A world lead, a Championship record and seven stadium records were all set as 25 British champions were crowned at the 2020 Müller British Athletics Championships in Manchester.
Aimee Pratt’s world lead, Championship and stadium record on route to the women’s 3000m steeplechase title led the star performances with Daniel Rowden, Holly Bradshaw, Phil Norman, Callum Wilkinson, Marc Scott and Craig Murch all breaking the Manchester Regional Arena record in their respective events.
On a busy weekend for Pratt club: Sale Harriers; coach: Vicente Modahl), also competing in the 800m, a British title, Championship record and world lead was great reward after a superb display of front-running in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final.
After taking the race on from the start, Pratt produced a dominant solo performance to claim her first British title, crossing the line in a time of 9:30.74 to move to fifth on the British all-time list, four seconds quicker than the PB and world best she set earlier this year.
Defending champion Rosie Clarke (Epson & Ewell; Rob Denmark) – the only athlete who was able to go with Pratt’s early move – finished second, 16 seconds behind Pratt, while a six second PB helped Hannah Nuttall (Charnwood; John Nuttall) secure bronze.
Speaking after her record-breaking performance, Pratt said: “I was very excited for this steeplechase and hoping to run with the top three from last year but unfortunately there was just the two of us so I thought I’d just go for it and I got a PB so very happy. It shows what I can do.
“I am maturing as an athlete and I think I am only scratching the surface of what I am capable of and I really think I can get better. I have another race next week and I will target the British record of 9:24 – it should be a good field to test me.”
Pratt was back in action just over an hour after securing her first British title; this time lining-up in the women’s 800m final. It was a race won by 18-year-old Keely Hodgkinson (Leigh; Trevor Painter), who added the outdoor title to the indoor gold she won over the same distance earlier this year.
In a competitive race, Hodgkinson surged past Ellie Baker (Shaftesbury Barnet; Jon Bigg) on the final bend before continuing to pull away from the rest of the field in the home straight, stopping the clock in 2:03.24. Isabelle Boffey (Enfield & Haringey; Luke Gunn) finished strongly to claim silver just ahead of Baker.
The men’s event certainly lived up to its billing with a thrilling battle between Rowden (Woodford Green Essex Ladies; Matt Yates) and Jake Wightman (Edinburgh; Geoff Wightman) in the men’s 800m final.
With the early pace set elsewhere, Wightman took to the front with Rowden behind. Off the last bend, Rowden made his move, reeling in Wightman with 50m to go before showcasing his strength and speed, crossing the line in a stadium record 1:45.94.
Wightman was second in 1:46.26 with Yusuf Bizimana (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets; Matt Yates) third. Speaking after winning his first British title – which earned Müller Performance of the Day, Rowden said: “This has been very special. It has been such a weird year with not knowing what is going to happen, if any events will take place. It was great to come here in front of a big TV crowd – it is very special.
“I am very happy after a difficult year with surgery in April 2019, so it has been a tough road back. To take the British title for the first time is incredible. The strength in depth at 800m in the UK is amazing.”
Bradshaw (Blackburn; Scott Simpson) cleared a stadium record 4.35m on her way to an eighth British title – and a sixth in total – in the women’s pole vault. Sophie Cook (Birchfield Harriers; Scott Simpson) wasn’t able to join Bradshaw in clearing 4.35m, claiming silver, with bronze going to Sophie Ashurst (Sale; Andy Ashhurst).
Norman (Woodford Green Essex Ladies; Tomaz Plibersek) delivered on his credentials as pre-race favourite in the men’s 3000m steeplechase final, winning his first British title in a stadium record time of 8:32.52.
Norman was, however, pushed all the way by Mark Pearce (Shaftesbury Barnet; Luke Gunn), who improved his personal best by ten seconds after a powerful bit of front-running for 2500m. There was also a personal best for Daniel Jarvis (Bedford) in third (8:39.70).
“It’s an amazing feeling to come out here and get the win today to be British champion,” said Norman. “I was hoping the race would be taken out at a fairly good lick. The last thing you want is to be jogging around with people getting in each other’s way because in the steeplechase it can get pretty messy.
“It was nice of Mark to take it out for us and help us get the time today. When I went passed Mark I knew he didn’t want to let me go and I needed to go with a bold move and with intent.”
A week after breaking the British record for the 10,000m race walk, Wilkinson (Enfield & Haringey; Rob Heffernan) was back in action in record-breaking fashion in the men’s 5000m race walk.
Arriving in Manchester as the defending champion, it was another dominant performance from Wilkinson who claimed back-to-back British outdoor titles in a stadium record time of 19:25.94. Elsewhere Luc Legon (Bexley; Noel Carmody) knocked eight seconds off his personal best.
