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POOLEY SCALES NEW HEIGHTS AT SAINSBURY'S BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Isobel Pooley

4 July 2015

In what was virtually the final act on a sunny Saturday at the Sainsbury's British Championships, Isobel Pooley (coach: Fuzz Ahmed, club: Aldershot, Farnham & District) did what she has been threatening to do for some time, clearing 1.97m to break the British outdoor high jump record.

Billed as a head to head between Pooley and world junior champion Morgan Lake (Eldon Lake, WSEH), the former secured gold with a second time clearance at 1.91m as Lake had to settle for the silver. It all looked to be over as the Aldershot girl failed her first two attempts at 1.94m, but she wasn't ready to stop there, clearing it with her final attempt before clearing 1.97m first time.

The magical 2 metre barrier proved one step too far for Pooley, but she was naturally delighted with her performance and the $5,000 dollar cheque that comes with the British record.

“I’m really delighted – I’ll echo what I said after the Commonwealth Games in that I knew I could win a medal but couldn’t quite believe it when I actually did it. I’ve worked on my belief and I’m making huge strides in that respect. I really believe I can jump 2.00m now and that would be a massive breakthrough. I knew I could get 1.97m and could challenge up to 2.00m and I think I executed what I needed to do out there.

“It was brilliant to go out there as British champion but I needed to get that out of my head and focus on the technical aspects. The atmosphere was great and I want to thank the staff and officials because they were absolutely brilliant – it’s not possible without them.”

It was also a day to remember for the Porter/Ofili clan, as sisters Tiffany and Cindy took gold and silver in a terrific 100m hurdles final. Defending champion Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider, Woodford Green & Essex Ladies) knew she came into the race as red hot favourite, but she delivered with a smooth, composed and very impressive 12.83 performance into a 1.5m/s headwind.

“It was really special to race each other and it is the first time we have in a 100m hurdles race. She is a great competitor and I’m proud how she executed the race today. For me as a competitor, I think it is important to let your performances speak for themselves – I don’t do too much talking, I’m just focusing on going to Beijing and doing well. I tend to perform best under pressure so I’m looking to keep progressing.”

Chasing her all the way though was sister Cindy Ofili (James Henry, Woodford Green), who also ran a great race to take silver in 12.96.

“It’s been a great experience, everyone’s so nice here. It’s such a great crowd and atmosphere, it was a pleasure to run here and it will be to run for Great Britain soon. I hope both of us will go to Beijing and run well as individuals and as sisters.”

Rounding out the medallists was Olympic golden girl Jessica Ennis-Hill (Toni Minichiello, City of Sheffield) and she continued her impressive comeback from childbirth with a season's best of 13.10, bettering the season's best that she ran to win her heat. She was pleased with how her form is progressing.

“I’ve been able to do some good training and I’ve got a bit more speed now. I was getting stronger towards the end of the race and I think the training has really made a difference – the cadence is there and I'm much better between the hurdles. My achilles is feeling good and I’ve been able to do some good training - it's getting there.”

Despite the success of the aforementioned trio, there was disappointment for Lucy Hatton (Jerzy Maciukiewicz, Corby) who pulled up after hitting a hurdle mid-race and for Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Mike Holmes, Liverpool Harriers), who didn't start in the final due to cramp.

In just her second competition back after sitting out the last 16 months with injury, Holly Bradshaw (Scott Simpson, Blackburn Harriers) reclaimed the Sainsbury's British title she last won back in 2012. A first time clearance at 4.50m was enough to see her take pole vault gold ahead of youngster Lucy Bryan (Charles Preston, Bristol & West) and Jade Ive (Allan Williams, Sutton), and afterwards she said:

“It was a great competition – I was super excited to be back competing on British soil. I haven’t been jumping too high so I’m a little disappointed because I should be jumping a little bit higher but that’s because I’m super impatient!

“I want to be back where I was (before the injury) but I’m not quite there yet. Things need tweaking but I’ve got plenty of time before the World Championships and Rio so hopefully things will start to come together soon. I’m fit and healthy and felt awesome on the run-up – I’m just missing a bit of the timing.”

Zharnel Hughes (Glen Mills, Shaftesbury) proved why he ran Usain Bolt so close in New York last month, finishing strongly down the home straight to win his first British title in 20.42.

