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Day 1 from Bedford Report and main results

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A week after Manchester sizzled in sub-tropical temperatures, Bedford was soaked - not by sun but by rain as the AAA U20 and U23 got underway.

 

With the under20 women's pole vault at an interesting stage, with four women clear at 3.35m and two more with two attempts at that height still in their spike bag, menacingly dark storm clouds gathered over the stadium and a freak blast of wind had spectators and athletes alike hanging on to their large brollies, gazebos and tents.

 

And then came the rain that forced the meeting to be suspended for more than half-an-hour until the rain became lighter.

In one of the few track finals of the day, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey took the title with the narrowest of margins, crossing the line in 10.49seconds, 1/100th of a second ahead of Wade Bennett-Jackson (Belgrave Harriers) 10.50seconds.

 

Third was Gerald Phiri (City of Sheffield) in 10.59seconds. But the focus was on the first two – who had re-enacted their close finish from Mannheim and again had seen Harry AA pip the fast improving Bennett Jackson on the line.

 

Both should be on the plane to Beijing, and Bennett-Jackson was clear in his intentions following his defeat by one-hundredth of a second;

 

“That’s not going to happen again… I plan to do better than that in Beijing – at least get a PB, that’s the least I should achieve.”

 

Meanwhile Harry AA laughed off the idea that the pressure of being last year’s Double World Youth Gold medallist was building even further towards Beijing.

 

“Pressure? My best characteristic is that I can be composed. There has been pressure and focus on me since last July; last winter, the indoors, Gateshead, so whatever builds up towards Beijing isn’t anything I haven’t shown I can handle.”

 

Joining Harry on the plane will be Luke Cutts (pole vault), Asha Philip (Newham & Essex Beagles) who won the Under20 women's 100m in 11.79seconds with Wessex & Bath's Elaine O/Neill second in 11.88 and Lucy Sargent (Havering) third in 11.96seconds.

 

Philip was thrilled with her run and set her sights on the job in hand at the World Championships immediately;

 

“A place in the final! I’ll be happy with that, but that is what I want to achieve out there – especially as I’ll be the baby of the team.

 

“Today I wasn’t nervous, I just told my self to work it, get to the end and look up.”

 

Alex Smith was equally level headed with his predictions as he made the team with a gold medal winning Championship best performance of 72.85 in the hammer.

 

“Last year going in to the World Youths I was ranked 3rd, but I thought I could have done more. This year I am ranked seventh although I would hope to have a shot at a medal I will see how it goes.”

 

Still hoping to gain the qualifying height in the under 20 women's pole vault is Emma Lyons, a student at University Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC) who won the event after a major disruption caused by the storm, clearing 3.70m.

 

Lyons, coached by Welsh champion Scott Simpson at UWIC, is now expected to compete at Loughborough in midweek in an effort to gain the 3.95m qualifier and selection in the second wave.

 

'Emma is perfectly capable of doing so,' said Simpson. 'She was well clear of 3.80 and I feel she is in the sort of shape to get very close to the 3.95m.'

 

Lyons, a Nottingham member, is fairly laid back about her chances.

 

Leanne Clark won the U20 javelin, defending her title despite a stress fracture in her left foot.

 

'I would have been gutted if I had not been able to throw today,' she said.

 

And the Cardiff AAC thrower revealed she usually puts all her effort into her first two throws fearing her injury would force her to withdraw from the competition.

 

'I normally give it everything I've got in the first one or two throws because I never know how long I will be able to continue.

'But today, I had to pull out all the stops for every round because I was under pressure.'

 

Although some way below her best, Clarke knows Beijing is beyond her capabilities but with a new coach - she has been without a coach for more than a year - advising and organising her training, she is confident of better things next year.

Another Clarke - Chris - booked a place in Sunday's final winning the second Under20s 400m semi-final in 47.45seconds with Louis Seller (Winchester) second in 48.13 and Ryan Thomas (Belgrave) third in 48.36secs.

 

They will be joined in the final by Grant Baker, (Leicester) victor in the first semi in 47.09 ahead of Robert Davis (Birchfield) 48.35 and Kris Robertson (Kirkintilloch) 48.55secs.

 

Meanwhile, in the under 23s Christine Ohuruogo (Newham & Essex Beagles) qualified for Sunday's 400m final, winning her heat in 53.53seconds ahead of Kathryn Evans (Elgin) 55.20 and Rebecca Sweeney (Sale) 55.39. It was pleasing to see the Commonwealth gold medallist commit strongly to the race, and even though she eased up somewhat in the home straight, the sight of her reversing the stagger completely before 180m was encouraging.

 

She will be joined in the final by Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet) who won heat two in 53.06 ahead of Kelly Massey (Birchfield) 54.85 and Liza Parry (Cardiff AAC) 55.15.

 

Welsh champion Faye Harding (Sale) won the third heat in 54.85 with Dunfermline's Gemma Nichol second and Cardiff's Eleanor Caney third in 55.49seconds. 

 

European Junior Champion Craig Pickering won the Under23 100m title in a wind-assisted 10.35seconds ahead of James Ellington (Belgrave) 10.37 and Rikki Fifton (Victoria Park) 10.38secs.

 

However he was displeased with his effort and reflected on his performance as typical of his season so far:

 

“I didn’t start very well, my target this year was to improve it and it’s still not consistent – it’s not been good for about 2 years.

 

“I wanted to run quicker this year and it’s not worked out yet but I’ll just keep working hard.”

 

He may have already booked his place on the plane to Gothenburg for next month's European Championships but that didn't stop Newport Harriers' Stephen Davies putting his reputation on the line in the Under23s 800m.

 

After qualifying for Sunday's final, Davies, who took silver in Manchester a week earlier, admitted that he had considered withdrawing.

 

'You can't come to these championships and expect any favours,' he said.

 

'I know I am putting myself up to be shot at but I talked it over with my coach, Tony Lewis and we decided it would be a good sharpener ahead of Crystal Palace.'

 

Davies won the third heat in one minute 52.19 ahead of Swansea Harriers' Chris Gowell (1:52.31) and Chris Saville (Herts Phoenix - 1:52.45).

 

Adam Scarr would have done his hopes of being named in the second wave of selections for Gothenburg some good when he won the U23s high jump, clearing 2.22m with Tom Parsons (Birchfield) second in 2.19m ad Nick Stanisalyevic (Woking), third with 2.16m.

 

More impressively was the conditions in which he cleared 2.22m and only narrowly failed to clear 2.25 on two out of the three attempts. Unfortunately it was in the latter stages of the men’s high jump that the winds kicked up and the black clouds loomed as spectators scurried from the trackside positions.

 

His 2.22m clearance showed how much further he had to go in the competition had a near hurricane not appeared – almost casually clearing the height as the ever-excellent officials battles to stop the scoreboard from flying away.

 

“I’m pleased but frustrated because the way I felt I had 2.28 in me today. When I approached for 2.25s I was desperately trying to drive up, but the wind was pushing me back down, so to get so close was really telling.”

 

Sunday’s events open on the track with the U20 men’s 10k walk and the U20 women’s discus.