Scott (Cambridge & Coleridge; Jerry Schumacher) continued his record-breaking season with the stadium record en-route to victory in the men’s 5000m final. Scott’s winning time of 13:32.98 was five seconds quicker than Jack Rowe (AFD; Tim Eglen) in second with Tom Mortimer (Stroud; Christopher Brown) five seconds further behind in third.
The records continued in the field with Murch (Birchfield Harriers; Lorraine Shaw) throwing a stadium record 73.24m to win the men’s British hammer title. Chris Bennet (Shaftesbury Barnet; Andy Frost) took silver with a best throw of 68.84m in the final round, while Chris Shorthouse (Birchfield Harriers; John Pearson) claimed bronze with 67.26m.
Murch said: “It’s been an amazing day. For British Athletics to commit to putting on this event, it’s incredible. To have end goal for the year, because it’s hard to train winter, winter, winter it’s been great to have these champs.
“73.24m, it was a good throw. I’m a little disappointed in the distance, I was hoping for 75m today because I think that sets me up nicely for the winter. But it’s cold, and I was throwing into a head wind. The medal is the most important thing today and making the most of it. It was just a dream throw really.”
Two new British champions were crowned in the men’s and women’s 400m hurdles. Jessie Knight (WSEH; Marina Armstrong) added the 400m hurdles title to the flat 400m indoors gold medal she won earlier this year. Knight stormed to victory in the final, crossing the line in 55.80s ahead of Lina Nielsen (Shaftesbury Barnet; Ryan Freckleton) and Hayley McLean (Shaftesbury Barnet; Chris Zah), who claimed silver and bronze, respectively.
There was also a clear winner in the men’s final with Alastair Chalmers (Guernsey; Matt Elias) setting a new personal best of 49.66 seconds as he powered to victory. Silver went to Chris McAlister (Thames Valley; Armstrong) who passed the tiring Efe Okoro (Birchfield Harriers; Tony Hadley), who finished third.
Chalmers said: “It is a dream come true. I have been working so hard last year. I have been with my family more because of Covid and to finish with the season in Manchester with this win is amazing.
“There is such great development on the island (Guernsey) with so many athletes doing well, great coaches; we are really on the way up. It has been difficult to know where I am at as I have only been racing in Guernsey so to come here and do well with such great athletes has been a real bonus and to get a PB to is awesome.”
Having watched her sister claim a medal, Laviai Nielsen (Enfield & Haringey; Christine Bowmaker) completed a sibling double as she defended her title over the 400m flat in a season’s best 51.72. Hurdles specialist Jessica Turner (Amber Valley & Erewash; Nick Dain) proved her worth on the flat with a 52.57 PB for silver while Yasmin Liverpool (Coventry; Stewart Marshall) took bronze in 53.21.
A strong finish by Alex Knibbs (Amber Valley & Erewash; Nick Dakin) saw him take a brilliant victory in the men’s 400m. Out in lane eight, Knibbs stormed through on the outside, running down pretty much the whole field to take the victory in a personal best of 46.65. In a close finish, Niclas Baker (Crawley; Piotr Spas) claimed silver with third going to Toby Harries (Brighton Phoenix; David Sadkin).
Knibbs said: “I don’t really know what happened, I was in lane eight and I just thought to go for a PB and I just went for it. You don’t usually race a 400m flat like the hurdles but I got a gust up on the way home and I was working my arms but I don’t know what is really going on.
“I have not spoken to my coach about swapping events but I enjoy the 400m, the 400m hurdles and the relay as well but I can’t believe it. The last lap I looked inside me and didn’t know where I was I just worked my arms and tried to catch the guy inside me but this is unreal.”
This year’s Championships have featured para-only events for the first time with Zac Shaw (Cleethorpes; Leon Baptiste (T12)) and Canadian Brent Lakatos (T53) taking the wins in Saturday’s events.
The men’s 100m ambulant race saw a brilliant battle between Shaw and Thomas Young (Charnwood; Joe McDonnell (T38)), but it was Shaw who crossed the line just ahead of Young in a time of 11.31. Ola Abidogun (Horwich; Grant Barker (T47)) was next to cross the line in third.
Lakatos was victorious in the men’s 400m wheelchair race, crossing the line ahead of Nathan Maguire (Kirkby; Ste Hoskins) and Dillon Labrooy (Weir Archer Academy; Jenny Archer).
Hannah Williams (Herts Phoenix; Glyn Hawkes) ensured the British 200m title stayed within the Williams family, succeeding her older sister Jodie as British champion, in a time of 23.83. Williams showed her strength and determination in the home straight to fend off the pressure of Georgina Adam (Loughborough Students; Joe McDonnell) off the bend. Adam was next to cross the line to take the silver medal with Rebecca Jeggo (Colchester; Stephen Garnham) following in third.
Andrew Morgan-Harrison (Kingston-upon-Hull; Alex O’Gorman) added the British outdoor title to the indoor title he won in the men’s 200m, clocking 20.69 despite appearing to tweak his hamstring in the final 25m. 400m indoor champion James Williams (Liverpool; Paul Walters) and Joe Ferguson (Leeds; Lewis Samuel) completed the podium places.
