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European Junior Championships Day 3 report

Alex Nelson & Hayley Jones
Gold for Alex Nelson & Hayley Jones
Perri Shakes-Drayton
Perri Shakes-Drayton

Hayley Jones and Alex Nelson both struck gold over 200m, team captain Perri Shakes-Drayton broke the UK Junior Women’s 400m hurdles record to earn a silver medal, Stephanie Twell ran the bravest track race of her 17 years to win 1500m silver and Luke Fagan and Toby Ulm added bronze medals for the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team on the third day of the European Junior Championships in Hengelo, Netherlands, on Saturday 21 July.


It meant the team will go into the last day in third place in the medals table behind two much bigger squads, Russia and Germany.


It’s the first time in the 19 editions of these championships that GB sprinters have won both 200m titles – and the team’s equivalent of 'Little and Large' succeeded in totally different ways.


Little 'Ms Dynamite' Hayley Jones (Wigan AC) – at 5 foot 3.5 inches tall the smallest of the women in her final – cause a false start and yet sprang from her blocks so quickly when the race finally got underway that she was never headed.


She crossed the line in 23.37 seconds – a personal best by a fifth of a second – a full four metres ahead of her nearest challenger. The other medals went to: 2 Yelizaveta Bryzhina (Ukraine) 23.66; 3 Inna Eftimova (Bulgaria) 23.78.


“I have never been so nervous in my life,” Jones said. “I have no idea how I ran so fast but I do know it was for my Nan. She died in March and I promised her I would come out here. I never thought I was going to win it I’m sure she was here with me.


“My bend was spot-on. I never expected to come off the bend in front. Then I expected them to come back at me. But I never saw anybody.”


And within minutes, she was having to share the celebratory Union Jack with the Men’s 200m Champion – the team’s quietly spoken giant, Alex Nelson (Sale Harriers Manchester).


His race was the precise opposite of the Jones procession. Julian Reus (Germany) led into the straight and was initially announced as the winner – only for the electronic timing to give the verdict to Nelson by a fairly emphatic margin … with Fagan (Enfield and Haringey) thrillingly third.


The result of the race (wind: -1.0) was: 1 Nelson 20.83; 2 Reus 20.87; 3 Fagan 21.08.


“The guy on the tannoy is usually right,” said Nelson. “All the way along the straight Reus was slightly in front and I was thinking, ‘I’m going to get you, ‘You’re not having me’, ‘You’re not beating me. – and basically I won it on the dip. I just fell over really.”


He added that he was spurred on by the memory of being edged into a silver medal position by his GB team mate Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Sutton and District AC) at the 2005 World Youth Championships: “On the line, I was thinking of Harry. I was not going to let that happen again!”


Nelson went on to pay tribute to his coaches, Chris Brackstone and Graham Knight: “They both said I had to get out and stay with him on the bend because on paper he is quicker than me over 100. But I like to think I can catch anybody when it really matters. And he was just not going to beat me.”


Luke Fagan
Luke Fagan

Fagan, quicker than everybody else in the semi-finals, said of his bronze medal winning performance in the final: “I’m happy with it. The race was OK. The only problem I had was that my calves were slightly cramping up from soon

after the start. So I was not able to be as explosive as I was in the rounds.”


Norwich Union GB&NI Women’s Team Captain Perri Shakes-Drayton (Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets AC) broke the UK Junior Women’s 400m hurdles record with a sensational personal best – yet was pipped for the gold medal right on the line by Fabienne Kohlmann (Germany).


The national record had stood to Northern Ireland’s Vicki Jamison at 57.27 seconds since 28 July 1996. Shakes-Drayton’s lifetime best was 57.48 at the start of today. Now it is 56.46. As she said, eyes sparkling with shocked delight: “Oh my!”


The fact that Kohlmann ran a PB of 56.42 to snatch gold in the last half-stride of the race was almost incidental to the Londoner, who said: “I changed my game plan and decided not to go off too hard, as I did in the semi-final because I was ‘dying’. I went hard at 200 and knew I had hit the front into the straight. I skipped some hurdles near the end but I only realised she was coming back at me on the line.”


