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Meet the UK Challenge points toppers

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Joe Ive: top of table
Joe Ive: top points.

If this summer’s UK Challenge series has provided an accurate profile of the country’s most successful developing athletes, then he/she is 25-and-a-half years old with a 17-2 chance of being in the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the IAAF World Championships that start in Osaka on Saturday 25 August.


For four of the 34 athletes who have finished as the leading points scorers in the Challenge with their best ‘Fantastic Four’ performances are in the World Championships team: 400m hurdler Dale Garland (Birchfield Harriers), sprinters Laura Turner (Harrow AC) and Donna Fraser (Croydon Harriers) plus heptathlete Jessica Ennis (City of Sheffield AC / Trafford AC).


The remaining 30 event leaders are among the 272 athletes invited to chase an enticing prize pot at the UK Challenge Final and BMC Nike Grand Prix Final at Crystal Palace on Saturday 25 August.


Their ages are of significance (a) because UK Athletics devised the UK Challenge series to help athletes gain better competition in order to improve towards international standard and (b) because they provide a guide as to whether our most talented and ambitious athletes are developing as seniors at an acceptable rate.


Three of the event leaders are aged 20: pole vaulter Joe Ive (Belgrave Harriers), who put in his successful performances before he suffered a hairline fracture of the kneecap at the European Under 23 Championships; Eilidh Child (Pitreavie AAC), who has lowered her 400m hurdles best eight times this summer; and Steph Pywell (Sale Harriers Manchester), who was also in the Norwich Union GB&NI team at the European Under 23 Championships in Debrecen, Hungary.


Four are aged 21: James Ellington (Belgrave Harriers) in the 100m, Richard Hill (Notts AC) in the 800m, the versatile Ennis in the 100m hurdles, and javelin thrower Laura Whittingham (Sale Harriers Manchester).


Two are 22: Vicky Griffiths (Liverpool Harriers) in the 800m and Louise Butterworth (Birchfield Harriers) in the pole vault.


Two are 23: Phil Nicholls (Tipton Harriers), who leads the 5000m standings having also won the World 10,000m Trial this summer, and Faye Fullerton (Havering Mayesbrook AC) in the 1500m.


Five are 24: Tim Abeyie (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) in the 200m, Richard Alleyne (also Woodford) in the 110m hurdles, Leigh Smith (Birchfield Harriers) in the long jump, 100m record-breaker Turner, and long jumper Gillian Cooke (Edinburgh AC).


The only 25-year-old to finish the 50 meetings at the top of event standings is Nadia Williams (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers), who has spent the summer fending off a Celtic invasion in the triple jump.


Five event leaders are aged 26: Garland, Osaka-bound in the 400m hurdles and as a member of the 4x400m squad; Samson Oni (Enfield and Haringey AC) in the high jump; reigning hammer champion Andy Frost (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies); Vicky Gill (Chorley AC) in the 5000m; and Zoe Derham (Birchfield Harriers), whose hammer consistency places her high in the chases for the major prizes of an Alfa Romeo car for a year and a share of £5,000.


The only 27-year-old is 3000m steeplechaser Glen Comish (Sale Harriers Manchester), who ran PBs in both the British League – making him pretty unique among endurance athletes – and the BMC series.


Five are aged 28: 400m leaders Lesley Owusu (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC) and Graham Hedman (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), Neal Speaight (Belgrave Harriers) at 1500m, reigning double champion Emeka Udechuku (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) in both the shot and the discus, and the reigning javelin champion Neil McLellan (Stevenage and North Herts AC).


The only 29-year-old is the 1997 European Junior discus bronze medallist Philippa Roles (Sale Harriers Manchester).


Of the remaining four, steeplechaser Tina Brown (Coventry Godiva Harriers) is 30, Fraser is 34 as she shapes-up in the Osaka 4x400m squad, triple jumper Julian Golley (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) is 35 and the defending shot champion Joanne Duncan (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) is 40. All have ambition undimmed by their past experiences. None will give their younger rivals an easy ride … which, after all, fits perfectly the UK Challenge philosophy of giving the highest rewards to the best quality.


Entry to the UK Challenge Final will be by £3 programme or £5 for a family. For more details of the day’s action, please click here