The Great Britain & Northern Ireland team delivered a night to remember at the European Athletics U18 Championships as they won four gold medals and one silver medal on a ‘Super Saturday’ in Hungary.
With 22 athletes of the 33 -strong team competing during the session, there were many headline moments on the track and in the field, including three gold medals won inside 19 minutes. The gold medal haul matches the number won at the inaugural championships back in 2016.
World U18 leader in the high jump, Dominic Ogbechie (Carol Jackson / Marius Guei, Highgate Harriers), delivered his best when it mattered to claim the European gold medal.
A 2.22m leap earlier this year – a world age 15 best – put him as favourite months prior to the competition. He dealt with the expectation maturely clearing 2.16m to win the duel with the Ukrainian Oleh Doroschchuk. He cleared the height on his third and final attempt to seal the gold medal and his moment on top of the podium.
He spoke afterwards: “It is amazing to be the European champion, I am so pleased. It was such a surreal atmosphere tonight. Everyone was going absolutely mental in the stands, everyone was so supportive and it was just a great night at the track. I’ll keep those moments with me. Keely and Sam won just before me, so it was like a mini super Saturday. It was a great moment to be jumping.
“Once I cleared 1.95m, I knew that was big. That gave me a lot of confidence and I just made sure I played it safe during the rest of the competition.”
He added: “It was quite tense between me and the Ukrainian which made it really exciting. I saw him foul and I just thought ‘you’ve got to clear this’. When we both got to 2.16m, I knew I had done it before and I knew I could do it again. I was delighted to clear it.”
After breaking the championship record on two occasions yesterday, Sam Bennett (Steve Surety, Basildon) recorded another one as he too claimed gold on a bonanza evening of medals for the British team.
Bennett set an outright British U18 record in the process, this time with a legal wind after an advantageous tailwind denied him that in the semi-finals yesterday. His time was 13.19 (+0.8), setting an outright record which is of the highest quality for an U18 athlete, dominating from start to finish and winning by a significant margin in what was a highly competitive field on paper.
The Commonwealth Youth champion said post-race: “I didn’t have any expectations of breaking records or setting PBs coming into these championships, I just came here to compete and run faster in each round. I didn’t come into this final as the fastest but that didn’t put me off. I wasn’t concerned about rankings; some people perform better on different stages. I like the competition, it makes me become a better runner and I think that showed today. I am so pleased to be European champion, this has been my target all year.”
Elsewhere in the final, Jordan Ricketts (Anthony Pitt, Birchfield) had a great start to the race, but clipped a couple of the hurdles near the end to finish in seventh in 14.08.
In another standout performance, Keely Hodgkinson (Margaret Galvin, Leigh) delivered an exceptional show of endurance to win the 800m gold. The Leigh Harrier used a similar tactic to her heat and semi-final, taking the inside lane and holding her line before powering away with 200m to go.
No one could go with her change of pace and the gap kept opening up as she won in a championship record of 2:04.86, outsprinting Ireland’s Sophie O’Sullivan, daughter of world champion Sonia.
She commented: “This feels incredible, I cannot believe I am a European champion. It’s more than I could have dreamed really. I wanted the gold; I mean I would have been happy to medal but I wanted to win it.
“It was a mixture of amazing, ‘so glad it is over’ and relief when I crossed the line. All the hard work has been worth it. I had no idea I was moving away at the end, I suppose I will have to watch it back to check.”
Earlier in the evening, Kane Elliott (William Sharp, Falkirk) ran a sublime race to win the boys 1500m in a Championship record of 3:55.26. The Scottish athlete hit the front of the field early on and appeared comfortable to dictate the pace for most of the race. However, on the final lap, he was overtaken by three athletes as he hit the 200m to go mark, and it looked like he was about to fade.
Nevertheless, he showed great spirit to move out into lane two as he hit the home straight to make sure he wasn’t boxed in. He outsprinted the Hungarian athlete in the final few metres to claim his crown.
A shocked Elliott said: “It feels amazing. It was a very tough race but I’m so happy I had enough to get the win. It is an unbelievable feeling to be European champion. I am not sure I can get my head around it at the moment, it’ll take some time to sink in.
“I knew I had to move out [with 100m to go] otherwise I was going to get boxed in so I had no other choice. I knew I had enough left in the tank so I just gave everything I had to get a medal.”
In the burn up to the line, Jacques Maurice (Andrew Henderson, Harrogate) was 11th in 3:58.18
A phenomenal 400m race saw GB & NI’s Ethan Brown (Lloyd Cowan, Blackheath & Bromley) claim silver, but he was narrowly outside the gold after a late burst for the line. He was outside the medals with 100m to go, but he stepped it up in the closing moments, timing his race to perfection to earn his spot on the podium.