In second was Danny Talbot (Dan Cossins, Birchfield) who clocked a season's best 20.61 to edge out his relay teammate James Ellington (Linford Christie, Newham) by one hundredth of a second. Of the victory, Hughes said:

“The atmosphere today was great and it was good to get the support of the crowd. I’m very happy to get the win, right now I’m pretty tired after the excitement of it all. I’m very thankful – it was all about going out there and trying to qualify for the worlds and have fun. I’m feeling good at the moment and know I can run sub 20 this year.”

After winning her 400m race at the European Team Championships two weeks ago, Margaret Adeoye (Christie, Enfield) travelled to Birmingham full of confidence that she could perform when it counts and duly took gold over the shorter 200m distance. Coming off the bend neck and neck with Bianca Williams (Lloyd Cowan, Enfield) it was anyone's race, but the recent GB & NI team captain prevailed, 23.51 to 23.56.

“It feels good to be British champion again – it’s been a long road to get here and I arrived injury-free. I came in confident because I’ve been able to train so it feels good. I’ve got a lot of things to work on as I’ve been trying to decide whether to run the 200m or 400m so my training’s not been focused on the speed. I’ve already reached my goal of qualifying for Beijing so I’ll be on that plane – I’m excited to compete against the best in the world.”

A 25 strong men's 5000m field made for quite some spectacle as the sun continued to beat down on the Alexander Stadium, and both the increase in pace and the heat slowly whittled away the number of men to the fore. With a mile to go Tom Farrell (Mark Rowland, Border) decided enough was enough, so upped the pace to make it a three horse race coming into the bell. Fresh from his 3.38 1500m performance last weekend, Farrell reproduced a similar burst over speed over the final 300m to out run double European medallist Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau, AFD), 13.42.20 to 13.44.27, with  Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon, Liverpool Harriers) taking bronze. Undoubtedly it was the scintillating 1.57 last 800m that won it for Farrell.

Farrell said: “I’m very happy, it’s just good to execute the plan that I came in with. It was nice that it was a decent pace the whole way round, it wasn’t slow and then fast, it was kind of a big wind up and I prefer that in some ways, but I’m happy with how things are. It’s my first year under my new coach so to come on from last year I can’t complain.”

There was a second Sainsbury's British title for Border Harriers, as Nick Miller (Tore Gustafsson) threw an impressive 75.88m in round one to win the men's hammer. A final round 73.02m saw Mark Dry (Chris Black, Woodford Green) get up for silver, with his fellow Scot Chris Bennett (Mick Jones, Shaftesbury) taking bronze with 72.62m.

Afterwards Miller commented: “I did what I needed to do and I’m pleased to secure my place on the team to Beijing. The competition was a lot of fun – the weather is nice. I’ll get back to training now and work on getting my performance right for Beijing.”

The men's 3000m steeplechase turned out to be an enthralling contest too, with a number of men still in the mix with 1000m to go. Longtime leader Luke Gunn (Bud Baldaro, Derby) had no response as Lewes man Rob Mullett (David Leach, Lewes) pushed on, taking Zak Seddon (Jeff Seddon, Bracknell) with him. In the end it came down the final 400m, where Mullett showed he had the fastest finishing speed to win in 8.38.95. Mullett will now look to Europe and potentially the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games as he aims to surpass the qualifying mark needed to get him on the plane to the world championships.

“I felt good with two laps to go, I just wanted to hit that last water jump well, which I did. I was pretty confident with the last few hundred, so it was looking good. My personal best is not far off the World Championships A standard, but I’m just racing to see what I can do at the moment.”

Scotland's first British title of the championships came courtesy of the form of Lennie Waite (Steve Sisson, Aldershot, Farnham & District) as she led the women's 3000m steeplechase from gun to tape. Her winning time of 10.15.04 saw her take victory by nearly 100m and she, like Mullett, will now chase the qualifying time for Beijing.

There was an impressive championship best performance by Rachel Wallader (self-coached, WSEH) to win the women's shot put. She launched the 4kg shot out to 17.42m to smash her lifetime best by 25cm to get the better of Eden Francis (Glenys Morton, Birchfield) who threw 16.75m and Sophie McKinna (Mike Winch, Great Yarmouth) who's best was 15.97m.

The first British Champion of the weekend was Jade Lally (Andrew Neal, Shaftesbury), who saved her best until last in the women's discus. Leading throughout, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist produced a final round effort of 57.37m to further extend her winning margin over silver and bronze medallists Eden Francis and Kirsty Law (self-coached, Sale).

