Asha Philip (club: Newham & Essex Beagles; coach: Steve Fudge), Holly Bradshaw (Blackburn Harriers; Scott Simpson) and Laura Muir (Dundee Hawkhill; Andy Young) all recorded impressive victories on the first day of the SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham to book a place at next month’s continental showdown.
Philip claimed a tenth career British title indoors and out but not before a photo finish in the women’s 60m while Bradshaw, back competing at this event for the first time since 2014, set a Championship record 4.80m in the women’s pole vault and double world indoor medallist Muir cruised to the win in the women’s 3000m.
All three will now compete at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March and they’ll be joined by five others including Chris Baker (Sale Harriers; Graham Ravenscroft) and Naomi Ogbeta (Trafford; Tom Cullen) after their solid wins in the men’s high jump and women’s triple jump respectively.
“I feel pretty shocked to be honest. My aim is the World Championships in Doha and I’m going off a slightly shorter approach so I didn’t think 4.80m was in my capability but to jump that is kind of crazy,” said Brashaw, who saw Jade Ive (Sutton & District; Bryan Hooper) exit the competition at 4.40m for silver, while Sophie Cook (Birchfield Harriers; Simpson) took the bronze medal with a personal best 4.30m.
“I’m not doing that off my longer run up and people might wonder why I went through 4.72m but today feels like a PB day. I’ve got the Müller Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham next week and then I’ll head to Glasgow. These comps are about having fun and it’s going amazingly well.”
Philip needed a photo finish to beat Rachel Miller (Thames Valley; Linford Christie) and Kristal Awuah (Herne Hill; Matthew Thomas) in 7.19. Miller, enjoying a great comeback in the sport, clocked an equal PB 7.20 while world junior bronze medallist over 100m Awuah hit 7.35. All three have already surpassed the 7.25 qualifying time for Glasgow with Philip and Miller assured to go.
Philip said: “I’m really happy because I had to work for that. None of my races are ever easy but I really had to dig in for that. It was a fight to the line and I’m really happy I came away with the gold. It’s a tenth title and it means so much to me.
“It was freezing downstairs when you’re waiting but when you come out to race the atmosphere was electric and it made it such a special race for me.”
Muir finished fast to win the women’s 3000m clocking 8:48.03 although Melissa Courtney (Poole; Rob Denmark) ran her close in a time of 8:50.61 to get silver and a Glasgow spot and the US-based Amy Eloise Neale (Wakefield; Chris Fox) shaved a couple seconds off her personal best, hitting 8:59.86 to dip narrowly under the European Indoor qualifying time for bronze.
Muir said: “This will be the first time now that I’ll be heading in as a defending champion at a European Championships; to wear the orange bib for two events is really exciting for me and now I’m purely excited for the Championships after that performance. I feel so comfortable indoors in Glasgow, I know the surroundings and I’m in great form.
“The timetable in Glasgow isn’t perfect but it works for me. I think the double double sounds pretty nice to me. If it was anywhere other than Glasgow I might not have done it but it’s my hometown.”
A heart-warming moment was Cindy Ofili (Woodford Green Essex Ladies; Jeff Porter) continuing her impressive return from an Achilles injury by producing a gold medal-winning performance to cross the line in 8.16 in the women’s 60m hurdles final ahead of Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Liverpool; Bertrand Valcin) and Gabriella Ade-Onojobi (Woodford Green Essex Ladies; Lloyd Cowan).
Last year’s British outdoor high jump champion, Baker, was also able to translate outdoor form to the indoor arena by winning his first British indoor title with a 2.22m leap despite plenty of pressure from the youthful duo of Dominic Ogbechie (Highgate Harriers; Marius Guei/Carol Jackson) for silver and Tom Gale (Team Bath; Denis Doyle) for bronze.
Baker said: ““It’s always nice to win the British Champs but I’m really disappointed with the height. I’ve got the European qualifier so I’m happy. To come away with the win is fantastic and to make the European team is amazing but I’m excited to be back here next week at the Müller Indoor Grand Prix.”
Remarkably, amongst a strong start list that featured world indoor and two-time European Indoor champion Richard Kilty (Middlesbrough; Benke Blomkvist) and last year’s British indoor silver medallist Andrew Robertson (Sale Harriers; Sam Robertson), it was the teenager Ashwell (Shaftesbury Barnet; Marvin Rowe) who took the spoils in the men’s 60m with a 6.64 personal best.
Ashwell said: “I would say it’s been a very good day to say the least, especially after the semi-final. I think to come into the final and produce that is just massive.
“I’m hoping to get the standard next week but if not hopefully I’ll have another chance before the Championships. That’s the goal.
“It would be nice to make a senior team as opposed to a junior team because it will help so much with that transition coming from an under-20 to a senior.”
