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UK Athletics

Lizzie Hall breaks UK Steeplechase record

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Forget England's stuttering performance for the start of their World Cup campaign, the British sporting performances of the day came at the Nike BMC Grand Prix Watford on Saturday evening 10 June. The meeting incorporating the AAA 10,000m championships and the UK Athletics Endurance initiative and UK Challenge produced sparkling times from Richard Hill (Notts AC) and Lizzie Hall (Herts Phoenix) in a meeting which saw Britain's middle distance runners make huge steps forward


Richard Hill moved from 95th in the UK all-time rankings to 15th with a world-class 1:45.10 800m to put him 5th in the 2006 world rankings, Lizzie Hall set a British record in the 3,000m steeplechase and Hayley Yelling guaranteed her place in the Women’s 10,000m for the European Championships in August. 


The Women's 3000m steeplechase was the first of the leading events and most eyes were on 17-year-old Emily Pidgeon (Gloucester AC), whose midweek 9:06 minutes 3,000m victory at St Mary's  hinted at a time well inside 10 minutes in the steeplechase.


The pacemaker lasted little more than a lap as Pidgeon overtook her after the first water jump. Shortly after Hattie Dean (Hallamshire), took up the pace and the kilometre time of 3:13 hinted at something sensational with Hall, Pidgeon and former UK record holder Tara Kryzwicki (Charnwood) still in contention.


Dean's relentless pace really told on the third lap and with four laps to go (4:34), Hall was moving well alongside her as Pidgeon was a clear third from Krzywicki. A 78 second lap stretched the gap to third to seven seconds and Dean passed 2,000m (6:29) with Hall challenging. The pace just eased a little with 800m to go, but the significant move came 600m out when the surprise National Cross-country Champion, Hall went up a gear and flew over the penultimate water jump.


The 21 year-old Hall, who held the Watford BMC record from her 10:13.68 victory last year, looked strong as she passed the bell in around 8:30 and all eyes were on whether she could keep her form and slip inside Tina Brown's 9:48.57 from Rieti last year.


It was close, but Hall drove through the line, clocking a brilliant 9:48.51 to break the UK record by just six hundredths of a second, a PB by almost 20 seconds and a big 244 UK Challenge points.


Hall said afterwards:


'I knew I was in sub 10 shape. It was fast to start with and I felt good when I kicked 600m out. I didn't feel so good a lap later but I knew it was close to the record and really kicked to the line.'


Dean never gave up the chase and was an impressive second in 9:52.22 (her previous best was 10:22), which puts her fourth on the UK all time lists moving ahead of Krzywicki, who dropped out. Dean's time was also inside the UKA development standard for the European Championships (10:05.0).


Meanwhile, Pidgeon was a clear third (10:13.24) and in fourth, fellow junior Ruth Senior (City of Norwich), also went inside the UKA qualifying standard (10:25.0) for the World Juniors in Beijing with a time of 10:24.91. Pidgeon has now achieved the qualifying standard for both the 3,000m and 3,000m steeplechase set by UK Athletics for the World Juniors.


If the Watford BMC record was a foregone conclusion in the Women’s steeplechase, Michael Rotich's 1:46.29 looked safer in the 800m with no sub 1:47 runners in the Men’s 800m field. Ian Lothian set a fast pace and went through 400m in 51 seconds. Kenyan Wesley Cheryiout took the pace through 600m and the time of 77 seconds hinted at something special, especially as there were still a number in contention. Richard Hill, who is perhaps reminiscent of Peter Elliott with his aggressive front-running, hit the straight narrowly ahead and kept his form superbly to fight off the challenge off another talented 20 year-old Michael Rimmer (Liverpool Pembroke Sefton) and the 2004 AAA Champion Sam Ellis (Barnsley). World Indoor finalist Jimmy Watkins (Cardiff) came from a long way back to get fourth - narrowly from Michael Colthard (Trafford); the individual improvements were sensational.


