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Aviva European Trials

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Katie Dennison
Hitting the heights - Dennison takes UK record at Sheffield


14 February 2009

Follow this link for instant results from this weekend in Sheffield.

Two years on from the trials which selected the Aviva GB and NI team for their best ever European Indoor Championships held on home turf in Birmingham, Sheffield’s EIS hosted the trials for the Turin Championship in March.

And there were thrills and spills aplenty as the lure of European Competition made the race for places that much more lucrative.

Top of the pile was Kate Dennison who became the first women to achieve a European Indoor qualifying mark as she also set a national record in the Pole Vault of 4.45m – eclipsing the 4.44m held by Janine Whitlock since 2002.

Dennison who sat out much of the early stages until the heights increased to her level, made the height on her third and final attempt after almost leaving the competition 20cm earlier.

Silver medallist Emma Lyons (Notts) had put pressure on the British number one by passing 4.25m at the first attempt, whilst Dennison struggled over on her third attempt. But she rallied to ensure that by 4.45m she was fully warmed up and the British Record and $5000 cheque was finally hers.

Dennison said:  “Getting the British record has been a long time coming  - it’s given me a great confidence boost – I’ve had a short run up today hopefully moving it back a bit I can achieve a bigger height.”

Dwain Chambers took the 60m title for the second year running with a series of fast times that made him the favourite from the outset, culminating in the final with the second of two 6.51 clockings – a PB and jointly the fastest in the world this year.

Having opened his account as the fastest qualifier in the heats with 6.53 and continuing through the semi with his first clocking of 6.51, Chambers looked in control and this was confirmed when his main rival left the competition early.

Aviva Glasgow International  60m winner Craig Pickering (Marshall Milton Keynes) was eliminated  as a series of false starts blighted his semi final and his hopes. “It goes without saying that I am disappointed,” he said. “If it was me picking the team I would not be in but I am not a selector, so I will have to wait and see.”

Chambers however was delighted with yet another UK title: “I’ve just been working so hard. The crowd here today were great and it just helped me to go out and perform. – As for being favourite for the Europeans I hope so – I’ve done the hard part and that’s to qualify.”

In second place Tyrone Edgar (Woodford Green Essex Ladies) in 6.64 held off Simeon Williamson with 6.66.

In the women’s 60m final, Joice Maduaka at the age of 35 became a five-time champion at the UK Indoor championships. She held off former World Junior championship representative Elaine O’ Neill who had looked impressive throughout qualifying.

Maduaka, who clocked 7.36 ahead of O Neill’s 7.41 in taking the title, laughed off the 16 year age gap between herself and second place:

“I have to laugh at the age thing – at the end of the day I love this sport. This win was sweet, it really was sweet, just because of a new coach and we’re working on new things – and the training group I’m in is a really nice environment.”

Nick McCormick was impressive as he led all the way in the men’s 3000m and eased over the line to a European indoor qualifying standard of 7.54.73. The Morpeth Harrier also dragged Mark Draper (Windsor SEH) to a huge PB of 7.56.46 in second place.

McCormick who is now coached by John Nuttall was pleased with his progress: “I’m moving up to 5000m this summer and 3000m is a stepping stone. It’s all about doing it at the right time. I tried to do it a couple of years ago but it didn’t work – it’s all about getting experience and working towards London.”

The women’s 3000m boasted a variety box field with cross country, middle distance, and steeplechase specialists all to the fore. Helen Clitheroe (Preston) put in the early work, closely track by Ireland’s Deidre Byrne.

With 400m to go however Gemma Turtle (Shaftesbury Barnet) broke ranks and burst away in an attempt to take the title. Her effort almost paid off but Byrne escaped with a lap to go and won in 9.04.78 and Turtle was also pipped by a fast finishing Katrina Wootton in 9.05.27 to 9.05.41, although Turtle’s time was a PB by a massive nine seconds.

Gemma Bennett (Shaftesbury Barnet) was a dominant figure throughout the rounds of the women’s 60m hurdles, eventually taking the title in a frustrating 8.06sec – a PB, but still outside the European Indoor qualifying mark of 8.05. Silver went to Kelly Sotherton (Birchfield) in 8.30 whilst Zara Hohn (Wakefield) took third with 8.49.

Bennett was elated but focussed on the job in hand:

“I’ve still got a job to do at the Grand prix in Birmingham,” she said. “I think I could have gone faster – possibly sub eight.”

Away from the track Nony Mordi (Shaftesbury Barnet) enjoyed a close battle with clubmate Nadia Williams but took the triple jump title with a series headed by 13.23m against Williams’ 13.18m. Her win meant the women’s triple jump title headed north of the border for the first time.

“I was hoping for more distance, but I am pleased. My timing isn’t quite there yet but that will come with more competitions,” she said.

Another hoping for more distance was the 2008 World Indoor Long Jump silver medallist Chris Tomlinson (Newham and Essex). His 7.72m was enough to secure the UK title ahead of Birchfield’s Leigh Smith  with 7.57m but was shy of the 7.90m to make it to Italy in March.

Tomlinson, who has recently moved to be coached by Frank Attoh following 13 years with Peter Stanley, told how he was determined to make progress within his event:

“It was nice to get back to winning ways today, but I can’t believe my last jump was my best as it felt terrible.

“I’ll check with Frank on how we will go forward from this – he has given me renewed enthusiasm for training – my aim this year is to jump 8.50m.”

In the women’s competition there was a close match between Ireland’s Kelly Proper, Birchfield’s  Amy Woodman and Jade Johnson (Herne Hill). In the end Proper was the victor – also setting an Irish record with 6.44m ahead of Woodman with 6.40m and Johnson taking third with 6.36m.

In the men’s shot, Mark Edwards (Birchfield) secured his victory with a third round throw of 18.90m to take the title ahead of Kieren Kelly (Newham and Essex Beagles).

St Lucia’s Darwin Edwards took the high jump title in a tough high jump where most competitors found it tough to progress through the heights. His winning leap of 2.22m was enough to better Robbie Grabarz (Bedford), Robert Mitchell (Sale) and Martyn Bernard (Wakefield) who placed second third and fourth respectively with 2.19m.


In qualifying for Sunday’s finals there were also some strong performances from GB and NI hopefuls aiming for Turin.

In the women’s 400m Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet) stepped down in distance to qualify fastest for Sunday’s final after she won her heat in a PB 54.66 and improved it further in winning her semi final in 53.30. The experienced Donna Fraser (Croydon) also made the final winning her heat with 53.90.

Richard Buck dominated his way through the men’s 400m heats and semi final – winning both rounds with 47.73 and 47.52 respectively, but his closest rival on Sunday is likely to be Newham and Essex’s Mark Brown who ran 47.55 in winning his semi ahead of Dale Garland. Richard Strachan (Leeds) will also feature following two strong performances on his way the final.

The women’s 800m heats were almost a procession with Jenny Meadows (Wigan) qualifying way ahead of the pack with 2.04.19. The only athlete matching her performance level on Saturday was Tara Bird (Woodford Green and Essex Ladies) who took almost two seconds off her PB with 2.04.96 by tracking Meadows’ fast pace for much of their heat. 

In the men’s 800m, the main players rose to the challenge with Ed Aston (Cambridge & Coleridge), Joe Thomas (Cardiff), Richard Hill (Notts) and Damien Moss (Rugby & Northampton) all winning their heats in impressive form.

Likewise, Neil Speaight (Belgrave Harriers) qualified for Sunday’s 1500m final with the fastest time of 3.52.02 – as did British 3000m record holder Mo Farah with 3.53.17 – the Newham and Essex man stepping down to the shorter distance for the trials.