Meghan Beesley (Tamworth AC), a 17-year-old in her first year of 400m hurdling, finished sixth in her first major final in 58.76 seconds to suggest this will not be the last time GB has something to celebrate in this event!


Steph Twell
Steph Twell

European Junior Cross Country Champion Stephanie Twell (Aldershot Farnham and District) won the women’s 1500m silver medal with a brave front-running effort while her training mate Emma Pallant missed bronze by half a second.


Both athletes are coached by Mick Woods, UK Athletics Performance Coach at the UKA Endurance Performance Centre, St Mary’s University Twickenham.


After the leaders dawdled through the first lap in 73.91 seconds, with 17-year-old Twell staying well out of any trouble in ninth place, she hit the front with 900m to go and built a lead of 10 metres.


Hard though she battled to maintain her hot pace – through 800m in 2:25.99 and 1200m in 3:28.39 – she was caught with less than 50 metres to go by Cristina Vasiloiu (Romania), who crossed the line in 4:15.30.


Twell, who finished in 4:16.03, said: “In my head, all I was thinking about were Mick’s instructions. I didn’t want to get involved in the fighting at the beginning so I went straight to the back. When I realised it was slow, I notched it up a little gear with 900 to go then with 700 to go I let them know I wasn’t coming back. Unfortunately I got lactic in the last 100. It was a big learning curve!”


Pallant, one of the athletes on Dame Kelly Holmes’ ‘On Camp with Kelly’ initiative supported by Norwich Union, battled into fourth place in 4:18.71 with the bronze medal going to Daniela Donisa (Romania) in 4:18.19.


“Being that close makes you very hungry for it next time,” said Pallant. “I’m just 18 so I have the World Juniors next year then the Under 23s, inspired by Abby Westley and all that. The race was a bit slow and aggressive at the start. It was more easy for me and my long-striding legs to run after Steph kindly picked it up. I think she did me a favour. I gave it my all.”


Toby Ulm
Toby Ulm

Toby Ulm (Swindon Harriers), coached by former international Howard Moscrop and advised by 1968 Olympic champion David Hemery, handled lane eight so well in the Men’s 400m hurdles final that he contributed a bronze medal to Norwich Union GB&NI’s growing treasure chest while Nathan Woodward (Tamworth AC) finished seventh in 52.57 seconds.


In a quality race of five PBs, all three medallists ran their fastest-ever times: 1 Silvio Schirrmeister (Germany) 50.60; 2 Vyacheslav Sakayev (Russia) 50.72; 3 Ulm 50.99 – a landmark improvement on his previous best of 51.60.


Yet Ulm’s first instinct was to be critical: “I still ran out of puff on  that last little bit. I ran 17 (strides) to the last hurdle again. Howard will not be happy with that! But I got a medal and that’s what I came for. I will never ever come into a race thinking I’m going to win. I was expecting Nathan would come up at hurdle five and he didn’t.


“I had a cheeky little look at hurdle eight and was third and the Russian kid came from nowhere. I thought I’d thrown it away and I was going to be fourth. But the French guy (Mickael Francois) almost fell at the last.”


And Ulm revealed a third wise man – in addition to Moscrop and Hemery – had helped him. “My training partner Dave Taylor drives me everywhere and does all the with me through the winter. There was no way I would be here if it wasn’t for him.”


Woodward, the 2006 World Schools Championships bronze medallist coached by Matt Hargreaves, refused to make anything of the fact that he missed seven crucial weeks of preparation with a knee injury. “I wasn’t here to think about the injury,” said the 17-year-old. “I was here to perform.


“Today it felt better for the first two hurdles but after that it all fell to pieces. I don’t know why. I’m going to have to learn from it. I’m determined I am going to come back strongly for the World Juniors next year.”