Hill went from 1:47.59 to clocking 1:45.10 (238 UK Challenge pts), Rimmer from 1:48.41 to 1:45.47 (230) and Ellis from 1:47.69 to 1:45.67 (226). Watkins, who was disappointed with his run, and said he felt bad all the way, still improved his outdoor PB from 1:47.7 (indoor best of 1:47.23) to 1:46.33 while Colthard advanced from 1:48.97 to 1:46.34.

Afterwards a delighted Richard Hill said:


'I expected to die off such a fast pace but I still felt strong at 600. The last 200m hurt but I kept it going but 50m out  I was thinking where's Jimmy?


“I ran 1:47.59 in the wind at Loughborough and knew I could go quicker - maybe 1:46 if I held it together - but the target was the European Championships development time of 1:47.20. Now I've got the elite time (1:46:00 - beaten by all the first three) I can chill out! “


Britain now have three of the world's fastest ten athletes and four of the fastest 15 so far in 2006 with another exciting 20 -year-old, Tom Lancashire (1:45.76) also highly ranked. The other 3 finishers in the A race also set PBs Ed Jackson (Aldershot Farnham & District) ran 1:47.43, Ben Green (Warrington) 1:47.47 and Paul Laslett (Aldershot Farnham & District) 1:47.85.

That wasn't the end of the 800m improvements though as in the B race, Chris Reynolds (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) ran a PB 1:47.57 from Neil Dougal (Thames Valley Harriers) in 1:47.83 while juniors James Brewer (Cheltenham) 1:48.27 and Mark Mitchell (Forres) with 1:48.97 were both inside the UKA standard for Beijing (1:49.00).


There were also some exciting improvements in the men's 1500m. Tom Holden and Wesley Cheryuoit layed on a great pace and at the bell in 2:41, it looked as if Tom Carter (Vale Royal) was running away with it. However on the last lap, moving from some way back was AAA Indoor Champion Colin McCourt (Bournemouth). The St Mary's student looked sensational as he kicked to a 3:38.51 victory (211 UK Challenge points), he said afterwards:


'I stayed back as there was much too much pushing early on. I knew from my training that a sub 3:40 was on the cards and that's given me confidence to try and make the team for the Europeans.'


Carter also broke new ground (3:39.28) as did Stephen Davies (Newport) with 3:39.62, whose previous outdoor best was 3:45.73 which meant three runners beat UKA's development standard for Gothenburg of 3:41.00.


Another big breakthrough came in the Men's steeplechase. The early pace was fast (1km 2:46.6) with Adam Bowden (Harrow) already in control. The mid race laps slowed a little and Bowden's sole challenger at the bell (7:29) was Jermaine Mays (Kent AC). The last lap was all Bowden as he stretched out in around 62 seconds to smash his PB by 5 seconds with 8:31.84 (216 UK Challenge points). Mays took second place in 8:40.02.


Bowden said, 'I was aiming for the development standard of 8:35.00 and knew my training and flat speed was good and I've also been doing a lot of technique work over the hurdles recently.'


One of the best events for the junior athletes was the women's 1500m which saw one of the tightest finishes of the day. 16 year-old Stephanie Twell, who just missed the World Junior 3,000m standard on Wednesday, made no mistake over her preferred shorter distance and looked a likely winner as she sped into the straight. However, she was caught in the final stages by fellow junior Abby Westley (Hallamshire) who also smashed her PB (4:21.99) with a brilliant 4:16.23 with Twell 4:16.30, improving on her previous best of 4:22.55. Tina Brown (Coventry Godiva), who lost her steeplechase record earlier in the meeting, was third in 4:16.99 while another with her sights on Beijing this summer, Jessica Sparke (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) recorded a PB 4:17.60. The UKA qualifying standard for the Women’s 1500m for the World Junior Championships is 4:20. Hannah England (Oxford City) just missed the time in finishing second in the B race (4:20.10).

There were more personal bests in the women's 800m; Joanna Ross (Victoria Park AAC) took over the pace in the last 200m of Women’s A race and repelling a strong challenge from Liz Braithwaite (Herts Phoenix) she advanced her PB to 2:02.58 (194 points), just 0.08 off the UKA development standard for the European Championships. Ross said:


'I knew the early pace was too fast for me so stayed off it but I felt good on that last lap and I'm looking to peak at the trials, though it will be hard as so many girls are running well.'


