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UK Athletics

UK stars rev-up for Euro Indoors

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A Commonwealth indoor 3000m record by Jo Pavey, a world-leading 1500m by Helen Clitheroe, a great start to Nathan Douglas’ triple jump year, a surprise win by Jeanette Kwakye and continued classy speed by Craig Pickering were among the highlights on the last weekend before the Norwich Union European Trials and UK Championships are staged at the EIS Sheffield on 10-11 February.


Here are the event by event highlights as the chase for places in the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team hots-up (with the elite qualifying standards for the European Indoor Championships to be staged at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, on 2-4 March in brackets)…


60m (men: 6.65 seconds; women: 7.30)

European Junior 100m Champion Craig Pickering (University of Bath / Marshall Milton Keynes AC) remained Europe’s top sprinter, clocking 6.55 to equal his personal best in his heat and 6.57 in the final at the Sparkassen International Meeting in Stuttgart, Germany. Ahead of him in the final were Commonwealth 100m silver medallist Olusoji Fasuba (Nigeria), winner in 6.49, and Craig Brunson (USA), second in 6.51. Behind Pickering were Jason Gardener (Wessex and Bath AC), fifth in the final in 6.61 (after a 6.59 heat), and European record holder Ronald Pognon (France), sixth in 6.68, while Mark Lewis-Francis (Birchfield Harriers) could not reproduce the improvement he showed in last week’s UK Indoor City Challenge SprintsFest, clocking 6.82 for fifth place in his heat. Pickering said: "I've now run 6.55 twice in a week and a 6.57, so it proves I can be consistent. Obviously there was pressure on me out there and I think I coped with it well. This is the first time I have competed at this level. I never expected it to be easy and it wasn't. Now I just hope things continue to progress as well as they have done. This has been something different but I'm pleased I was first European finisher." Asked for his thoughts on next weekend’s Norwich Union European Trials and UK Championships, he said: "There's no pressure on me! I'm just a young boy enjoying it. People have high expectations of me but I just ignore them.”


Darren Chin (Belgrave Harriers), who defeated MLF at last weekend’s UK Indoor City Challenge semi-final at Lee Valley Athletics Centre, ran for England in Bergen, Norway: he was second in 6.75 to Ryan Scott (Yate and District), who lowered his PB to 6.67.


World Junior 100m Champion Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Sutton and District AC) was quickest of all the sprinters at the Celtic Cup Indoor International sponsored by Jeff White at the National Athletics Centre, University of Wales in Cardiff. He won his 60m in a hand-timed 6.8.


The women’s scene continues to fire-up. Power of 10 rankings leader Jeanette Kwakye (Woodford Green with Essex Beagles), who lives in the neighbourhood where London 2012 will be held, clocked 7.27 at the Flanders IAAF Permit meet in Ghent, Belgium, to improve by two-hundredths on her time at the Norwich Union International in Glasgow. It earned her one of the best victories of her career ahead of, among others, Muriel Hurtis (France), who paid the penalty for a slow start. In Stuttgart, Joice Maduaka (Woodford Green with Essex Beagles) lowered her season’s best to 7.34 for fourth place and Montell Douglas (Blackheath and Bromley) achieved a PB of 7.36 for fifth in a race won spectacularly in 7.16 by Laverne Jones (USA). Second and third went to Germany’s Sina Schielke (7.25) and Verena Sailer (7.31). In Bergen, Anyika Onuora (Liverpool Harriers) also clocked 7.34, a massive season’s best, in a run-away win.


800m (men: 1:48.50)

James McIlroy (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC) went straight to the top of the Power of 10 rankings by running his first race of the winter in 1:49.16 in Stuttgart. It gave him 6th place in a race won in 1:45.72 by Wilfred Bungei (Kenya). Prominent Europeans were Bram Som (Netherlands) 3rd in 1:47.16; Dmitrijs Milkevics (Latvia) 4th in 1:47.26; and Rene Herms (Germany) 5th in 1:47.38.

Richard Hill (UWIC / Notts AC) won the Celtic Cup race in a hand-timed 1:50.0, a tenth ahead of James Nasrat (Newport Harriers).


1500m (women: 4:11.00)

Helen Clitheroe (Preston Harriers) front-ran over the last 400m to victory in the fastest time in the world so far this year, 4:09.28, in her first race of the season in Ghent. She told local reporters: “I’ve been training very hard in the past months. This was only my first race and it was far from ideal. Faster times will certainly follow. Of course I want to shine in front of my home crowd next month in Birmingham but first of all I need to qualify for the championships. British interest is strong these days in the middle distances.”


3000m (women: 9:05.00)

Jo Pavey (Exeter Harriers) lowered her Commonwealth indoor record by more than 3 seconds to 8:31.50 in taking third place behind a world record of 8:23.72 by Meseret Defar, who held off her Ethiopian compatriot Messelech Melkamu by a mere two-hundredths of a second. Pavey, who has been training hard in South Africa in preparation for both the European Indoors 3000m and the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, said: "I didn't think I was in shape to break my record although I came here very well prepared. There was no way I could have stuck with them but it shows my preparations towards the Europeans are going as well as, or probably much better than, I expected."


Pole vault (men: 5.65m; women: 4.40m)

Commonwealth bronze medallist Steve Lewis (Newham and Essex Beagles) achieved his third PB of this year, clearing 5.60m at a pole vault international meeting in Paris. It earned him 2nd place behind Nicolas Guigon (France), who reached 5.65m.

Another member of the group coached by Steve Rippon at the UK Athletics Performance Centre at Loughborough University, Kate Dennison (Sale Harriers Manchester) reached a new indoor PB of 4.30m for 2nd place behind Vanessa Boslak (France), who cleared 4.60m.


Triple jump (men: 16.85m)

European outdoor silver medallist Nathan Douglas (Oxford City AC) got in only one valid attempt – and it carried him 17.14m, a personal best by 9cm, in the third round. He said: "I'm more than happy with my showing. I was a little bit rusty so I just have to dust away the cobwebs.” He finished second in the competition, 3cm behind Nelson Evora (Portugal).


There were some outstanding performances in the age groups at the Celtic Cup, where Scotland won the senior match and England the Under 20 match.

Jade Williams (Amman Valley) won the Under 15 Girls’ 1500m in 4:45.8, three seconds quicker than the Welsh Indoor record set by Non Stanford (Swansea Harriers) in 2003. She goes to the top of the Power of 10 rankings.

The top two in the Power of 10 Under 20 Men’s shot rankings improved on their bests. Jay Thomas (Kent AC) won with 16.63m and Matthew Evans (Carmarthen Harriers) improved his own Welsh Indoor Under 20 record by 16cm to 15.78m.


If you are aware of any more highlights that should be added to this report, please email the details to UKA Athletics Writer Trevor Frecknall at tfrecknall@hotmail.com


For latest UK rankings, go to http://www1.powerof10.info

For Celtic Cup results, go to http://www.welshathletics.org

For details of the England international at Bergen, go to http://www.friidrett.no/friidrett/res/2007/ho/norna030207.pdf