16th July 2009

Hurdlers Progress At Euro U23s


16 July 2009

It was three victories from three in the women’s 400mH heats as Meghan Beesley (Birchfield Harriers), Eilidh Child (Pitreavie AAC) and Perri Shakes-Drayton (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets) all progressed through to tomorrow’s semi finals with victories on the opening day of competition in the European Under-23 Championships (Kaunas, Lithuania, 16-19th July).

Beesley, World Juniors  bronze medallist, was first off in heat one and in spite of her stride pattern, which she admitted “wasn’t great”, won comfortably in 57.91 and is confident she has a lot more to give.

As expected, Shakes-Drayton and Child – the top two ranked European under-23s going into the Championship – won their heats with ease, clocking 57.35 and 56.53 respectively.

“I just went for it,” said Child, “I felt like I needed to get a good run in but I was able to relax towards the finish.

Shakes-Drayton lined up in the final heat of round one – and the worst weather of the morning – as the rain lashed down. “It was definitely wet out there,” she said, “but I’m through to the next round and that’s what I went out to do.”

English under-23 400mH champion Lloyd Gumbs (Shaftesbury Barnet) in 51.01s, and runner-up Toby Ulm (Swindon) in 51.08s, matched the girls with automatic progression through to tomorrow’s semi finals, both finishing second.

“I’m just excited to be here,” said Gumbs, who left it late when earning selection with victory and the qualifying standard at the trials on June 28th. “I knew coming here would be tough but I’ve made it through and I’m pleased with that. I just ran the race – it wasn’t anything special.”

In spite of the rain, it was fun on day one for high jumper Jessica Leach, as she progressed comfortably through the qualification round with 1.83m.

The Birchfield athlete was disappointed with her performance at the Aviva UK Championships and World Trials last weekend but made amends this morning  going through with a height of 1.83m.

“I just had fun,” she said. “I didn’t have a great competition at the weekend and my coach just told me to have fun, and that’s what I did. I went out there and did what I do best. I don’t want to get too serious about myself, it doesn’t work for me, so I need to just relax and enjoy it.”

Leach competed at the same venue in the European Junior Championships in 2005 but failed to make it through qualifying on that occasion. She has already gone one better this time around and has Saturday’s final to look forward to.

Unfortunately trials winner Adele Lassu (Sale Harriers Manchester) failed to make it through with a 1.72m best.

The Championships are also over for Cheltenham’s James Campbell. He had thrown in qualification group A of the javelin but had a tense wait for the conclusion of group B only to find out he had missed out on qualification by an agonising 2cm.

His best effort came in round one (72.57m) but he failed to achieve a distance close to his current best and Scottish national record (76.71m). “I felt good, I just didn’t catch one,” he said. “I thought I was going to have it on my last one. Conditions were alright, but a lot of the guys struggled.”  Only three athletes achieved the automatic qualifying mark of 76.00m.

Elaine O’Neill (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), just prior to the downpour, kick-started proceedings on the track with a second place finish and automatic qualification for the women’s 100m semi finals in 11.69. Although there was a slight headwind (-0.8), it was job done and progression through to the semi-finals later this afternoon.

Nigel Levine (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) joins her in today’s afternoon/evening session after a straight forward victory and automatic qualification in the men’s 400m (46.88).