul Head, Thames Valley) added shy of 85cm to her best ever mark with 66.35m to win a brilliant bronze.
An ecstatic Payne said: “I feel absolutely amazing, I had high hopes for myself coming into today’s competition off last year’s championship win. This event was a good confidence boost for myself, heading into the U23 European Championships next week.”
Setting off as the rain began to pour in across the Regional Arena, the women’s steeplechase saw Poppy Tank (Luke Gunn, City of Plymouth) emerge victorious as she sprung up and away from the breakaway front group of three over the course of the final lap to take the tap in 10:02.77, a two second personal best.
Chasing Tank all the way was Alice Murray-Gourlay (Charlotte Fisher, Taunton), with her drive to line seeing her clock a monstrous personal best of 10:05.06, the time her new quickest by some 16 seconds. Stevie Lawrence (Mick Woods, Croydon) claimed bronze, her time on the day 10:06.99.
Speaking afterwards, Tank said: “Honestly it feels amazing to be British Champion. To win this in my third steeplechase event – I’m delighted. I obviously would have liked to run faster and clock a sub ten, but with the conditions we faced, I can’t complain. This year is all about my development, and next year I’m going to have some big targets to hit.”
In middle distance qualifying, Yusuf Bizimana (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets) was the quickest on time through the hugely competitive men’s 800m heats. Victor of heat one, Bizimana will be joined by the likes of Olympic 1500m medallist Josh Kerr (Danny Mackey, Edinburgh AC), last year’s champion Max Burgin (Ian Burgin, Halifax) and Daniel Rowden (Jon Bigg, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) in what promises to be a thriller of a final tomorrow.
The women’s equivalent qualifying saw Keely Hodgkinson (Trevor Painter, Leigh Harriers) and Khahisa Mhlanga (Herts Phoenix) lead the way on time after a 1-2 finish in the quickest of three heats. The pair will be joined by Jemma Reekie (Kilbarchan) and Alex Bell (Andrew Henderson, Pudsey & Bramley), among others, in tomorrow’s final.
The final qualifiers of the day, the three men’s 1500m heats were won by Piers Copeland (Bob Smith, Pontypridd), Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg, Birchfield) & George Mills (Thomas Dreißigacker, Brighton Phoenix), each of whom will now toe the start line in tomorrow’s final.
In women’s qualifying, heats winners were Melissa Courtney-Bryant (Rob Denmark, Poole), Laura Muir (Dundee Hawkhill) and Katie Snowden (Stephen Haas, Herne Hill).
Action on day two of the UK Athletics Championships kicks off from 11:15am tomorrow, starting with the men’s javelin. You can find the timetable, including results from today’s action, here.