Braithwaite set a PB 2:03.10, just ahead of Rachel Ogden (Worthing & District) who clocked 2:03.14.


One athlete definitely selected for the European Championships is Hayley Yelling (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) and she was the easiest winner of the night in the AAA women's 10,000m, acting as the trial for the European Championships. She came close to lapping the entire field and by winning the race, and already having the elite standard of 31:55, she will run the 10,000m in Sweden unless she gets the 5000m standard, which she would prefer to contest.


US-based Chorley athlete Vicky Gill set a good early pace through 2,000m (6:17) before second pacemaker Monica Jipkoech took over, whilst Yelling was already 15 seconds clear of Collette Fagan while a large group of Brits contested the AAA bronze medal position.


Through 3,000m in 9:28.8, Hayley Yelling looked on for a time of well inside 32 minutes but then lost 10 seconds to tie her shoe lace.  By 4,000m she was 36 seconds clear of Fagan who had 9 seconds on a pack including Gemma Phillips (Kendal), Morag McDonnell (Chester le Street), Catherine Dugdale (Swansea) and Wendy Jones (Cirencester). By the half way point (16:04.8), Yelling was on her own, 40 seconds clear of Collette Fagan leading the chasing group.


Incredibly, Yelling had to take another stop at 22 minutes as her left shoe lace worked loose again, whilst Fagan, on for an almost certain AAA silver medal, dropped out during that 8th kilometre. Yelling managed to lap all the other Brits except Looper as she came through the line to stop the clock at 32:38.24 for 213 points UK Challenge points. Looper was 2nd in 33:53.68.


There was a 3-way scrap for the other AAA medals and veteran Jones (34:01.75), making her 10,000m track debut found a 72 last lap took her away from McDonnell (34:06.03) and Philips missed out on a medal after leading her group for most of the race but did have the consolation of a PB (34:09.32).


Yelling said: 'I asked the pacemaker to speed up a few times as I felt so comfortable but it was annoying about the laces. At least I now know I'm definitely going to the Europeans but I intend to sharpen up with some 1500m races and try and make the 5,000m standard if I can.'


While conditions were good in the women's 10,000m at just before 9pm, they were far less helpful a hour earlier in the Men's 10,000m and only seven of the 21 on the start list finished though a few seemed to not even consider starting.


Mark Miles laid on a perfect pace of 68-69 seconds to chase the UKA development standard of 28:50 (3K 8:20) before Simon Arusei took over though only Anthony Ford (Blackpool) looked a willing taker. However Ford was struggling in the heat and Ireland's Vinny Mulvey was the only beneficiary of Arusei's pacing. Mulvey won the race in 28:58.29, over half a minute from Dominic Bannister (Shaftesbury Barnet), who at 38 years of age, won his first major track title in 29:31.26.


There was a lively battle for the other medals with Dave Mitchinson (Newham & Essex Beagles) kicking with 2,000m remaining to take the AAA silver medal in 29:56.14 with Gareth Raven (City of Manchester) taking the bronze in 30:00.25. Disappointingly Huw Lobb (Bedford & County) was the only other British finisher (30:08.58).


'The heat was a huge factor,' said Bannister. 'I felt easy early on but it seemed to get hotter and hotter and it was a real test of mental strength to keep going as my feet started to blister. I'm very pleased to win a title but I had a good winter and after a few more track races I'm looking forward to hitting the road in September.'


Amongst other notable performances Sarah Hopkinson (Gloucester) ran one of the fastest ever 800s by a 14-year-old girl, a remarkable 2:07.55 in the Women’s 800m B race while Dave Taylor (Blackheath & Bromley) ignored the pacemakers to lead the Men’s 1500 F race to record one of the fastest ever Vets 1500m of 3:50.45.


The UK Challenge series provides British athletes just below that of international standard and aspiring athletes, with top-class competition throughout the summer and throughout the UK. It combines successful quality events with newly created competitions and offers numerous prizes.


Altogether there are 48 events throughout the season to score points in culminating in the UK Challenge final at Manchester on the 27 August for the 8 athletes with the best performance scores in each discipline.