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european under-23 trials (2)

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Nathan Woodward
Nathan Woodward

26 June 2011

In one of the most hotly anticipated races of the Aviva England Under-23 Championships, Nathan Woodward (coach: Nick Dakin) clocked the fastest under-23 time in Europe this year with victory in the 400mH in 49.06 in Bedford today, a Championship Best Performance, lifetime best performance and World Championships and European Under-23 Championships qualifying standard.

Woodward, ranked second in Europe going into the race behind previous number one Jack Green (coach: Malcolm Arnold), led for the majority of the race before Green stormed back into contention in the latter stages. The pair, who crossed the line neck and neck, were credited with same time, with Niall Flannery (coach: Nick Dakin) in third clocking a PB time of 49.76.

Incredibly, Tom Phillips - the fourth fastest under-23 in Europe with a previous best and qualifying standard of 50.22 - went inside 50 seconds for the first time in his career with 49.78 but finished outside the medals in fourth.

“I had a really good build up coming into this weekend and Jack was in incredible form, so I knew I had to bring my best game,” said Woodward, a European Junior Championships finalist in 2007.

“Everyone has been talking about this race being one of the biggest of the Championships and it didn’t disappoint. I was nervous coming into it, but nerves are good. I’ve cracked under pressure in the past but everything had gone brilliantly in training and I had no excuses. I knew I had to run that sort of time to win and it was the perfect end to the perfect preparation really, although I’m sure Jack and I would have loved to dip under 49 seconds.”

In the women’s pole vault, World Junior bronze medallist Holly Bleasdale (coach: Julien Raffalli), who has achieved the European Under-23 qualifying standard on numerous occasions, continued her exceptional progression with a new UK under-23 record, Championship Best Performance and personal best of 5.53m, exceeding her previous best by three centimetres.

In contrast, Stevie Stockton (coach: George Gandy) - without the standard and making her 5000m debut - delivered under pressure when racing to victory in 16:10.63, five seconds inside the required mark for the European Under-23 Championships.

After a slow first lap in very hot conditions, defending champion Naomi Taschimowitz (coach: Charlotte Fisher) took the lead and broke clear, and at one point had a gap of as much as five seconds. The chasing pack of seven closed her down just before the 3k point and Stockton was the only one of five athletes left in contention without the qualifying standard and battling it out for a time and a podium position.

She eventually broke away in the final lap to take victory.

“I was nervous before the race, but once we got going I was confident of winning it,” she said. “It started off so slow and as we started to catch Naomi I was feeling really good, I just wanted to win it. Being a 3k runner I had no idea what my splits were meant to be, all I knew was what I had to do when we hit 3k.

“It stressed me out a but when the girls tried to slow it down, I didn’t even really know how I should be feeling at that point but I was just thinking on my feet and I knew I had a better finish than them. I was in it to win it and I just hoped the time would come.”

Emma Pallant (coach: Mick Woods) and Hannah Walker (coach: Bud Baldaro), both with the time coming into the race, finished second (16:14.12) and third (16:14.43) respectively.

Lawrence Clarke (coach: Malcolm Arnold), in his first outing of the summer season, raced to a new Championship Best Performance and European Under-23 Championships qualifying time of 13.74 (+0.3m/s) in the 110mH heats and went on to secure gold and a second standard in the final with 13.78 into a very slight headwind (-0.4m/s).

While it was no major surprise, it was a relief for the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist to book his seat on the plane to Ostrava: “I haven’t even started speed work yet, so there’s obviously a lot more to come,” he admitted, “I was very rusty. All the work I’ve done since the indoors has been on technique, but that’s definitely got better.”

Aviva UK Indoor Champion Danny Talbot (coach: Dan Cossins) took the men’s under-23 200m title in 21.01 (0.7m/s) and in the process prevented yesterday’s 100m champion James Alaka (coach: Clarence Callender), who finished second (21.09), from winning the sprint double.

World Junior champion Sophie Hitchon (coach: Derek Evely) won the women’s hammer with ease with a best of 67.07m, someway short of her UK record distance and season’s best of 69.43m, but 12m clear of second place in yet another consistent and dominant display of hammer throwing, while James Shane (coach: Martin Brown) dominated in the men’s 1500m, clocking 3:40.44.

“I just wanted to win the race,” admitted Shane, who was a brilliant third in last weekend’s European Team Championships 1500m and recorded a new Championship Best Performance today. “I was a bit worried coming off such a high in Stockholm because at times after a performance like that I’ve crashed, but I really focused and knuckled down.

“I ran that on my own today and it’s given me a boost of confidence – actually, it’s given me another boost of confidence, I just keep getting them this season.”

Mukhtar Mohammed (coach: Mustafa Mohammed) won the men’s 800m in 1:49.03, a second outside the European under-23 qualifying time, but is a certainty for Ostrava courtesy of his 1:47.13 season’s best, while in the 400m, Nigel Levine (coach: Simon Duberley) moved into pole position in the UK under-23 rankings with a season’s best and Championship Best Performance of 45.85 to win the English title ahead of Luke Lennon-Ford (coach: Linford Christie) in 46.36, both athletes already with the European Under-23 standard.

Elsewhere, there was a brilliant breakthrough for Hannah Frankson (coach: Larry Achike) in the triple jump who moved to pole position in the UK under-23 rankings for 2011 with a new lifetime best and Championship Best Performance of 13.44m (-0.9m/s) for victory, although, it was 31cm short of the European Under-23 Championships qualifying standard.

Full results are on the England Athletics website.