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Eden Francis
Francis - last ditch effort sealed victory at Bedford.


27 June 2009

The women’s discus, won by leading European under-23 Eden Francis (Birchfield) in her final throw, provided one of the most exciting competitions on the opening day of the Aviva England Under-23 Championships in hot and humid conditions in Bedford.

Francis, second ranked on the UK All-Time list (U23), recorded an impressive personal best of 59.27m at the Bedford International Games on May 31st and was the clear title favourite on this occasion as the only athlete to have exceeded the 55.00m selection standard for the European Under-23 Championships, (Kaunas, Lithuania, 16th-19th July).

She won with her sixth and final effort (54.90m) ahead of second ranked UK under-23 athlete Jade Nicholls (Shaftesbury) – who threw a 54.27m PB in her final round to take the lead – to guarantee her selection for Lithuania.

Making it a Birchfield double, Welsh champion and UK number one (U23) Brett Morse won the men’s discus (54.78m) but was disappointed not to secure the qualifying standard for the third time.

“I knew I just had to win for selection,” he said, “but I’m disappointed with the distance. I’ve been lifting PB’s in training all week and everything I do is indicating I should be throwing further. The Euro U23s were always my target for this summer and I know I’m capable of making 62m so I hope I can do it there.”

Luke Cutts (Dearneside), although not achieving the 5.50m men’s pole vault target on the day, also secured his European under-23 place with victory and a new Championship Best performance (5.41m).

The CAU Inter Counties champion, who had exceeded the selection standard on two occasions previously within the selection period, won comfortably from second placed Max Eaves (Newham & Essex Beagles), who cleared 5.30m for a massive PB.

As expected, top ranked European Under-23 Stephen Lisgo (Mansfield), who only returned to the UK from the US last night following his NCAA Championships bronze medal and massive PB (8:35.49) a fortnight ago, won the men’s 3000m SC in an easy 9:08.47.

He’s the only athlete to have achieved the 8:40.00 qualifying time for the European Under-23 Championships and should be a certainty to make the team.

“I only flew home last night but I wanted to run this weekend. The Euro U23s is a bonus as my target had always been the NCAAs. Now I hope I can continue my good form and repeat that performance in Lithuania.”

The top two in the men’s 100m final finished within the 10.40s selection mark, RJ Pierre (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) and Leevan Yearwood (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets) both timed at 10.34s, but the event was missing it’s two stars - Croydon’s James Dasaolu, the top ranked European under-23 out with injury and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Sutton & District), already with the selection mark, who opted not to compete.

Women’s 100m title favourite Elaine O’Neill (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) didn’t disappoint with victory in 11.59s – one-hundredth of a second inside the 11.60s standard.

The men’s 5000m – the only other track final to be run on day one – was won by Morpeth’s Jonathon Taylor in 14:27.28 but conditions were tough for the athletes and the times suffered, second and third placed Lewis Timmons and Thomas Marshall clocking 14:38.20 and 14:42.31 respectively.

Top ranked European under-23 Eilidh Child (Pitreavie AAC) won her 400m hurdles heat easily in 57.61s to set up an exciting final tomorrow. Only one-hundredth of a second separated the Scot’s time from that of Perri Shakes-Drayton (57.62s), the top two GB under-23s – both with the qualifying standard - expected to secure the team spots for Lithuania.

Along with the women’s 400m H, the men’s 1500m final, as predicted, will be one of the top races on day two of the Championships.

The favourites progressed from the heats, with James Brewer (Cheltenham) and Ricky Stevenson (New Marske), third and fourth ranked European under-23s, winning their respective heats in 3:50.05 and 3:51.26. David Forrester (St Helens Sutton) was runner-up in heat two, clocking 3:51.91.

Five athletes, three of whom competed, have clocked sub-3:43.00 in recent weeks, so the heat will definitely be on tomorrow.

Follow this link for results from England Athletics On Track website