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GB JUNIORS' IMPRESS AT MANCHESTER INTERNATIONAL

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A total of 20 juniors secured podium places on a successful night at the inaugural Manchester International meet, with the 48 strong team finishing in a fantastic third place at the end of proceedings.

The juniors faced stiff competition on a busy night of action at Sportscity, with teams representing England, Scotland, Wales, the British League/UK Women’s League and the Armed Forces going head to head in a points per event match-off, making their eventual bronze placing as a team all the more impressive.

World Junior 10,000m champion Callum Wilkinson set the British team on their way in the first track event of the evening, with the 19 year-old stepping down in distance to take his place in the mixed gender 3000m field in scorching early evening conditions.

Wilkinson showed no signs of rustiness in his first race back since gold glory at the World Junior Championships in Bdygoszcz last month, leading the field from the gun to the tape to seal victory in 11:49.85, bringing home a maximum eight points for the juniors’ team in doing so.

Post-race a satisfied Wilkinson said: “I really relished getting back on the start line; I’ve had a couple of weeks off and now I've come back with the itch to race. It was a competitive race and a strong field but I felt I took the race on well. Over the second kilometre I managed to pull away well to allow for a comfortable finish."

Speaking on the opportunity to represent Britain competitively once again, Wilkinson added: “To get the British vest back out is a really magical feeling – representing your country is something I’ll never take for granted. Next year the aim is to really step up and wear it as a senior, so that’ll be the motivation in the back of my mind throughout training and racing.”

Robert Sakala (Piotr Spas) looked to have troubled his lifetime best with a terrific run in the 110m hurdles, with his eventual clocking of 13.75 less than a tenth of a second away from his current best. The time was enough however to see the Croydon Harrier join Wilkinson in topping the rostrum, with pole-vault specialist Adam Hague (Trevor Fox) also going home with individual gold following a successful first-time clearing of 5.25m, a feat the rest of the field couldn't match.

Tom Holden (Mark Hookway) was another junior almost in personal best form in the one mile event. Like Sakala, he also finished just a tenth of a second short of a revision, with a clocking of 4:14.52 good enough to see him take silver, whilst one-lap specialists Ella Barrett (Daniel Duke) and Alex Haydock-Wilson (Earl Herbert) also impressed with silver and bronze places respectively.

England's 100m athlete Joel Fearon continued his spectacular season over the distance as he posted a blistering time of 10.0 (+1.8), with GB junior representative Gerald Matthew (Jane Dixon) finishing in sixth with a steady clocking of 10.65 in the same race. In the women’s race, European Youth 200m silver medal winner Alisha Rees (Willy Russell) finished strongly for bronze in her final competition of the calender year. Speaking afterwards, the Edinburgh AC athlete admitted that consistency was the key target in 2017.

“I just wanted to put out a good race tonight, I felt quite good throughout and the time is one that I’m pleased with. Next year hopefully I can gain some consistency and post some strong times around the 11.6/11.7 mark.”

There were podium places for numerous athletes out in the field, including European Youth medallists Holly Mills (James Coney) and Jake Norris (Paul Dickenson), the former placing in second with a best leap of 5.72m in round three of the long jump.

Despite Mills’ silver medal winning exploits, the European Youth gold medallist admitted she was disappointed with the distances she jumped, saying: “It didn’t go exactly to plan – it’s near the back end of the season so I wasn’t expecting a PB or anything, but my best jump was around 60cm off my best.”

For Norris, a best throw of 70.36m in round three of the hammer, good enough to claim silver, was tinged with disappointment, with the silver medallist from Tbilisi stating that he had hoped to further his current lifetime best of 71.07m in Manchester.

“I felt like I could have got a lot more out of today, everything was feeling great heading into the competition but it just didn’t fall into place when it came to down to it.

“I really hoped to revise my PB to somewhere in the 72m region, but I’ve got four more competitions this season, so hopefully it might come in one of those.”

Three failures at 2.18m meant Tom Gale (Denis Doyle) also took silver alongside Mills and Norris, with the Team Bath athlete content with a best of 2.14m on the back of an impressive season in terms of personal progress.

“I felt like it was a good performance and a nice way to end the season, I’ve been jumping way above what I thought I could this season, so I’m quite happy with second place and 2.14m, especially as it’s come against a number of guys who have beaten me plenty of times before.”

Fellow podium placers alongside Gale included Finette Agyapong (Coral Nourrice) in the 200m, Aimee Pratt (Vincente Modahl) in the 2000m steeplechase, Naomi Ogbeta (Tom Cullen) in the triple jump, Divine Oladipo (John Hillier) in the discus and shot, Harry Hughes (Michael McNeill), Bethan Rees (Mark Pinner) - both in the javelin, and  Mollie Courtney (David Warner) in the 100m hurdles.

Elsewhere, there were top five finishes for Bobby Clay (Rob Denmark) in the 3000m, a discipline in which she won gold at last year’s European Junior championships, Isabelle Boffey (Douglas Stone) in the 800m, and Ryan Gormon (Karen Buck) over 200m.

Results from the Manchester International meet can be accessed HERE.