Men’s 400m final: Nigel Levine (Bedford and County AC) agonisingly missed a fairytale. Coming into this, his first major championship, the 18-year-old was ranked the fastest teenager in Europe even though this his first season in the toughest of all sprints.

But in only his ninth race over the distance he came up against much more experienced rivals and finished fourth in 46.58 seconds – more than a quarter of a second outside his fastest while all three medallists ran personal bests: 1 Yannick Fonsat (France) 46.34; 2 Marcin Klaczanski (Poland) 46.46; 3 Eric Kruger (Germany) 46.49.

“It was all right,” Levine said of his run. “It was hard. I did my best.”


Men’s high jump final: Alan McKie (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC) was seventh with a PB of 2.19m on his championships debut. McKie, the third athlete to be steered to the international arena by coach Carol Jackson after Mark Crowley and Robbie Grabarz, had first-time clearances at 2.00m, 2.05m, 2.10m, 2.14m, took two attempts at his old PB of 2.17m and then sailed over 2.19m at the first attempt before missing at 2.21m.

The gold medal went to Oleksandr Nartov (Ukraine), who cleared 2.23m at the second attempt.

McKie said: "I enjoyed it. It's reward for what you've been doing for the whole winter. It's what we work for."


Discus final: Brett Morse (Cardiff AAC), who qualified for his first major final with a last-gasp qualifying round throw of 56.51m, went through the pain barrier to finish ninth. Having cut the forefinger of his throwing hand in training yesterday, he could not improve on his first round throw of 53.91m. His other two efforts were 52.18m and 53.69m as he missed out on the last eight – and the chance of three further throws – by 17cm.

Morse left the competition mystified as to why he had not reached his best form: “I wasn’t nervous. No excuses. I’ve got to learn to cope with it in time for the World Juniors next year!”


Heptathlon: Jade Surman (Birchfield Harriers), who was sixth at last year’s IAAF World Junior Championships, finished the day 14th with 3184 points. Leader Aiga Grabuste (Latvia) had 3481 points.

Surman began her first day with a 100m hurdles PB of 13.73 seconds despite a head wind of 0.6 metres per second. It was an improvement by four-hundredths of a second on her previous fastest, earned her 1017 points and was the second-quickest of all 31 competitors. But she was not overly impressed: “I thought I’d gone faster than that. I was a bit high over some hurdles.”

She was 19th in the high jump with a 1.69m clearance for 806 points.

Next came the shot, which went out to 10.08m for 27th place and 535 points.

She ended the day with second place in her 200m heat (wind: -0.5) in 25.67 seconds for 826 points.


This all followed yesterday’s GB highlights when Emily Pidgeon won the 5000m bronze medal and Eden Francis achieved the country’s highest ever position, fifth, in the shot.


Here is how the other action unfolded on the third day and what the athletes said of their performances


Men’s hammer qualifying: Both of the throwers coached by former international Dave Smith at Hull sailed into tomorrow’s final.

Dave’s son Alex Smith (Sale Harriers Manchester) was top in Group B with a third round throw of 70.75, an effort that was beaten by only the leading pair in Group A.

Smith, bronze medallist at the 2005 IAAF World Youth Championships, did not panic when his effort effort flew out to the left of the sector for a foul, put in a solid 66.54m in the second round – and then shot to the top of the pool at the death.

He said: “The circle was really slow but I got used to it in the end. The first throw went out of the sector, but it was long. The second round I did a bit easy. Then I could relax a little bit as the third round went on and I saw I was going through. I’m optimistic now I’ve got used to the circle.”

James Bedford
James Bedford


James Bedford (Kingston upon Hull AC) was a fighting fourth in Group A on his international debut with a third round throw of 66.45m.

After opening by landing his ball in the left side of the net, he hooked his second effort out to 65.93m just inside the sector, but kept his cool magnificently under pressure as the sun burnt down out of a blue sky – a vivid contrast to yesterday’s torrential rain, lightning, thunder and foreboding cloak of clouds.

