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UK Athletics

Victory for Hayley Yelling in Spain

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Hayley Yelling
Hayley Yelling

Spain was a happy hunting ground for Norwich Union GB combined eventers and cross country runners on Sunday 28 January.


Hayley Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC), who is pre-selected for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships to be staged in the steamy Kenyan city of Mombasa in March, won the Senior Women’s race at the San Sebastian International meeting.


The Buckinghamshire maths teacher, who led Norwich Union GB to the Senior Women’s Team silver medals at last month’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships, scuttled over the line in 17 minutes 51 seconds to demonstrate she has recovered from the hamstring injury that has kept her out of races for the past three weeks.


And her sister-in-law Liz Yelling (Bedford and County AC), who is preparing for the Flora London Marathon and a tilt at the IAAF World Championships qualifying time, only just missed making it a family 1-2. She clocked 17:56, but finished third, a stride behind Zakia Mrisho (Tanzania). Ana Dias, who was in the Portuguese sextet that snatched Gold at the Europeans on countback ahead of Norwich Union GB, was fourth on this occasion in 18:07.


Meanwhile in Zaragoza, three of Norwich Union GB’s eight competitors achieved personal best scores – and Julia Bennett set a British masters record – in a senior indoor combined events international.


Katia Lannon (Sale Harriers Manchester) rose to third on the UK under-23 all-time indoor pentathlon list behind Jessica Ennis and Nicola Gautier by scoring 4082 points only a fortnight after she won the English title with a PB of 3868 and a week after she spearheaded Manchester’s semi-final victory in the UK Indoor City Challenge.


The 21-year-old Brunel University student ran a 60m hurdles PB of 8.91 seconds, high jumped an indoor PB of 1.75m, put the shot 11.20m, long jumped 5.80m after two no-jumps, and lowered her indoor 800m PB to 2:18.76. It earned her fifth place in the match, which was won by 20-year-old Denisa Scerbova (Czech Republic) with 4341 points.


Bennett (Epsom and Ewell) took ninth place with 3997 points – a British masters’ over-35 best – with a 9.10 seconds 60m hurdles, 1.81m victory in the high jump, 11.64m shot, 5.74m long jump and 2:28.74 800m.


The other two young members of the GB women’s team also achieved event PBs: Phyllis Agbo (Thames Valley Harriers) in the shot with 12.84m; Louise Hazell (Peterborough AC) in the 800m with 2:26.24, her fastest indoors. Agbo totalled 3881 (8.64, 1.60, 12.84, 5.83, 2:34.05) for 14th place while Hazell was 15th with 3872 (8.59, 1.60, 11.48, 5.74, 2:26.24).


It meant that Norwich Union GB finished third overall in the Women’s match. Result: 1 Czech Rep 12,544; 2 France 12,231; 3 Norwich Union GB 11,960; 4 Spain 11,355; 5 Netherlands 11,053.


The Norwich Union GB Men battled to fourth in the heptathlon. Result: 1 France 17,003; 2 Spain 16,534; 3 Netherlands 16,231; 4 Norwich Union GB 15,926; 5 Czech Rep 15,743.


Kevin Sempers (Belgrave Harriers) led the team with a PB of 5440 points, taking him to 14th in the UK senior all-time rankings and sixth among under-23s. He finished ninth in the match with a 60m PB of 7.12 seconds, a 7.00m long jump that equalled his indoor PB, 11.60m shot, 2.01m high jump, 8.30 seconds 60m hurdles, 4.40m PB in the pole vault and 1000m in 2:51.32, three seconds faster than his previous best.


Ben Hazell (Basingstoke and Mid Hants AC) recorded the squad’s third PB score, 5363 to go 17th on the all-time senior list with the help of PBs in the 60m (7.32) and shot (13.96m) plus an equal PB in the pole vault (4.30m). He also long jumped 6.62m, high jumped 1.92m, negotiated the 60m hurdles in 8.54 and covered the 1000m in 2:41.57 to clinch 11th place.


The team’s other scorer, James Wright (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies AC) started with a 60m PB of 7.03 and finished with a 1000m PB of 2:45.53. In between he long jumped 6.68m, put the shot 10.75m, high jumped 1.77m, covered the hurdles in 8.36 seconds and pole vaulted 4.20m.


Dean Showler-Davis (Winchester and District AC) epitomised the spirit that pervades the squad after UK Athletics squad sessions through the winter. He battled ‘flu until all his colleagues had scored good pole vault points, then withdrew from the competition.


Team leader Ian Grant said: “The men’s result indicates more good progression after the hard work the athletes and coaches have put in through the winter, at UK Athletics squad weekends and at their home bases. Given that the oldest in the men’s team is aged 24, we really are beginning to see some solid progress.


“And Katia moving into our top 12 seniors all-time at the age 21 means upper echelon progress continues among the women. She will have the chance to improve even more at the under-23 and under-20 combined events international at Lee Valley Athletics Centre on 24-25 February.”