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UK Challenge JumpsFest preview

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The UK Challenge JumpsFest at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham, on Saturday 30 June carries a prize pot of £10,000 – and promises, as additional entertainment, a great climax to the battle for the Athlete of the Month Award. No wonder that, even though it is only in its third season, it has already earned a reputation as the premier jumps meeting in the country with its mix of Seniors, Under 20s and Under 17s seeking stepping stones towards higher honours.


For an adidas kit package and a bottle of Heidsieck & Monopole Champagne awaits the athlete earning the most points for his/her UK Challenge performances during the calendar month. And, as fate has it, the June leaders going into the JumpsFest are pole vaulters Louise Butterworth with 786 points, Joe Ive with 770 and Rachel Gibbens with 655 … with high jumper Susan Moncrieff on 630.


UWIC students Butterworth (Birchfield Harriers), selected in the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team for the European Under 23 Championships in Debrecen, and Gibbens (Marshall Milton Keynes AC) line-up in the Women’s pole vault elite competition. Alongside them are Emma Lyons (Notts AC), also heading for the Under 23s, and Sally Scott (Gateshead Harriers), who is in Team GB for the European Youth Olympics Festival in Belgrade, as the UK Challenge once again promises to fulfil UK Athletics’ aim of improving standards in every event in every age group on the way to London 2012.


Ive, on a high after being called into the European Under 23s team, currently leads the UK Challenge pole vault standings with 775 points. But he will be pushed by his Debrecen team mate Paul Walker (Sale Harriers Manchester), who is second with 687 points, and several others with 5m-plus expectations including Mark Christie (Sale), Christian North (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), Michael Barber (Birchfield), Richard Hurren (Harrow AC / Falkirk Victoria Harriers). And the competition promises great experience for Under 18s Nick Cruchley (Halesowen C&AC) and Ryszard Buk (Croydon Harriers) on their way to the IAAF World Youth Championships in Belgrade and the EYOF respectively.


Moncrieff (Trafford AC), who leads the UK Challenge Overall Jumps Table with 810 points after 22 of this summer’s 52 meetings, is in the Women’s high jump elite competition against Steph Pywell (Sale), whose UK Challenge record of 1.90m earned her the place in the Norwich Union GB&NI team that won the European Cup First League in Finland last weekend; and teenagers Vikki Hubbard (Grantham AC) and Adele Lassu (Sale), who are heading for the European Junior Championships in Hengelo.


The Men’s high jump elite line-up is equally tasty, though UK Challenge champion Tom Parsons (Birchfield) has opted to compete at the Cork Games following his mighty PB of 2.28m at the Midland Championships. Samson Oni (Belgrave) seeks to rediscover his 2.27m form of the winter in competition with the current UK Challenge leader in the event with 795 points, Adam Scarr (Enfield and Haringey), who has earned a place in the European Under 23s; Martin Lloyd (Bexley) who is second with 655 points; Mark Crowley (Enfield and Haringey), third with 625; Rob Mitchell (Sale), who is up to 2.25m this year; and Alan McKie (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow), who has clinched a place at the European Juniors.


The horizontal performers are unlikely to be too over-shadowed in the pursuit of performances, points, prizes – and, potentially, picks by the UK Athletics selectors who meet next week to finalise the Norwich Union GB&NI teams for the European Under 23 and Junior Championships.


European Cup performer Chris Kirk (Newham and Essex Beagles) is in the long jump against Steve Small (City of Sheffield), who has already registered a 7.57m PB in this season’s UK Challenge; Birchfield’s own Leigh Smith and Ryan James; and Andrew Jones (Shrewsbury), on a high after his golden leap at last weekend’s Norwich Union England Athletics Under 20 Championships.


Julie Hollman (Belgrave) is in the Women’s long jump as she fine-tunes for the European Cup Combined Events Super League. The home crowd will doubtless give their support to Birchfield’s Amy Woodman, who currently leads the UK Challenge in this event with 476 point from 4 events – while the rather better-known Jessica Ennis (City of Sheffield) is second with 426 from 2. Ennis gives this one a miss to concentrate on training for other events but Woodman can expect pressure from a variety of sources with reigning Challenge champ Sarah Rossiter (Forest of Dean), multi-talented Gemma Weetman (Oswestry Olympians) and Sarah Wellstead (Sutton and District) in an elite line-up that also includes teenagers Jade Nimmo (Forth Valley) and Abigail Irozuru (Sale), who are heading for the European Juniors.


Julian Golley (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) seeks to continue his domination of the Men’s triple jump – though the next six in the UK Challenge standings have achieved PBs this season in their increasingly determined pursuit. His three closest challengers are in the Fest field – including Gary White (UWIC) celebrating his selection for the European Under 23 Championships – and he can look forward to another Titanic struggle with Tosin Oke (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), as at last year’s JumpsFest at Stoke.


The Women’s triple jump could also be a classic confrontation with reigning Challenge champion Nadia Williams (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) once again preparing to fend-off the three-pronged Scottish challenge from Gillian Kerr (Edinburgh AC), Nony Mordi (Shaftesbury) and Hengelo-bound Junior Jayne Nisbet – plus Yasmine Regis (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) back from the USA and eager to regain her GB status; Becky White (Sale) edging back towards the form that earned her Challenge titles a couple of summers ago; and Tiombe Hurd, Birchfield’s USA star determined to keep the Brits under control.


For full details of the JumpsFest, please click here