No fewer than 18 national champions were crowned and eight athletes automatically qualified for the World Athletics Indoor Championships after a packed second day of the UK Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham.
Two championships records were also set and another equalled as the fans were treated to some high-quality competition.
The track highlight of day two was the women’s 400m final as Jessie Knight (coach: Marina Armstrong, club: Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) successfully defended her title in what was a superb race which went right to the wire.
The 400m hurdles Olympian just edged a ferocious finish with a time of 52.37, just holding off the closing power of 800m Olympic silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson (Trevor Painter, Leigh Harriers) who had to run wide but lowered her PB to 52.42. Bronze went to Ama Pipi (Linford Christie, Enfield and Haringey) in 52.43.
Knight’s win made sure of her individual world indoors spot and the depth of performances also provided plenty of encouragement when it comes to the prospects of the 4x400m relay team in Belgrade.
“I am really over the moon with that result today,” she said. “It was an incredible race. I have never done that finish before, but I really knew it was to be a close race after yesterday’s hard heats. We all had tired legs, so I thought it would be a blanket finish. Chris McAllister in my training group always does this and he told me ‘don’t forget to arm dip’ so I was ready!”
Hodgkinson added: “I can’t wait to watch that race back. That was competitive, a lot of fun and great to be involved. My strength definitely lies in the second lap, and it was building from the first 200m. The race was hit and miss and it was take lane one and get boxed in or go round the outside. It was just about biding my time and I knew it would be a close finish at the end.
“The relays is something I definitely want to do in Belgrade and I think with the girls now we have a really strong team. I won’t be able to do the 4x400m relay heats because of the 800m but fingers crossed they let me do the final!”
There were some impressive performances in the field – especially in the women’s shot put.
Sophie McKinna (Mike Winch, Great Yarmouth) had gone into the competition with her sights set on breaking the long-standing British indoor record but, while Venissa Head’s mark of 19.06m still survives, the Olympian broke the championships and English record with her opening throw of the event.
Victory was assured with that 18.82m effort which overhauls Judy Oakes’ 18.57m, with 2020 champion Amelia Strickler (Zane Duquemin, Thames Valley) getting closest thanks to her best of 17.62m. Adele Nicoll (Ryan Spencer-Jones, Birchfield) managed a PB of 17.02m for bronze.
“I set my stall out before today saying I’d break the British record and I got the closest I ever have with a championship record,” said McKinna. “I now have the worlds to look forward to so I am hoping the British record will go there. I am creeping ever closer.
“I have made some technical changes just in the last week so once I have had three weeks to ingrain those into my performances, I think it’ll make a huge difference.”
Lorraine Ugen (Dwight Phillips, Thames Valley) equalled the championships record of 6.75m, her best indoor leap since 2017, as she won the women’s long jump and booked her World Indoors ticket.
The 2016 world indoor bronze medallist took the lead with her first legal jump – 6.52m in the third round – before going 23cm further with her next attempt.
Jahisha Thomas (Blackheath and Bromley), who also leapt out to 6.43m in the second round, made sure of silver with a penultimate attempt of 6.45m as Olympic finalist Jazmin Sawyers (Lance Brauman, City of Stoke) was third with 6.42m in the fifth round.
Ugen was delighted to be finding form again after the disappointment of coming fifth at the Müller British Indoor Grand Prix a week ago.
“I feel good. I needed to redeem myself from the Muller Grand Prix performance last week. I know that my runway was dodgy last weekend and this week I completed my jumps well.”
The 800m finals were two of the most highly anticipated events of the day and the men’s honours went to British record-holder Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg, Birchfield). The new dad put sleep deprivation to one side to clock 1:47.99 as he beat defending champion Guy Learmonth (Justin Rinaldi, Lasswade) in 1:48.58 and the 1:49.13 of Ben Greenwood (Carol Sharp, Perth Strathtay).
Giles already had the qualifying mark and therefore knew that victory would seal his Belgrade spot, so he was content to let Greenwood lead the way in the opening stages. It wasn’t until they reached the bell in 1:02.26 that Giles moved to the front, with Learmonth following, but the Tokyo Olympian always looked in control.
“It was a tactical affair,” said Giles. “I’m racing in Madrid on Wednesday and then it’s just about doing a few tactical sessions ahead of Belgrade. I still feel I’m finding my feet this indoor season so far and now it’s about attacking on Wednesday and moving towards the championships.
“I’ve got my fiancée and my five-month-old daughter Erin in the stands and it makes a difference. She’s probably sleeping! It does help and I can spend more time with them to an extent. It has put things in a different perspective.”