The men’s 1500m turned out to be an 800m shoot-out with the field grouped together with two laps to go. George Mills (Brighton Phoenix; Bigg) muscled his way to front on the final bend, using the momentum on the home straight to beat Neil Gourley (Giffnock North; Ben Thomas) and Josh Lay (Rugby & Northampton; Anthony Love) to the title in 3:51.39.
In the final event of the Championships, Laura Weightman (Morpeth; Steve Cram) stretched clear in the home straight, claiming her fifth British title in 4:09.76. Weightman’s final-lap pace was too much for Jessica Judd (Blackburn; Mick Judd) – who won gold in the women’s 5000m on Friday – and Katie Snowden (Herne Hill; Dan Stepney) in second and third.
It might be Weightman’s fifth title, but it still means just as much: “Every time you win a British title it is special as every race is different. I felt like it was really important to come here and race today because this year you do not have that many racing opportunities.
“I wanted to come and do these Championships because I can’t chase fast races around the world because you are not going to run PBs every week. So for me it was important to refresh that championship racing mind and just have a bit of run. That is what the British Championships is all about.”
Earlier in the day, Gemma Bridge (Oxford; Mark Wall) smashed her outdoor PB on the way to her first outdoor British title in the women’s 5000m race walk.
With the race leader Heather Lewis (Pembrokeshire; Martin Bell) disqualified in the final stages of the race, Bridge seized the opportunity, taking the victory in a time of 22:51.15, nearly a minute ahead of five-time British outdoor champion Bethan Davies (Cardiff; Andi Drake).
Jasmine Nicholls (Leicester; Drake) completed the podium places; knocking 45 seconds off the PB she set on-route to fourth place in Birmingham last year.
In the field, it was a fourth national outdoor title for Naomi Ogbeta (Trafford; Tom Cullen) with the successful defence of her title coming in her home city courtesy of her best of 13.44m. While Ogbeta’s best was nearly half-a-metre further than the rest of the field, it was close for the places behind.
Shanara Hibbert (Woodford Green Essex Ladies; Guy Spencer) produced a jump of 12.86m for second, 14 seconds further than the 12.72m season’s best for Angela Barrett (Thames Valley; Frank Attoh) in third.
Morgan Lake (WSEH; Fuzz Caan) won the national high jump crown for a fifth successive time after a countback victory over Jodie Smith (WSEH; Laura Turner-Alleyne).Smith jumped an outdoor personal best of 1.80m at the final attempt to match Lake’s first-time clearance over the same h eight and, with neither athlete able to clear 1.83m, the victory went to Lake on countback.
Emily Borthwick (Wigan & District; Caan) was unable to join Lake and Smith in clearing 1.80m, claiming bronze on countback after clearing 1.77m at the first attempt.
Nathan Douglas (Oxford; Aston Moore) saved the best until last to win his fifth British title in the men’s triple jump – 16 years after his first. Sam Trigg-Petrovic (Erme Valley; Daniel Hooker) matched Douglas’ leading first round jump of 15.59m in the final round, before Douglas jumped a season’s best 15.80m (0.0m/s) to seal the win. Jonathan Ilori (Blackheath & Bromley; Aston Moore) repeated his bronze medal performance from 2018 with a jump of 15.17m (0.5m/s).
Scott Lincoln (City of York; Paul Wilson) secured his sixth British outdoor title with a final throw of 19.65m to win the men’s shot put. Lincoln’s best was three metres further than Lewis Byng (Stratford-upon-Avon; Stuart Carlow), who finished second 11 centimetres ahead of George Hyde’s (West Cheshire; David McKay) personal best throw of 16.55m.
Freya Jones (Newham & Essex Beagles; David Callaway) threw the furthest distance of any British athlete this year to claim her first British title in the women’s javelin with a distance of 53.12m, furthering the UK lead she set in March by six centimetres.
Emma Hamplett (Birchfield Harriers; Michael McNeill) claimed silver for the fourth successive year with a season’s best distance of 51.80m. Bethany Moule (Neath; John Davies) furthered her personal best to 51.27m to finish third at her first British Championships.
There was a brilliant tussle in the men’s discus as Nick Percy (Shaftesbury Barnett; Vesteinn Hafsteinsson) retained his national crown with 59.74m. Percy’s best came in the penultimate round, one metre, 26 metres ahead of the best George Armstrong (Newham & Essex Beagles; Zane Duquemin) had just thrown. With no change in the final round, Percy took gold ahead of Armstrong. Five-time Paralympic medallist Daniel Greaves (Charnwood) was third with a distance of 54.90m.
The British Athletics Club Connect winners were Shaftesbury Barnet (men’s) and Birchfield Harriers (women’s).