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England Combined Events Championships Day 1 report

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Rejuvenated Ed Dunford and exam-free Phyllis Agbo led a proliferation of personal bests as the newly-announced UK Combined Events Challenge gathered pace on the first day of the England Athletics Combined Events Championships at the Northwood Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, on Saturday 9 June.


The strength in depth was better than ever as athletes aimed for places in the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland Teams at the European Cup of Combined Events in Szcecin, Poland, on 7 and 8 July as well as this summer’s World Championships, European Under 23 Championships, World University Games, European Junior Championships, IAAF World Youth Championships and European Youth Olympics Festival.


“It’s been an amazing day,” said Ian Grant, UK Event Coach for decathlon who has monitored progress ever since the Rover Combined Events Initiative sparked fresh interest five and six years ago. “The Rover money gave us the opportunity to work with athletes and their coaches, and there has been a huge spin-off from that. There has been well over 100 individual PBs today from the 73 athletes. There were some magnificent competitions throughout the day.”


The Senior Men’s decathlon was of unprecedented quality in that 15 finished the first day with over 3500 points. And at the end of a long, hot day 11 decathletes ran 400m in under 50 seconds.


Dunford (Birchfield Harriers), who began the competition lying fifth in the Power of 10 rankings, led overnight with 4001 points, a massive improvement on his previous best first day score of 3769. He opened with a 100m legal personal best of 11.15 seconds (wind: +1.2), long jumped 6.94m (wind: +2.2), put the shot 14.30m, high jumped an outdoor PB of 2.01m and finished with his fastest 400m by far, 49.99 seconds, obliterating his previous best of 51.32 seconds.


Kevin Sempers (Belgrave Harriers), aiming for the European Under 23s entry standard of 777600, was second overnight with 3951, a first day PB by 153 points. He sprinted 100m in 11.01 seconds (wind: +2.3), long jumped 6.95 (wind: 0.9), put the shot 12.05m, won the high jump with 2.07m to equal his PB of four years ago when he was English Schools’ champion, and ended with a 400m PB of 50.02 seconds yet such was the quality, he finished last in the fastest 400m heat of the day!


Current UK No.1 decathlete Ben Hazell (Basingstoke and Mid Hants), seeking the World University Games qualifying standard of 7700 points, ended his weaker day on 3903, his best yet by 142 points. After a 100m in 11.25 seconds (wind: +1.2), he long jumped a PB of 6.99m, put the shot 13.22m, high jumped 1.95m, and clocked 49.31 seconds in the 400m, only a tenth outside his fastest ever.


The Senior Women’s competition – featuring the side issue of who will join Kelly Sotherton, Jessica Ennis and Julie Hollman in the European Cup team – had as much drama as quality competition.


Leader Phyllis Agbo (Thames Valley Harriers) collided with a starter as she was warming-up for the 200m. It was a pure accident but the two clashed heads so heavily that the official had to be stretchered away. But Agbo went on to run a landmark PB in the 200m (wind: +0.2). Her time of 24.81 seconds was the first time she had got under 25 seconds. It completed her best yet first day of 3345 points. She opened with her fastest yet 100m hurdles, 13.74 seconds (wind: +2.1), and added a 1.62m high jump and 12.09m shot.


Ever-reliable Julia Bennett (Epsom and Ewell) was second overnight with 3280 points – 15.12 seconds 100m hurdles (wind: +0.9), 1.83m high jump, 11.70m shot, 26.00 seconds 200m (wind: +0.2).


And Grace Clements (Dartford Harriers) was third with 3186 points – 14.56 seconds 100m hurdles (wind: +2.1), 1.65m high jump, 11.95m shot and 25.61 seconds 200m (wind: +0.2).


The Under 20 Women’s heptathlon was led by Hannah Francis-Smithson (Leeds City AC) with 3135 points – a 100m hurdles PB in 13.88 seconds (wind: +0.7), 1.59m high jump, 10.47m shot, 25.27 seconds 200m (wind: +0.9).


Two Leeds City clubmates were her closest challengers. Jenny Lumley, who scored 5238 to win the first of the UK Combined Events Challenge meetings at Woodford, lay second with 3120 points – 100m hurdles in 15.07 seconds (wind: +0.7), 1.74 high jump within 1cm of her best, 10.09m shot and 25.41 (+0.9).


Kirsty Parr was third with 2853 – 100m hurdles in 14.89 (wind: +0.7), 1.50m high jump, 11.35m shot and 26.45 second 200m (wind: +1.0).


The Junior Men were lacking World Juniors competitor Daniel Awde and the injured Guy Stroud and Neil Crossley. But they still contributed heavily to the PB toll.


Overnight leader Will Lambourne (Marshall Milton Keynes) continued his particularly spectacular progress in the high jump. At the start of the year, his best was 1.72m; he raised his bar to 1.87m today. It contributed massively to his first day points score of 3598. He also sprinted 100m in 11.35 seconds (wind: +0.6), long jumped 6.51m (wind: +1.8), put a 12.,24m shot, and clocked 50.19 seconds in the 400m.


Joe Lancaster (Sale Harriers Manchester) was second with 3580 points – 100m in a PB of 11.36 (wind: +1.8), long jump 6.66m (wind: +1.1), 11.93m shot, 1.93m high jump just missing another PB at 1.96m, and a 52.07 seconds PB for 400m.


Robert Kite (Basingstoke and Mid Hants) was third with 3497, his best first day by 51 points – 100m in 11.58 seconds (wind: +1.8), long jump 6.35m (+0.9), shot 13.28m, high jump 1.90m and 400m 52.60 seconds.