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Strong GB performances at Norwich Union Jumps International

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The inaugural Norwich Union Jumps International, funded by the UK Athletics Events Management Group for Jumps and organised by the UK Athletics Competitions Department, was such a success at London’s new Lee Valley Athletics Centre on Wednesday evening 21 February that it instantly spawned more competition.

 

GB’s women high jumpers emerged so confident that they are closing on the elite qualifying height of 1.92m for the European Indoor Championships in Birmingham on 2-4 March that they asked for an extra competition at the Norwich Union Combined Events International at the same inspirational venue on Saturday 24 February – and the Netherlands Federation announced that a reciprocal match outdoors in Sittard in August is likely to also include Belgium.

 

While tonight’s match marked the end of Ashia Hansen’s gallant bid to achieve the European Indoors qualifying distance of 14.20m, the unique format of Seniors competing alongside Under 23s, Under 20s and Under 18s generated personal bests for high jumper Alan McKie, pole vaulters Ellie Spain and Sally Scott, long jumper Steven Jones, triple jumper Trevor Okoroafor – and a Scottish Under 17 long jump record for Jade Nimmo.

 

Dave Young, Chair of the UKA Events Management Group for Jumps, was delighted with the entire event, which included victories for Euro Indoors-bound Samson Oni and Steve Lewis plus high jumper Julie Crane, pole vaulter Spain, triple jumper Nick Thomas, long jumper Amy Harris and Hansen, who remains determined to make an international impact in the summer.

 

All the winners received bottles of champagne from UK Athletics’ sponsor partners Heidsieck & Co Monopole at the end of a meeting that epitomised UKA’s policy of creating competition that helps to raise the standards in every age group in every event in every region on the way to London 2012.

 

And Young was in celebratory mood as he summed-up: “This match provided us with just the level of competition we wanted. We had people like Steve Lewis on the way to the European Indoors, young people having their first taste of proper international competition and full fields throughout the match. We were fairly evenly matched with the Dutch and I hope this kind of fixture continues.”

 

Fittingly for a futuristic concept devised by UK Athletics as part of the campaign to improve standards in every event in every age group in every region on the way to London 2012, the performance of the match arguably came from 15-year-old Jade Nimmo (Falkirk Victoria Harriers).

 

She extended her own Scottish Under 17 record to 5.86m to complete a GB 1-2-3 behind Under 23 Amy Harris (Birchfield Harriers), who won with 6.24m, 2cm ahead of Senior Gillian Cooke (Edinburgh Southern Harriers).

 

“I think it was the good competition that made me jump further,” said Jade, who set her previous record of 5.70m at the Scottish East District Championships last month and is coached by Darren Ritchie.

 

And she has a good excuse for missing another couple of days’ study at Graeme High School, Falkirk. “I’m flying home on Thursday and then travelling by coach to Birmingham for the England Athletics Indoor Champs on Saturday.”

 

The first PB had been achieved by another 15-year-old, Sally Scott (Gateshead Harriers) making her Norwich Union GB debut in a pole vault squad in the charge of her coach and father, Jamie.

 

Both ex-professional footballer Jamie and Sally, a pupil at King Edward’s School in Morpeth, agreed that when she first dragged dad down to Gateshead International Stadium, neither dreamt the journey would take in a day when they both took their international bows – one as a coach, the other as a ‘baby’ of the team.

 

Sally, GB’s Under 18 pole vaulter, overcame an understandably nervous start to the opening event to achieve two personal bests, 3.65m at the first attempt and 3.70m at the third attempt. “I’ve just got to jump 3.90 now,” she said. “That’s the guideline standard for this summer’s World Youth Championships.”

 

Nobody would bet against her: in addition to training under Dad’s guidance at Gateshead in the week, she also goes to Sheffield or Loughborough on Saturdays and during school holidays for extra coaching from Alan Richardson, the England Athletics’ Regional Coach Development and Education Officer.

 

The 3.70m clearance earned Sally an unexpected win over GB Under 20 Abigail Haywood (Sale Harriers Manchester), who equalled her PB of 3.65m and is now more determined than ever to crack 3.70m at the England Athletics Under 20 Indoor Championships at the NIA, Birmingham, on Sunday.