In the women’s race, a dream season continues for Jenny Selman (Fife) as she overcame Olympic fourth placer Jemma Reekie (Andy Young, Kilbarchan) to take the title.
At the beginning of the month, Selman clocked the World Indoors qualifying standard but was in a state of disbelief after her victory in a time of 2:08.29, coming back in the closing stages to overhaul Reekie (2:08.52), who had taken the pace on and looked set for victory but faded. Abigail Ives (Luke Gunn, Basildon) was third in 2:08.98.
“It feels surreal, to be honest,” said Selman. “It is my first British Championships gold, and I was not expecting it. I was running well coming in to the final but obviously Jemma is such a good athlete and has run much faster times than today so I wasn’t optimistic.
“I wasn’t sure how I would feel but to come away with the win, I am delighted.”
Piers Copeland (Bob Smith, Pontypridd) won a hugely tactical 1500m and a world indoors place into the bargain as he timed his finishing kick to perfection, hitting the line first in 3:49.01.
The 2019 world finalist Neil Gourley (Ben Thomas, Giffnock North) was second in 3:49.13 and Charlie Da’Vall Grice (Brighton Phoenix) third with 3:50.22.
Defending champion George Mills (Brighton Phoenix) had qualified fastest for the final but he withdrew through illness from a race packed with athletes who had run the Belgrade qualifying standard.
The 800m mark was passed in 2:13.16 but at 1200m UK leader Gourley began to push the pace. He couldn’t shake off Copeland, however, who was overjoyed to take his first British title.
“I ran pretty well, although I did make an error with 400m to go, and three guys went passed me, so I had to work really hard to get back. But off the last bend I timed it well.”
The reigning world indoor champion Andrew Pozzi (Stratford-upon-Avon) made sure that he will be able to defend his title in Belgrade after the took gold in 7.67. The UK leader with a best of 7.59 this year did not have to come up against David King (Tim O’Neil, City of Plymouth) in the final, the defending British Indoor Champion who had been quickest in qualifying being disqualified for a false start.
Cameron Fillery (Benke Blomkvist, Woodford Green) took silver in 7.85 from the 7.87 of Miguel Perera (Laura Turner-Alleyne, Harrow).
Pozzi will now turn his attentions towards trying to beat American world record-holder Grant Holloway in Serbia and he said: “I’d like to run a little bit faster if I’ve got a chance of defending my title from 2018. I’m in good shape. The indoor season so far has been good and I’m still finding my feet a little bit.
“I’d be lying if I wasn’t impressed by Grant Holloway’s times this year and he’s had a really strong four to five years. He runs very consistently at an extremely high level and it’s up to everyone else to match and compete with that.”
European Indoor champion Amy-Eloise Markovc (Chris Fox, Wakefield) will now have the chance to make a global impact after she won the women’s 3000m title and joined the athletes bound for Belgrade.
The US-based runner waited until the latter stages to make her move but wound up the pace to come home in 9:04.26 ahead of Amelia Quirk (Mick Woods, Bracknell AC) in 9:06.21 and the 9:09.30 of Izzy Fry (Steve Vernon, Newbury).
The men’s 400m title looked to have gone to Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) who had crossed the line in a PB of 46.21 which was inside the world indoors qualifying standard. However, having made contact with Thomas Somers (Newham and Essex Beagles) as he moved across to the inside lane entering the second lap, he was disqualified.
Victory instead went to Ben Higgins (Stewart Marshall, Sheffield) in 46.82, with 2020 champion James Williams (Paul Waters, Liverpool) winning silver in 46.89 and Sam Reardon (Nigel Stickings, Blackheath and Bromley) clocking 47.01 for bronze. Somers finished fifth in 49.39.
There were no world indoors places at stake when it came to the 200m, but both the men’s and women’s events provided great entertainment.
Toby Harries (David Satkin, Brighton Phoenix) produced a 20.99 PB and strained every sinew to edge out a 21.01 PB from Ben Snaith (Clarence Callender, Newham & Essex Beagles), with North of England champion Joe Ferguson (Lewis Samuel, Leeds City) third in 21.35.
There were also PBs for the top two women as Hannah Brier (Matt Elias, Swansea) clocked 23.64 to see off Ellie Booker (Lewis Samuel, Rotherham) in 23.70. Jazmine Moss (Bruce Horsburgh, Gateshead) completed the podium in 23.94.
Bethan Davies (Andi Drake, Cardiff) was a commanding winner of the women’s 3000m walk. The British record-holder and national 5000m walk champion outdoors was using the race for some speedwork ahead of the upcoming World Race Walking Team Championships in Oman and she eased away from the field to win in 13:24.07, almost exactly a minute ahead of Hannah Hopper (Noel Carmody, Cambridge), who clocked a PB of 14:24.14 in what was a tight battle for the remaining podium places.
