The GB & NI team got off to an almost perfect start on the first morning of action at the European Indoor Championships in Prague’s O2 Arena.
Leading the way was Katarina Johnson-Thompson (coach: Mike Holmes) who got the day’s first win, smashing her lifetime best to win heat one of the pentathlon 60mH in a time of 8.18. That performance saw her take an early lead, which she extended thanks to a terrific 1.95m clearance in the high jump.
Morgan Lake (Eldon Lake) also set a new personal best in the hurdles thanks to an 8.81 time and with a 1.92m clearance in the high jump she put herself in contention.
For the GB & NI duo the shot put was going to pose the biggest difficulty but junior Lake ramped up her chances of breaking the world junior record with a 13.91m personal best. Johnson-Thompson wasn’t far off her best either, just 17cm down with 12.32m.
That means at the end of the morning session Kat lies second overall with a points total of 2941, whilst Lake sits sixth with 2870. For Johnson-Thompson the 35 point deficit on Belgian Nafissatou Thiam should be easily overhauled in one of her strongest events, the long jump. The excitement couldn’t be greater given that she has both the British and world records in her sight.
GB & NI’s hurdlers were also in fine form, with Lucy Hatton (George Maciukiewicz) and Serita Solomon following the multi-eventers lead, setting impressive new personal bests.
Hatton went first in the third of four heats, and from the inside she powered over the final three hurdles to smash her personal best and break the eight second barrier for the first time in her young career thanks to a 7.96 run. Naturally, she was pleased, progressing to this afternoon’s semi-final fastest.
“I don’t know what to say at the moment! I’m still just trying to keep myself controlled because I know it’s a really long day as I don’t want it to get on top of me. But I can’t say I’m not happy! I just knew that I was in lane 2 and I had to get out and be strong and aggressive, which is exactly what I did. Hopefully I can just carry it on for the rest of the day. It’s such a long day and I’m going to go back to the hotel to sleep to be refreshed and do it all again later.”
Serita Solomon (Michelle Bovell) duly obliged in following suit, winning the final heat in an 8.03 personal best, before commenting:
“I feel good. The first round is always a bit nervy and I wanted to get out nice and strong. It was my best ever first round. I’m happy to be moving onto the next round.”
The men were next, and whilst they couldn’t quite match the personal best efforts of the ladies, they both ran good races to progress to the next round. First up was David Omoregie in heat 2, and whilst there was a nervous wait after his third place finish, his time of 7.72, just one hundredth down on his personal best, saw him progress as the fastest non-automatic qualifier.
Lawrence Clarke (Malcolm Arnold) ran just like a captain should, finishing second in heat three to automatically advance to the next round. Second only to Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France in the lane next to him, Clarke clocked 7.65 despite hitting the first hurdle.
“I think it went well; I hit the first hurdle because I got out really fast, I was so excited. I thought ‘wow this is great’! I was relishing the start but I’m really pleased with way it’s gone and I’m looking forward to the semi-final and if I don’t hit a hurdle I know I’ll go a lot quicker.”
On her GB & NI debut, Laura Maddox (Colin Bovell) looked cool calm and collected, hitting the front with 150m remaining to win heat three of the women’s 400m in 53.67. She was followed by Seren Bundy-Davies (Stephen Ball) who took the lead from the break for a gun to tape victory in 53.07. That just left Kirsten McAslan (Trevor Painter) in the fifth and final heat, and she didn’t disappoint as she finished strongly in second, booking her place in this afternoon’s semi-finals with a 53.27 clocking.
Jarryd Dunn (Keith Holt) was the only British entrant in the men’s equivalent, and he was up in the first of six heats. Whilst automatic qualifying was top two in each heat, Dunn’s 47.47 time for third was enough to see him through to the next round as a fastest loser.
It was mixed fortunes for GB & NI’s 800m runners, with Jenny Meadows (Painter) and Guy Learmonth (Henry Gray) winning their heats, whilst Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (Ayo Falola), Mukhtar Mohammed and James Bowness (William Parker) all missed out on the semi-finals by one place.
For Meadows it was business as usual, leading from gun to tape despite having a cold all week.
“Relief. Normally I don’t worry about heats but I’ve had a cold since Monday. You never quite know how your legs are going to feel out there. They didn’t feel as good as normal but certainly didn’t feel bad. I’ve not ran since Monday so it’s not the best preparation. I needed that race to be ready for tomorrow.”
For Learmonth, the momentum continues after making the Commonwealth Games final last summer and winning his first senior British title in Sheffield last month. The Scot ran a smart race, moving through the field with each lap to win in 1.49.38 and look good in doing so.
“I feel good. I knew when I saw the field I was seeded, I was the fastest person on paper this season. In my head I had to win, I did that and it felt great. I wanted to run a smart race, stay nice and composed and controlled and I did that. This is the big boy stuff now and I’m enjoying it. Tomorrow will be very quick and I’m ready for it.”
Next up in the final track event of the morning was another Scot, Laura Muir (Andy Young), who safely advanced from the first heat of the women’s 3000m. Muir recorded a time of 8.57.71 when finishing second in what was a surprisingly quick qualifying round. She’ll be joined in the final by Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) after the youngster front-ran a terrific race, taking victory in a personal best of 9.03.97. There was disappointment for Kate Avery (Tony Simmons) however, as in the same race as Gorecka she faded from second to fifth to miss out on the final by one spot.
Full coverage can been across the BBC all weekend, via BBC 1, BBC 2, the red button and online at bbc.co.uk/sport.
Live results throughout the weekend can be found at: https://www.european-athletics.org/competitions/european-athletics-indoor-championships/2015/schedules-results/
There will also be live commentary of all the action via @BritAthletics on twitter, as well as session by session reports at www.britishathletics.org.uk