 

Proving all good things go in threes, guest competitor Ellie Spain won the competition with a PB of 4.20m, 5cm ahead of the GB Senior, Kate Dennison, who suffered “a bit of a come-down after last Saturday” when she contested the Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix. “Maybe I’m a bit tired,” added Kate.

 

The GB Under 20 Men were given a flying start by Shrewsbury AC’s Andrew Jones – a PB of 7.14m that earned him second place, only 5cm behind Dutch Senior Champion Eelco Sintinicolaas.

 

Actually, Jones produced two PBs: 7.07m added 1cm to his previous best before he exploded to 7.14m in round four. “And I had some big no jumps,” he enthused. He puts his improvements down to “good training and coaching from John Crotty”, who began guiding him in October.

 

Another Under 20, Trevor Okoroafor (Croydon Harriers) produced his best yet triple jump – 14.95m, an improvement of 36cm – to finish just one place behind former Commonwealth champion Julian Golley in a juxtaposition that probably did more than any other to illustrate how close the truly talented are to success.

 

Yet another Under 20, Alan McKie (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC) improved his high jump PB to 2.12m in a competition won by Samson Oni (Belgrave Harriers) at 2.18m, a modest height compared with his recent performances.

 

McKie also went closer than ever before to 2.15m, which is the European Juniors qualifying height for this summer. “I thought I was over it at the first attempt,” he said.

 

And he described the match format as “brilliant”. He explained: “Being able to chat with Rob and Samson was good. Rob gave me a tip about my run-up, but that remains a secret between us!”

 

There’s no secret, though, about Ashia Hansen’s determination to return to the highest international level. After winning for the third time this winter without hitting the European Indoors elite target of 14.20m, she smilingly gave up on being in the Norwich Union GB team in her home city on 2-4 March – but was adamant that she will return in the summer.

 

She said: “I enjoyed that a little bit better than the other two because I didn’t feel under pressure any more. I could look for another competition but it’s pretty pointless. I just have not got enough speed to jump what I want to. I’ve had two years of no conditioning, no speed work.”

 

Hansen, whose other two competitions ended in victories at the Norwich Union European Trials with 13.68m and the UK Indoor City Challenge final with 13.46m, battled all the way through tonight’s six rounds. She opened with a foul, jumped 13.18m, had another foul, jumped 13.02m and then improved to 13.31m and 13.43m.

 

She added: “I can actually smile now because I know I have not lost anything in jumping ability. It’s just that the speed is not there. I’ve now got three months to find that before the summer season starts.”

 

He coach, Aston Moore, the UK Athletics senior performance manager for field events, agreed with her assessment: “We missed two winters. There is nothing the matter with her other than the need to get the speed right on the runway. It will come with time.”

 

Phillips Idowu, who emerged from an 18-month injury nightmare to win the Commonwealth triple jump title last year, is adamant that Hansen should not be written-off.

 

He said: “It takes time to get back into your routine and so many things can go wrong. Ashia deserves to be given time. If she gets to within 50cm of her best, she will still be world class.”

 

Match result: 1 Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland 178; 2 Netherlands 99.

 

Men

 

High jump: 1 Samson Oni (guest) 2.18; 2 Jan-Peter Larsen (guest) 2.18; 3 Rob Mitchell (GBR, Sen) 2.15; 4 Martijn Nuijens (NED, Sen) 2.12; 5 Alan McKie (GBR, U20) 2.12; 6 Tom Parsons (guest) 2.12; 7 Robbie Grabarz (GBR, U23) 2.09; 8 Roy Van Meel (NED, U18) 2.04; 9 Jasper de Lange (NED, U20) 1.99; 10 Vincent Bos (NED, U23) 1.99; 11 Chris Baker (GBR, U18) 1.89.

 

Pole vault: 1 Steve Lewis (GBR, U23) 5.45; 2 Christian Tamminga (NED, Sen) 5.25; 3 Scott Simpson (GBR, Sen) 5.25; 4 Laurens Loye (guest) 5.15; 5 Sintinicolaas 5.05; 6 Jorn Bakker (NED, U23) 4.95; 7 Paul Walker (guest) 4.80; 8 Andy Marsh (GBR, U18) 4.65; 9 Joel De Water (NED, U18) 4.65; 10 Max Eaves (GBR, U20) 4.50.