Brown, who also recorded a personal best of 46.87 in the process, said: “It’s a good feeling winning silver but I would have liked to have the gold. I gave everything I had left to try and get it. I will be training harder and harder to make sure he (Lorenzo Benati – gold medallist) never beats me again.
“If I could do it again, I’d like to go out faster and try and stay closer to everyone on the outside but I can’t do anything about it now. I’ve done my best and won a medal for my country so it is a very proud moment.”
It was a valiant effort by his teammate Ben Pattison (Dave Ragan, Basingstoke & Mid Hants) who was just run out of the medals over the last 50 metres of so, finishing fourth in 47.25.
Serena Vincent (Bronwin Carter, City of Portsmouth) threw a British U18 record in the shot put, eclipsing Sarah Omoregie’s record three times during the competition.
Marks of 16.84m, 16.81m and 16.80m all went ahead of the previous record, and left her in fourth position overall, a fantastic result for the British athlete.
Hannah Molyneaux (Malcolm Fenton, Sheffield & Dearne) placed fifth in the same final, her best effort was 16.47m.
There were mixed emotions for Max Law (Sam Harrison, Havering) who threw a stunning personal best of 75.30m but was just nudged out of the medal placings in the final round. He had held silver medal position after the incredible effort, and will take great confidence from his performances here in Gyor.
Equalling her personal best in the pole vault, Jade Spencer-Smith (Ellie Spain, Harrow) finished fifth. She cleared 3.90m on her first attempt which was impressive after first time fouls at the two preceding heights. She went close on 4.00m but she reflected on the event with a mixture of feelings, with plenty of positives to take away from the championships.
After setting personal bests in both the heats and the semi-finals, Natasha Harrison (Pete Torrance, Stockport) ran another solid race over the 400m, this time settling for eighth in a time of 55.21.
The going was tough in the women’s 2000m steeplechase as the field became strung out fairly early in the contest. Elise Thorner (Abi Tickner, Wells City Harriers) battled well in the environment, clocking 7:08.51 for 15th place, coming soon after her personal best in the heats.
Jack Turner (Kevin Skinner, Exeter) and Ollie Thorner (Alan Richardson, Wells City Harriers) completed the first day of the decathlon in sixth (3837 points) and 11th (3694 points) respectively.
Coming into the two events this evening, both Turner and Thorner had both set three PBs in three events. For Turner, he sat in tenth position after three events on 2304 points, 134 points off the podium places. Whereas, Thorner was 19th position on 2145 points.
Both explained issues during the high jump this evening but they both cleared 1.94m but Turner returned to clock a fourth PB out of five in the 400m, his time 50.67. It leaves the Exeter athlete just 91 points off the podium places.
Both Karl Johnson (Tony Jarrett, Newham & Essex Beagles) and Jasmine Jolly (Peter Crook, Preston) sailed into the men’s and women’s 400m hurdles finals respectively.
Johnson produced the third fastest time ever by a British U18 athlete, clocking 51.88 to win his semi-final in style. The Newham & Essex Beagle qualifies second fastest for the final with France’s Martin Fraysse setting a world U18 lead in the second semi-final of 51.52.
For Jolly, she was equal second in her semi-final, clocking 60.58 to qualify for tomorrow’s final.
After swift progression in the heats this morning, Lucy-Jane Matthews (Andrew Fisher, Southampton) and Marcia Sey (Lorna Boothe, Croydon Harriers) navigated their way into the girls 100m hurdles final.
Sey won her heat in 13.39 (+2.7) while Matthews set another British U15 record after this morning’s effort, knocking 0.01 seconds off it with 13.45 (+1.8).
Back out in the field, Lily Hulland (Paco Mentesinos, Cueva de Nerja) made sure of British representation in the triple jump final after exceeding the automatic qualification mark of 12.60m. Her best effort came in round three, delivering a jump of 12.58m to place eighth overall.
After a fabulous display of front running in his heat on Friday, Max Burgin (Brian Burgin, Halifax Harriers) faced a similar situation once again, taking the victory and booking his place in the boys 800m final. He looked impressive as he won his semi-final comfortably in 1:52.37.
Full results can be found here: http://www.european-athletics.org/competitions/european-athletics-youth-championships/2018/schedules-results/
British Athletics Medal Tally:
Sam Bennett – 110m Hurdles
Kane Elliott – 1500m
Keely Hodgkinson – 800m
Thomas Keen – 3000m
Dominic Ogbechie – High Jump
Ethan Brown – 400m