Lally said: “It’s my first competition since mid-May so I’m happy with the win and it was a good distance. I'm definitely happy to win after a long break. I need to PB – I had an operation six weeks ago so I need to find competitions. I hope I have a chance for Beijing but it’s probably out of the question. I’m looking at the bigger picture after being ill - Rio’s the bigger goal.”

The men's triple jumpers did their best to entertain the crowd in the home-straight, with season's bests throughout the field. Nathan Douglas (Moore, Oxford) took a first round lead with a huge season's best of 16.94m, exceeding the world championship qualifying standard of 16.90m. In the end though he had to settle for silver, as Julian Reid (Moore, Birchfield) hopped, stepped and jumped to 16.95m in round five, just 3cm short of his personal best.

Afterwards the Birchfield man commented: “I’ve got a lot of confidence from my training recently and I executed that on the runway today. I had to remain patient - I finally got it right in the fifth round. I enjoyed going up against Nathan, it was a good battle. Athletics is a very thankless sport – it was such a narrow win but it’s the victory that counts. I have to obtain the qualifying standard for Beijing for a second time and then hopefully once there, I can make the final – that’s the dream.”

Bonne Buwembo (Michael McNeill, Enfield) was the stand out performer in the men's javelin as he wrapped up the Sainsbury's British Championship title with a second round throw of 70.34. He was joined on the podium by Matti Mortimore (Justin St Clair, Ipswich) and Gavin Johnson-Assoon (Piotr Spas, Herne Hill) who threw 66.78m and 64.30m respectively.

Christine Ohuruogu (Christine Bowmaker, Newham) showed why she is the reigning world champion as she took a comfortable victory in the third and final 400m heat to book her place in the final tomorrow. She'll be joined by fastest qualifier Anyika Onoura (Reider, Liverpool) and youngster Laviai Nielsen (Frank Adams, Enfield), who prevailed in her heat.

In the men's events, the three semi-finals were won by Jarryd Dunn (Keith Holt, Birchfield), Martyn Rooney (Reider, Croydon) and Rabah Yousif (Carol Williams, Newham), as European champion Rooney looks to defend his title tomorrow.

With a combined age of 72, 7 times British champion Michael Rimmer (Jon Bigg, Liverpool P&S) and 43 year old Anthony Whiteman (self-coached, Shaftesbury) went 1-2 in heat one of the men's 800m to book their spots in the final. Notable names joining them in tomorrow's final are Kyle Langford (George Harrison, Shaftesbury) and Guy Learmonth (Rob Denmark, Lasswade).

There were no upsets to talk of in the three women's 800m heats, despite there only being two automatic final spots up for grabs in each race. Business-like performances by Lynsey Sharp (Reider, Edinburgh), Alison Leonard (Bud Baldaro, Blackburn) and Jenny Meadows (Trevor Painter, Wigan) saw them take victory in their respective races.

In the 1500m, all of the likely medallists advanced unscathed, with Charlie Grice (Bigg, Brighton) and Ross Murray (Craig Winrow, Gateshead) winning their respective heats. Don't discount double European medallist Chris O'Hare (Terrance Mahon, Edinburgh) though, as the Scot returns from injury. The women's event followed a similar theme; the two Laura's, Muir (Andy Young, Dundee) and Weightman (Steve Cram, Morpeth) winning the two heats.

The women's 100m heats went very much to the form book with Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie, Blackheath), Bianca Williams, Asha Philip (Steve Fudge, Newham), Desiree Henry (Reider, Enfield) and Louise Bloor (Toni Minichiello, Trafford) all qualifying for tomorrow's semi-finals, despite a stiff headwind.

It was more of the same for the men immediately afterwards, other than a quick change of wind direction; Chijindu Ujah (Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo, Enfield), Harry Aikines-Areetey (Reider, Sutton) and James Dasaolu (Fudge, Croydon) all advancing with consummate ease.

Earlier in the day, the men's 400mH heats paved the way for eight athletes to book their final berths, with Niall Flannery (Nick Dakin, Newham) arguably the most impressive winner, jogging the last 80 metres to win in 51.42. Also progressing as heat winners were Jack Houghton (Colin Bovell, Sheffield) and Dai Greene (Benke Blomkvist, Swansea).

In the women's equivalent, Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold, Pitreavie) looked in great form, securing her final spot with ease as did last year's runner-up Meghan Beesley (Dakin, Birchfield).

For full results from the Sainsbury's British Championships go to: http://www.britishathletics.org.uk/results/20150703_Birmingham/timetable/index/index.html