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London North Lions Snatch McCain City Challenge Victory

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Holly Bleasdale McCain City Challenge

06 February 2011

Andrew Osagie led London North Lions to a late victory in Match 1 of the McCain City Challenge at Sheffield's English Institute of Sport today (Sunday 6 February), and Manchester Warriors' Holly Bleasdale once again improved on her best in the pole vault.

The men's 800m promised to be one of the races of the day and in the end it was the favourite Osagie (coach: Craig Winrow) who just edged out a brave Guy Learmonth, winning by two hundredths in 1:50.80 to claim maximum points for the Lions.

Osagie said: "All-in-all it was a good performance and I'm happy. I know I'm in really good shape at the moment compared to where I've been at this point in the past."

"The McCain City Challenge has grown every year and it's a lot stronger now than when it started."

While Holly Bleasdale (coach: Julien Raffalli-Ebezant), who has made a habit of being the star of the show recently, proved that today was no different as she won the pole vault for Manchester Warriors with a leap of 4.50m.

Bleasdale was delighted to get another personal best after vaulting 4.48m to finish runner up at last weekend’s Aviva International Match in Glasgow.

She said: "I came in at 4.15m which is the highest I’ve ever started at so I thought I’d give it a good go today. I just wanted to get a PB and stay fresh. I was pleased to clear 4.50m and I  was quite far it so hopefully I can have another good attempt at 4.61m next week at the Aviva UK Trials when there will be a big crowd and everything."

The men's high jump was one of the most competitive events of the day with London South Sharks' Tom Parsons (coach: Fuzz Ahmed) taking the win over his North London rival Robbie Grabarz (coach: Fuzz Ahmed), easily clearing 2.28m.

Parsons said: "I would have been pleased with that before the competition because it has consolidated my season. But as soon as I warmed up I knew that I was in PB shape and height-wise the 2.28m jump was the highest I’ve been over the bar.

"I enjoy these competitions. There's a nice atmosphere and not too much pressure so you can work on technique and not worry too much about it, but the overall standard is still good enough to get the adrenaline going."

Chris Baillie’s (coach: James Hillier) late surge clinched a victory for Glasgow Cobras, who led for much of the competition, in a competitive 60m hurdles. He said: "It was a bit of a messy run but it was the first run of the year so I can't really complain much – I've only ever run a couple a hundredths faster on my first run of the season. It was good to get the points for the team.

"I feel good, and hopefully I can get the time down next week in the Aviva UK Trials. It's hard with Lawrence [Clarke] and Andy [Turner] running so well, but it's going to be a good race next week and I'm looking forward to it.

"The McCain City Challenge is a really good competition. I've always liked it. I ran both matches last year for Glasgow, the standard is always good with these youngsters chasing after you."

Glasgow Cobras' Lee McConnell (coach: Rodger Harkins) won her indoor 200m debut from Manchester Warriors' Victoria Barr (coach: Lloyd Cowan) in 23.73.

McConnell said: "The time was fine. It was horrible running it though! I kind of buckled down the back straight – I've never run indoors really before so it was weird.

"I did this just to see where I'm at. In training I'm not even in my spikes yet so it was just to see what I could run. I think I would have been pleased to get low 24s so to go under 24 is good considering I’m definitely not an indoor specialist."

Scott Rider (coach: John Hillier) came out on top for London South Sharks in the new tournament shot competition with 17.58m. The athletes responded well to the new initiative with three men throwing personal bests in the man versus man knockout format.

European medallist, London South’s Conrad Williams (coach: Linford Christie), had a 'training day', competing in the 200m, 60m and medley relay (600m) and was pleased with his performances as a whole: "Today has been good. It's been about blowing the cobwebs out before next week. I've been getting my strength up in training and the 60m was fun too as a way to break it up and put some more speed in," he said.

But it was Sheffield Flames' Chris Craig (coach: Jared Deacon) who ran a superb race to get the better of Williams this time in the 200m, winning in an indoor personal best of 21.41.

He said: "I'm very, very happy that my race went to plan. I've been focussing a lot recently on running my own race. It's a big indoor personal best so I'm exceedingly happy with that."

Craig's team mate and Flames captain Sam Ellis (coach: Dave Sunderland) led his city to glory in the men's medley relay which meant that the reigning McCain City Champions sneaked up to second in the team competition.

All will be decided at Match 2 in Cardiff on 26 February where spectators will, once again, receive free entry. Click HERE to RSVP to the Facebook event.