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UK Athletics

Succeeding like Sotherton..... emulating Ennis

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6 September 2007


A fortnight after Kelly Sotherton and Jessica Ennis took third and fourth places in the heptathlon to fire-up the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka, the UK Combined Events Challenge Final will attract many of the country’s leading developing multi-eventers to the Northwood Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, on 8 and 9 September.


The Final incorporates a Home Countries International, meaning that some of the UK’s top Under 23s, Under 20s and Under 17s get a chance to rub shoulders with Seniors who were international team-mates of the inspirational Sotherton and Ennis when they led Norwich Union GB&NI women to their first-ever victory in the European Cup Combined Events Super League earlier this summer.


Two of the men’s European Cup team – Challenge leader Ed Dunford (Birchfield Harriers) and UK No.1 Ben Hazell (Basingstoke and Mid Hants AC) – are in the Stoke decathlon line-up.


They will face opposition from England A trio Adam Akehurst (City of Portsmouth), Ricardo Beckford (London Heathside) and Richard Reeks (Bournemouth AC); England B representatives Craig Baker (Worthing and District AC) and Patrick Halcrow (Thurrock Harriers) and Scotland’s Ben Kerr (Channel Islands AC).


Of the Under 20s, Joe Lancaster (Sale Harriers Manchester) and Guy Stroud (Exeter Harriers) represent England A; Matthew George (Vale of Aylesbury AC) and Robert Kite (Basingstoke and Mid Hants AC) go for England B; Scotland field Nicholas Hobday (Arbroath AC) and Craig McEwan (Whitemoss AAC); and Northern Ireland fly-in Tom Fright (Basingstoke and Mid Hants AC).


Under 17s are Jack McShane (England A / Corby AC), Jack Andrew (England B / Macclesfield Harriers), Neil Hutchison (Scotland / Giffnock North AC), Ben Reynolds (Northern Ireland / North Down AC), David Guest (Wales / Bridgend AC) and Josh Madden (Wales / Carmarthen Harriers).


The quality of the Women’s heptathlon in the UK is such that 10 athletes have exceeded the Power of 10 national standard of 5300 points this summer. Four of them – Phyllis Agbo (Thames Valley Harriers), Grace Clements (Dartford Harriers), Julia Bennett (Epsom and Ewell AC) and Gemma Weetman (Oswestry Olympians) – will compete at Stoke.


All are in the England squads alongside Leanne Buxton (Bedford and County AC) while Under 23 Helen Morton (Horsham Blue Star) represents Scotland.


Under 20s are Amy Hill (England A / City of Sheffield AC), Eleanor Markendale (England A / Pendle AC), Meghan Beesley (England B / Tamworth AC), Anna Newton (England B / Winchester and District AC), Kathryn Davies (Wales / Newport Harriers), Caryl Granville (Wales / Carmarthen Harriers) and Katie Hewitt (Northern Ireland / North Down AC).


England also give experience to Under 17s Kaneesha Johnson (Colchester Harriers) and Sarah Moore (Eastbourne RAC), who are among the top four in the Power of 10 heptathlon rankings in their age group, while Wales have selected Lauren O’Reilly (Newport Harriers) and Scotland include Emma Lowry (Edinburgh AC).


And all of the action will take place under the watchful eyes of ‘the backroom staff’ who have helped put combined events to the fore of athletics success in the UK, including Ennis’s coach Toni Minichiello, who is Chair of the UKA Combined Events Management Group.


But home spectators expecting an England cleansweep should be reminded that Northern Ireland are on a roll. They sent nine athletes to last month’s England Athletics Under 17 and Under 15 Championships at Sheffield – and all nine returned home with medals.


For the UK Combined Events Challenge story so far, please click here


For the UK Combined Events Challenge rankings, please click here