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UK Athletics

Aqua-Pura Steeplechase speeds-up

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Under 17s Sarah Hopkinson (Gloucester AC) and Louise Webb (Team Southampton) both ran quicker than Jo Ankier’s Senior Women’s 1500m Steeplechase UK record of 4 minutes 52.5 seconds in an Aqua-Pura Development Race at Southampton on Wednesday May 23. Both were also well inside the UK Junior Women’s mark of 5.13.7 recorded by Bryony Frost at the 2003 European Junior Championships.


From the gun, Hopkinson made her intentions clear and the first 400m was run in a quick 74 seconds with Webb tracking her. Both girls looked very proficient over the barriers and water jump.


Hopkinson’s training partner Jessica Sparke (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), running the event for the first time, lost ground at each obstacle but was never far away from the leaders, using her strength over 3k and cross country to maintain contact.


Running stride for stride down the home straight, Webb took the last barrier slightly better to have the edge but Hopkinson proved stronger in the run to the line to win by half a second.


These excellent performances bode well for the Aqua-Pura 2,000m steeplechase event during the St Mary’s Relays meeting at Twickenham on 6 June. Both Hopkinson and Webb are young enough to gain selection for the IAAF World Youth Championships to be staged in Ostrava, Czech Republic, where the UK Athletics selection time to chase is 6:48.00.


Race result: 1 Sarah Hopkinson (Gloucester AC) 4.50.5; 2 Louise Webb (Team Southampton) 4.50.9; 3 Jessica Sparke (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) 4.56.4; 4 Charlotte Bates (Unattached) 5.35.6; 5 Becky Neale (Poole AC) 5.38.8.


Geoff Watkin, Aqua Pura Steeplechase Coordinator, was delighted with the performances of all five competitors, adding it was clear that this year’s Aqua-Pura programme was paying dividends.


He explained: “At the start of the year, Louise Webb hadn’t been over a barrier but through attending the Aqua-Pura sessions at the UK Athletics Endurance Performance Centre at St Mary’s University Twickenham, she has already made so much progress in the event. I know that the 1500m steeplechase is not run too often but these were cracking performances.”


The Southampton race was the second sparkling contribution to the Aqua-Pura Women’s Steeplechase campaign inside a week. The first came when Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers Sheffield) gave the new Aqua-Pura Women’s Steeplechase Series a searing start by winning the 3000m SC at the Loughborough International in 9:51.23, a meeting record.


The St Mary’s Relays meeting on 6 June will provide great opportunities for endurance athletes in the Under 18 age group to chase qualifying times for the IAAF World Youth Championships and European Youth Olympic Festival in Belgrade, Serbia, on 22-27 July. There will be Under 18 Men’s and Women’s 2000m steeplechase races plus 1500m and 3000m flat races.


Athletes wishing to enter any of these six events should contact either of the UK Athletics coaches based at St Mary’s, Mick Woods at mwoods@ukathletics.org.uk or Craig Winrow at cwinrow@ukathletics.org.uk


In addition, England Athletics London Region Manager Bob Smith is seeking clubs for the relays element, which has previously been sparsely supported.


He says: “We are labelling the 4x100m, 4x200m and 4x800m races as London Champs but there are also planned some Coaching squad races. My thinking is that the London-based sprint squads are strong and we could try something different by introducing a competitive element with the added bonus that the squads will be able to practice baton changing beforehand.”


Interested clubs and coaches should email him at bsmith@englandathletics.org