Only two of Group A beat the automatic qualifying distance of 70.00m: Siarhei Tsytsoryn (Belarus) threw 73.38m and Adrian Pop (Romania) 71.55m.

Bedford said: “I was confident through my warm-up but I got in the Call Room and it hit me where I was. My first throw I should have stopped and started again but I let it go. I stayed relaxed and the other two felt nice. Now I shall watch Group B with all fingers crossed.”

It worked: Bedford qualified for the final in 10th place overall among the 25 throwers.


Men’s 110m hurdles first round: The Norwich Union GB&NI trio were among the eight fastest in an event in which the Championship record still stands to Jon Ridgeon – now a director of Fast Track, which organises UK Athletics’ televised meetings. He clocked 13.46 to win the title ahead of Colin Jackson at Cottbus, Germany, in 1985.

Callum Priestley (Leicester Coritanian) was third in heat one (wind: 0.0) in 13.91 on his major international debut – even though he clattered the penultimate hurdle hard. Undeterred by lining-up alongside reigning World Junior Champion Artur Noga (Poland), Priestley said: “I got out of the blocks better than him. If I had not hit that hurdle, I would have run a lot quicker. I lost a lot of time.”

The result proved it. Until then, he was stride for stride with Noga, who went on to win in 13.58, while Balazs Baji moved through to second place in a Hungarian Junior record of 13.82. It left Priestley hoping to progress as a fastest loser. He did, with ease, as the eighth-fastest of the 38 starters.

Julian Adeniran (Charnwood AC), a semi-finalist at last year’s IAAF World Junior Championships in his first summer in the sport, was an immensely impressive winner of heat three (wind: +0.6).

He seared 13-hundredths of a second off his previous lifetime best by clocking 13.71 seconds, the fourth-fastest time of the entire round. He said: “I executed quite a good race. There is a lot more I can improve to run well. I’m not surprised but I am ecstatic. I knew a PB was there. It represents the level and form that I know I am at. I am glad to peak when I need to.”

Gianni Frankis (Newham and Essex Beagles), bronze medallist at the 2005 IAAF World Youth Championships and a finalist at last summer’s IAAF World Junior Championships, cruised to victory in heat three (wind: -1.3) in 13.81 seconds.

“It was neat,” he said. “But it felt really slow.” It was good enough to rate him sixth-fastest of the qualifier for the semi-finals. The quicker athletes were Noga, Estonia’s Rauno Kirschbaum (14.23) and Paraschiv Eftimie (Romania) with a PB of 14.27m.


Men’s pole vault qualifying: Luke Cutts (Dearneside AC) finally swung into action but no-heighted in a competition postponed from yesterday because of the severe thunderstorm that forced a 100-minute break in the programme.

Cutts, who has a best of 5.40m this year, entered at 4.90m but found it too difficult in the blustery wind.


Women’s 200m semi-finals: Hayley Jones (Wigan AC), second in her first round heat in 23.57 seconds, flew to victory in the first semi-final (wind: -1.6) in 23.59 seconds then revealed: “I didn’t the best start. I wobbled a bit and then set me off balance. It didn’t affect me too much, though.”

Joey Duck (Marshall Milton Keynes AC), third in her first round heat in 23.41 seconds, was elminated, fifth in the second semi-final (wind: +1.3) in 24.42 seconds. Yelizaveta Bryzhina (Ukraine) won in a PB of 23.47 ahead of yesterday’s 100m silver medallist Inna Eftimova (Bulgaria), who clocked 23.83.

“I’m gutted,” said Duck, who trained in the group coached by Mike Leonard until May. “If Craig [Pickering] can do it, so should I. It was my fault. I didn’t drive hard enough. Next year’s my year – the World Juniors. I’ll be ready for that!”


Men’s 200m semi-finals: The Norwich Union GB&NI duo of Luke Fagan (Enfield and Haringey) and Alex Nelson (Sale Harriers Manchester) won their heats in impressive style to move through to this evening’s final.