Adam Thomas (Bracknell; Leon Baptiste) was a close second in 6.66 and 17-year-old Welshman Jeremiah Azu (Cardiff; Helen Patricia James) ran a personal best in every round on his way to bronze decided by thousandths.
With a result that mimicked this year’s rankings exactly, the men’s shot put also went by the formbook as Scott Lincoln (City of York; Paul Wilson) triumphed for the ninth time at a British Indoor Championships and out thanks to his 19.06m throw, Youcef Zatat (Woodford Green Essex Ladies; Scott Rider) claimed silver and Samuel Heawood (Crawley) took the bronze.
In the women’s triple jump, European finalist last year Ogbeta underlined her growing potential, leaping 14.05m for gold, a British under-23 record and confirmation of a European indoors spot. Laura Samuel (Birchfield Harriers; Aston Moore) was second and Alexandra Russell (Wigan; Mike Holmes) third.
Most of the drama in the men’s triple jump was reserved for the final round as Jonathan Ilori (Blackheath & Bromley; John Shepherd) produced a big jump of 15.97m to move past Michael Puplampu (Newham & Essex Beagles; Tosin Oke) into bronze medal position before he immediately responded with an enormous season’s best of 16.28m to go all the way into first.
Neither Nathan Douglas (Oxford City; Aston Moore) nor Nathan Fox (Shaftesbury Barnet; Oke) were able to regain first and second spot respectively – the positions they had held since the second round – having to instead settle for silver and bronze. Douglas’ silver does guarantee him a Glasgow spot having hit the standard last year.
World indoor bronze medallist from 2018 Eilidh Doyle (Pitreavie; Brian Doyle), Zoey Clark (Thames Valley; Eddie McKenna) and Laviai Nielsen (Enfield & Haringey; Christine Bowmaker) all have the Glasgow qualifying mark already in what promises to be an extremely close women’s 400m final. As the semi-final winners in 52.77 and 52.62 respectively, Doyle and Clark will be considered the favourites.
Owen Smith (Cardiff; Elias) put in a powerful run of 46.85 – a European indoor standard – to win his semi-final in the men’s 400m while Alex Haydock-Wilson (WSEH; Michael Baker) did it in the heats with 46.88 before finishing second behind Cameron Chalmers (Guernsey; James Hillier) in his semi.
In the women’s 800m reigning champion Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (WSEH; Bigg) got her title defence off to a brilliant start with a comfortable win in her heat in 2:07.85
She will be joined in the final by Lynsey Sharp (Edinburgh; Terrence Mahon) who also won her heat in dominant fashion in 2:05.99, while Ellie Baker (Shaftesbury Barnet; Bigg) beat Adelle Tracey (Guildford & Godalming; Craig Winrow) by edging her to the line in the second heat in a brand new PB of 2:04.46.
Arguably the most impressive women’s 800m heat win was 18-year-old Isabelle Boffey’s (Enfield & Haringey; Luke Gunn) emphatic finish to anoint herself the fastest heat winner, with her new personal best of 2:04.14 making her a medal threat in the final.
Elliot Giles (Birchfield Harriers; Jon Bigg) is familiar with the large Arena Birmingham crowd, who after an agonising fourth at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in the same venue last year, chose to pin his hopes on the 1500m instead.
He emerged the quickest from the two men’s 1500m heats after clocking 3:47.62 for victory. He’ll face a stern test from Neil Gourley (Giffnock North; Mark Rowland) in the final though after he put together a composed performance to take the first heat in a season’s best time of 3:48.37.
In the women’s 1500m heats, the fast-finishing Katie Snowden (Herne Hill Harriers; Geoff Wightman) beat Sarah McDonald (Birchfield Harriers; David Harmer) and Kerry MacAngus (Kilbarchan; Young) to the line in a time of 4:22.13 in the first heat. In the second heat Jemma Reekie clocked 4:30.28 to win and progress comfortably.
Qualification was equally tough in the men’s 800m heats due to only the winner of each heat progressing automatically to the final. It was routine wins for Guy Learmonth (Lasswade; Henry Gray), Joseph Reid (Cardiff; Matt Elias), Spencer Thomas (Brighton Phoenix; Bigg) and Jamie Webb (Liverpool; Adrian Webb) that booked their places in tomorrow’s final.
Fastest qualifier Webb said: “It was a good, clean race. There is two of us here with the qualifying standard so I have a job to do to get the Glasgow. I am feeling very fit with my training going very well. The first day of the Champs is the worst day because you can’t be successful, all you can do is go and get the job done and come back tomorrow. But I feel really happy; it was very comfortable. I think it is probably my second best time indoors. I am feeling strong.”