 

Long jump: 1 Eelco Sintinicolaas (NED, Sen) 7.19; 2 Andrew Jones (GBR, U20) 7.14; 3 Leigh Smith (GBR, Sen) 7.11; 4 Steve Small (GBR, U23) 7.00; 5 Jelle Van Kesteren (NED, U23) 6.90; 6 Stuart Hitchcock (GBR, U18) 6.72; 7 Brian Vriend (NED, U20) 6.68; 8 Elgin Herfst (NED, U18) 5.82.

 

Triple jump: 1 Nick Thomas (guest) 15.67; 2 Julian Golley (GBR, Sen) 15.67; 3 Trevor Okoroafor (GBR, U20) 14.95; 4 Maarten Bouwman (NED, Sen) 14.75; 5 Nathan Fox (GBE, U18) 14.21; 6 Gerben Klein (NED, U23) 13.78; 7 Pascal Van Balden (NED, U18) 13.67; 8 Norbert Hoven (NED, U20) 13.20.

 

Invitation shot: 1 Dorian Scott (JAM, guest) 19.64; 2 Rutger Smith (NED, Sen) 19.56; 3 Garrett Johnson (USA, guest) 18.70; 4 Chris Gaviglio (AUS, guest) 18.63; 5 Rene van der Donk (NED, U23) 17.30; 6 Tom Corstiens (guest) 17.24; 7 Emeka Udechuku (guest) 17.14; 8 Jay Thomas (GBR, U20) 16.89; 9 Patrick Cronie (NED, U18) 16.24.

 

Women

 

High jump: 1 Julie Crane (guest) 1.88; 2 Susan Moncrieff (GBR, sen) 1.85; 3 Stephanie Pywell (GBR, U23) 1.82; 4 Kelly Sotherton (guest) 1.82; 5 Vikki Hubbard (GBR, U20) 1.78; 6 Marije Langen (NED, U23) 1.73; 7 Jaqueline Raaman (NED, Sen) 1.73; 8 Joyce Huisman (NED, U20) 1.68; 9 Katherine Connolly (GBR, U18) 1.63; 10 Sietske Noorman (NED, U18) 1.63.

 

Pole vault: 1 Ellis Spain (guest) 4.20; 2 Kate Dennison (GBR, Sen) 4.15; 3 Emma Lyons (GBR, U23) 3.95; 4 Rianna Galiart (NED, U23) 3.90; 5 Louise Butterworth (guest) 3.85; 6 Leonie Schilder (NED, U18) 3.75; 7 Sally Scott (GBR, U18) 3.70; 8 Abigail Haywood (GBR, U20) 3.65; 9 Denise Groot (NED, U20) 3.65.

 

Long jump: 1 Amy Harris (GBR, U23) 6.24; 2 Gillian Cooke (GBR, Sen) 6.22; 3 Jade Nimmo (GBR, U18) 5.86; 4 Abigail Irozuru (guest) 5.79; 5 Hannah Frankson (GBR, U20) 5.71; 6 Carola Van Wagtendonk (NED, U20) 5.70; 7 Nelly Ritfield (NED, U18) 5.39.

 

Triple jump: 1 Ashia Hansen (GBR, Sen) 13.43; 2 Nadia Williams (guest) 12.95; 3 Stephanie Aneto (guest) 12.75; 4 Denae Matthew (GBR, U23) 12.60; 5 Jayne Nisbet (GBR, U20) 12.29; 6 Anna Kelly (guest) 12.15; 7 Jade Ellans (GBR, U18) 11.45; 8 Sanne Korteland (NED, U20) 11.25; 9 Rachel Van Harlingen (NED, U18) 10.91.

 

Invitation shot: 1 Denise Kemkers (NED, U23) 16.41; 2 Jo Duncan (GBR, Sen) 15.88; 3 Melissa Boekelman (NED, U20) 15.52; 4 Eleanor Gatrell (GBR, guest) 15.33; 5 Dayana Octavien (USA, guest) 14.83; 6 Eden Francis (GBR, U20) 14.71; 7 Loes Verlaak (NED, Sen) 14.36; 8 Kelly Sotherton (GBR, guest) 14.33; 9 Bianca Reuver (NED, U18) 14.12.