Fagan clocked a landmark PB of 20.91 seconds into a 0.3 head wind to underline his quality. “I executed the right way,” he said. “As in the heats, I over-strided towards the end but I kept my form this time and it paid off.”

Nelson won heat two (wind: -1.5) in 21.22 and said: “It was all right. It was important to win to be sure of getting a seeded lane. The next one is important!”

David Telfer-James (Enfield and Haringey) went out, fifth in the third heat (wind: -0.6) in 21.81. Julian Reus (Germany) won in 21.09.


Men’s 800m semi-finals: Both Norwich Union GB&NI athletes made it through to tomorrow’s final.

James Brewer (Cheltenham and County Harriers), who went out in the semi-finals of both the 2005 World Youth and 2006 World Junior Championships, made it through to his first major final in the most commanding manner imaginable. He led all the way – through 400m in 57.45 and controlled the pace to finish a metre ahead of the field in 1:50.97.

He said: “That was more like it! I didn’t look as if I was ranked second in Europe yesterday. This was much better. I just thought, ‘No mess-ups today!’ It was good, I’m pleased. I’ve finally made a major final.”

Mark Mitchell (Forres Harriers), who also suffered elimination in the semi-finals of both the 2005 World Youth and 2006 World Junior Championships, did just enough to make sure of progressing. He finished fourth in the second heat in 1:51.63 and said: “Through to the final – that was the aim. The aim now is to get a medal.”


Women’s discus qualifying: Making a swift return to action after her fifth place in the shot final last night – the highest position ever achieved by a GB athlete in the 19 editions of these championships – Eden Francis (Leicester Coritanian) handled yet more severe pressure. After two fouls left her on the verge of shock elimination, she maintained her technique to send her third and final effort spinning out to 48.95m, within 5cm of the automatic qualifying mark. It was good enough to secure her third place in Group A behind Anna-Katharina Weller (Germany) who led with 52.03m and Vera Karmishina (Russia), second with 50.88m.

“Flipping heck,” Francis exclaimed. “Two days and I just keep screwing up. Maybe I should take up darts or something … bowling, maybe.”

She will have to delay any change of sport, though. She qualified for tomorrow’s final, sixth-best of all 22 competitors despite her below par performance.

Jenny Scott (Birmingham Rowheath) was eliminated, 12th in Group B with a best of 42.89m on her international debut. It came in the last round after she had thrown 41.50m and 41.46m, well below the best of 45.84m that earned her place in the team.

She said: "I just couldn't find my technique today - either in warm-up or in the competition. I don't know why. I've been throwing well all week. Until today."


Women’s triple jump qualifying: Jayne Nisbet (Edinburgh AC) marked her major international debut by finishing 10th in Group B with 12.71m. Drawn to jump last of the 11 competitors in search of the automatic qualifying mark of 13.10m (9cm beyond her best), she opened with 12.36m then had a foul before reaching 12.71m.


Women’s 4x100m semi-finals: The Norwich Union GB&NI quartet of 100m finalist Anike Shand-Whittingham, World Youths 100m bronze medallist Ashlee Nelson, vastly experienced Lucy Sargent and World Youths 100m Champion Asha Philip won their heat in 44.78 seconds, the fastest junior time of this year. The final will be held tomorrow.

Sargent, in her fourth year in this pressure-cooker atmosphere and the only member of the team with previous experience of this kind of occasion, said: “It was good. All the changes were safe. We didn’t stretch the check marks because we knew we had the four fastest girls on the track.”


Men’s 4x100m semi-finals: The Norwich Union GB&NI quartet of Funmi Sobodu, Richard Kilty, James Alaka and Leevan Yearwood stormed to victory in their heat in 40.40m seconds to also reach tomorrow’s final.


Men’s 4x400m semi-finals: The Norwich Union GB&NI quartet of David Martin, Robert Davis, Louis Persent and Jordan McGrath won their heat in 3:10.49, a time beaten in the other heat by Belgium (3:07.94) and Poland (3:08.17).


For the details from these championships please click here