On day two of the European Team Championships in Braunschweig, Germany, the GB & NI squad performed solidly, finishing fifth overall with 281.5 points in a competition won for the second time by hosts Germany with 371 points.
William Sharman (coach: Jerzy Maciukiewicz) – renowned for his reliability at the championships solidified this reputation with a runner-up finish in the 110m hurdles in a lifetime best of 13.21 to move to third on the UK all-time lists behind Colin Jackson and Tony Jarrett.
Sharman, whose time was the fastest by a Brit since 2002, just missed out on the second GB victory of the weekend by 0.01 as Sergey Shubenkov from Russia beat him in a dip-finish, but he took the scalp of world-leader and pre-race favourite Pascal Martinot-Lagarde from France in 13.35.
“I’ve been training through the winter instead of sitting at home injured,” explained Sharman on why he’s been performing so well at this relatively early stage of the season. “It’s made a big difference doing an indoor season. I’m much further on. Normally I would only have started training a few months ago for the hurdles.”
Big points were also scored by James Ellington (Rana Reider), who was third in the 200m. He had a slight stumble out of the blocks, but he recovered to run a typically proficient bend and while he faded slightly in the last 50m, he still held on for third in 20.60 behind Karol Zalewski from Poland in 20.56, and Ramil Guliyev from Turkey in 20.57.
“It was a technically bad race,” Ellington admitted candidly. “I stumbled at the beginning and nearly fell on my face. I’m disappointed because I really should have won that race.
“Next week is going to be tough; everyone is going to be fighting for the spots,” said Ellington, referring to the Sainsbury’s British Championships in Birmingham. “I’m a championship performer and I’m looking to retain my title. I’m going to double up.”
Anyika Onuora (Rana Reider) set the tone in the 200m as she also finished third in her specialist event in 23.24 behind the multi-talented Dafne Schippers from the Netherlands in 22.74.
A women’s 4x400m squad with an average age of 21 comprised of Laura Wake (Nick Dakin), Emily Diamond (Daniel Cossins), Seren Bundy-Davies (Stephen Ball) and Jodie Williams (Christine Bowmaker), who ran an estimated 51.5 anchor leg, finished fourth in 3:28.91.
The men’s quartet replicated this performance as Andrew Steele (Chris Zah), Rory Evans (no coach listed), Rabah Yousif (Carol Williams) and Jarryd Dunn (Keith Holt) came home in 3:03.44 but the position and the time could have been better if the team didn’t get caught up in heavy traffic heading into the last changeover.
Sophie Hitchon (Tore Gustafsson) secured her second top-four finish in succession in the hammer with a third-round throw of 69.23m to finish fourth behind a trio of 74m-plus throwers.
“Tore told me I can compete with these girls and I can be in this competition, compete against the best girls in Europe and be confident and relaxed. I thought it went well,” assessed Hitchon, who set the UK record of 72.97m in this competition last year in Gateshead.
Phillips Idowu (Gary Bourne) also finished fourth in the triple jump with 16.37m although he was some way down on his season’s best in testing conditions.
“It was windy today and I was aware of that,” said the veteran of the British team, who was donning a GB vest for the first time since the 2012 Olympics. “I made adjustments coming into the board but I was still over. I think if I just make sure I get on the board in the right position I can open out my phases.”
Team captain Hannah England (Bud Buldaro) was in a good position at the bell in a tactical 1500m but the former world silver medallist just faded a little in the final strides. She finished in fifth in 4:16.88 in a race won by Abeba Aregawi from Sweden in 4:14.20 with a 58.48 last lap.
“I don’t regret going for that first or second place but the last 50m was pretty disappointing,” said England, who led at the bell. “Hopefully that sort of race will bring me on for other races although I would have liked to have got more points.”
England’s husband Luke Gunn (Baldaro) was projected to finish ninth but he performed above expectations, finishing fifth in 8:36.45.
“I know I’m in PB shape. Unfortunately I couldn’t break it today,” said Gunn, whose lifetime best of 8:28.48 dates back to 2008.
The middle and long-distance runners largely surpassed predictions on the second day. Beth Potter (Mick Woods) was drafted into the team on the eve of the championships when Julia Bleasdale pulled out and the 22-year-old proved a commendable deputy. Projected to finish ninth, she finished fifth in the 5000m with the second fastest time of her career of 15:42.22 on her GB senior debut.
Likewise, Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon) wasn’t expected to finish in fourth in the 3000m but a committed run was rewarded with one of the fastest times of his career of 7:52.47. However, he said he was a little disappointed to lose out on third in the sprint finish.
Serita Solomon (Lloyd Cowan) set a season’s best of 13.22 in the first race of the 100m hurdles to finish seventh overall, while Mukhtar Mohammed (Jon Bigg) was eleventh after being checked in a physical 800m race in 1:50.27.
Elsewhere, Brett Morse finished eighth in the discus with 60.01m; Lee Doran (Chris Watts) finished ninth in the javelin in 71.29m; Jazmin Sawyers also finished ninth in the long jump with 6.27m; Isobel Pooley (Fuzz Ahmed) took eleventh in the high jump with 1.83m; and Rachel Wallader (Geoff Capes) was 12th in the shot put with 15.56m.
Steve Lewis (Dan Pfaff) came in at an equal outdoor season’s best height of 5.52m in the pole vault but he failed to register a point with three failures at his opening height.