Erika Kelly (Tom Craggs, Northern) clocked 14:24.64 and just pipped Abigail Jennings (Verity Snook, Aldershot, Farnham and District) to bronze, the latter walking a PB of 14:24.72.
Christopher Snook (Verity Snook, Aldershot, Farnham & District) seized the chance to win the men’s 3000m walk. The England 10,000m walk champion was top of the podium in a PB of 12:27.27 from the PB 12:41.43 of Tom Partington (Steve Partington, Manx), with Luc Legon (Noel Carmody, Bexley) third in 13:15.66.
Samuel Khogali (Mike Bennett, Woodford Green) was pleasantly surprised as he became the first champion of day two, an indoor PB of 7.54m in the second round proved to be enough for victory in the men’s long jump.
Decathlete Murray Fotheringham (Giffnock North) had been out of the medal positions going into the final round but his last jump of 7.46m rocketed him to the silver medal, while a leap of 7.41m in the third round gave Allan Hamilton (John Scott, Edinburgh AC) the bronze.
In the men’s pole vault, British record-holder and outdoor champion Harry Coppell (Scott Simpson, Wigan and District) needed just one vault to secure the indoor title, his opening height of 5.50m making sure of gold.
The former world under-18 champion looked in excellent form to begin with before coming up short in his attempts to record what would have been a season’s best of 5.61m. He had got the job done, however.
The next five athletes all recorded 5.07m but countback saw the silver going to Ethan Walsh (Scott Simpson, Shaftesbury Barnet) and the bronze to Jack Phipps (Nick Phipps, Birchfield).
One week on from leaping a PB of 1.91m, the same height as Olympic champion Mariya Lasitskene at the Müller Indoor Grand Prix, Laura Zialor (Jade Surman, Marshall Milton Keynes) was winning the UK Indoor high jump title.
She and UK leader Emily Borthwick (Wigan & District) both cleared 1.88m but it was the former who took top spot on countback. Kate Anson (Liverpool) was third with 1.82m.
The multi-eventers produced some compelling competition, with another championships record falling in the women’s pentathlon.
Ella Rush (Matt Elias, Swansea) produced personal bests in four out of five disciplines as she put together a record-breaking score of 4365. There were also bests for silver medallists Jodie Smith (Laura Tuner-Alleyne, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow), who scored 4277 and third-placed Lauren Evans (Fyn Corcoran, Cardiff) with 4020.
Smith was the leader after the 60m hurdles, running 8.53 from Evans’ 8.73 and Rush’s 8.89.
Smith then leapt a PB of 1.79m to lead the high jump as Evans jumped 1.76m – the same height reached by Rush (her first PB of the event).
In the shot, Jo Rowland (Lyeng Mun, Crawley) was furthest with 13.92m but there was another PB for Rush in 12.88m ahead of the 11.88m PB for Smith.
The latter was still leading after the first three events but that all changed after the long jump, which saw Rush record a lifetime best of 6.34m, 17cm further than Smith, while Rowland and Evans both recorded 5.68m.
Rush held a five-point lead from Smith going into the 800m and she made sure of the gold medal with a PB of 2:19.60 for Rush, Rowland coming second over the four-lap event in 2:20.82 and Evans running a PB of 2:22.78. Smith was fifth-fastest in 2:25.87.
Lewis Church (David Hull, Tonbridge) continued his successful start to 2022 by winning an incredibly tight men’s UK Indoor men’s heptathlon.
The England champion finished with a winning total of 5488 points and just managed to hold off the challenge of overnight leader and clubmate Harry Kendall (David Hull, Tonbridge), who produced a PB of 5441. He in turn just edged Howard Bell (Woodford Green), who also managed his best competition with 5434, while Elliot Thompson (Greg Richards, Enfield) was just 24 points back in fourth.
The first event of the day saw some of the key contenders enjoying 60m hurdles PBs. Bell had never been quicker as he clocked 8.32, with Church coming home in 8.35 and Kendall fourth in 8.47.
That left Bell and Kendall locked together on 3885, with Church right behind on 3883.
Thompson led the way in the pole vault, with a clearance of 4.65m, but a PB height of 4.55m from Church put him out in front overall by 27 points from Kendall and Bell, who both sat on 4631, as the field headed into the 1000m.
Thompson did all he could in the five-lap event to get on to the podium and his PB of 2:42.38 was fastest, but not quite enough to break into the top three. Church was second-fastest in 2:43.95, with Kendall clocking 2:45.83.