Asha Philip (coach: Steve Fudge) scored a SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championship hat-trick in Birmingham as day one of the championships at Arena Birmingham delivered countless eye-catching performances.
Claiming what was her third 60m title in a row and ninth British title indoors and out, Philip’s season’s best equalling run showing she has the consistency to be a genuine medal contender at the World Indoor Championships on the very same track in two weeks’ time.
European Indoor champion last year with a 7.06 personal best and British record, Philip was then part of the silver medal winning GB quartet at the London 2017 World Championships and is making a habit of winning international medals.
“I felt like I had a great winter and the indoor season has started well, so I just had to execute the race and confirm my place on the team for the World Indoor Championships. It is a bit daunting competing here. The next time I’m in here, I’ll be racing at the World Indoors so that was in the back of my mind. It did build up a bit of tension but it was the perfect rehearsal.
“I will only accept a medal at the World Indoors. This is my time – I’ve finished fourth and fifth, and gone out in semi-finals, but I’m not doing that this time.”
In the battle for the minor medals Daryll Neita (Jonas Dodoo) just got the better of 200m specialist Bianca Williams (Lloyd Cowan), the pair crossing the line in 7.26 and 7.28, both also possessing the World Indoor qualifying time.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson underlined her class as she took the women’s long jump title with a 6.71m season’s best, confirming that her preparations for the forthcoming World Championships are right on track.
The result never seemed in doubt, with runner-up Jazmin Sawyers only managing 6.08m, so it was Johnson-Thompson versus herself, producing jumps of 6.62m and 6.57m to back up her winning leap.
“I feel really good after that – I’m happy with the distance and to complete all six jumps is really encouraging.
“The crowd were getting really involved which is great. I enjoy competing at the British Championships and to win the title is always a proud moment. The main focus is the pentathlon in ten days so this was great preparation.”
Billed my many as the pre-race favourite, Laura Muir (Andy Young) lived up to her billing as she streaked clear of the strongest field of the day to take the women’s 3000m title.
Sharing the track with fellow Scot and Dundee Hawkhill teammate Eilish McColgan (Liz McColgan), Muir put the hammer down with 600m to go, McColgan chasing hard but having settle for silver. Bronze went the way of steeplechaser Rosie Clarke (David Harmer) with long-time front runner Melissa Courtney (Rob Denmark) good for fourth.
After her 8:46.71 victory, the double European Indoor champion said:
“I’m really pleased; the win was sort of the important thing and I had to test my speed over the last few laps. I’m really pleased with how I executed the race and happy with the win.”
On balancing her running with her veterinary training Muir added:
“It’s been tough juggling training but so far it’s gone really well and my sessions this week have been very close to PB sessions, so I’m in really good form and it’s about maintaining that in the next couple of weeks before the Championships.”
Scottish champions were like London buses as in the very next race Jake Wightman (Geoff Wightman) showed terrific closing speed over the final 200m to pull clear of Charles Da’vall Grice (Jon Bigg) and clinch his first British 1500m title. Running 25.4 seconds for that last lap, Wightman continued his fine indoor form to secure an automatic place in the British Athletics team for Birmingham.
“I’ll take any title I can get and the indoors is a really nice one to win. When I went I tried to lose sight of them as quickly as possible and get away as quickly as I could and it paid off. Worlds was never definitely in my plans, it was just a case of if I got the standards then I’d look to go.
“I did that last week and there would have always been disappointment not to make the team from this position.”
In a hotly anticipated men’s 60m final CJ Ujah (Stuart McMillan) showed why he is one of the country’s biggest talents, taking the British title and booking his Birmingham 2018 spot. A measured run saw the Diamond League 100m champion take no risks in the blocks, moving through the field to cross the line in 6.56, the second quickest time of his career.
“The main thing was to come here and secure my spot on the team. 6.56 – I’m happy with that but my experienced showed. I did what I needed to do. I’m 23 and this is my second British indoor title – it is an amazing feeling, truly.
“I needed a run-out on this track as it’s a perfect warm-up for a couple of weeks’ time. I cannot wait to be competing at the World Indoors, it will be a very special event.”
Blistering out of the blocks it was Andrew Robertson who led for the most part, the defending champion setting a huge season’s best of 6.62, with Welshman Sam Gordon (Matt Elias) running a 6.67 personal best for bronze.
In a bizarre turn of events, by the time they finally got underway it was five athletes fighting for three medals, with Richard Kilty not starting and Confidence Lawson (Clarence Callender) and Deji Tobias (Simon Duberley) disqualified for a false start. Earlier in the day Ojie Edoburun (Steve Fudge) false started in his heat, bringing his day to a premature end.
When the gun went in the men’s 60m hurdles final Andrew Pozzi (Benke Blomkvist) was fast asleep, but he kept his composure to race through the gears and defend his title. Unbelievably Pozzi produced a season’s best of 7.58 to secure his place on the team for Birmingham 2018, with silver medallist David King (James Hillier) setting a lifetime of best of 7.63 and Khai Riley-La Borde (Ray Gibbons) bagging bronze.
A home championship for the man from Stratford-upon-Avon is a prospect he is relishing, and he’ll look to show the same kind of form that saw him take the European title last winter.
Of his race Pozzi said:
“I’m elated to qualify for the World Indoor Championships. There is a lot of work to do before I get there, but this was a very big race to win and I’m delighted. The guys pushed me all the way so it sure made for an entertaining race.
“I will need to race a lot better than that at the Worlds though, I’m aware of that. I am in good shape, similar to last year so I really want to take that sort of form into those championships, here in Birmingham.”
In contrast the women’s race was wide open, with perhaps Marilyn Nwawulor (Lloyd Cowan) favourite as Power of 10 leader. After a fine run in the heats it was Yasmin Miller (Robert Smith) who led thoughout, but coming off the last hurdle Loughborough University’s Megan Marrs (Jerzy Maciukiewicz) carried all the momentum, overhauling her rivals to take the British title.
Stopping the clock in a personal best of 8.16, the Northern Irishwoman was agonisingly just two hundredths of a second shy of the World Indoor standard.
The men’s long jump saw Greg Rutherford (Dan Pfaff) returned to action for the first time since June to win his seventh British title with his very first jump of the competition. Commenting after his 7.80m effort the 2012 Olympic champion said:
“It feels like it has been years and years since I competed! I am exhausted now, that’s the overriding thing – I think it is the stress of having no idea what shape I am in.
“I only started walking again in mid-November so it has been a very quick turnaround since the two surgeries. I’m chuffed to bits to do the six jumps and come through it. I feel more confident for next week now at the Indoor Grand Prix Glasgow.”
There was a ding-dong battle in the women’s pole vault, Molly Caudrey (Stuart Caudrey) eventually prevailing thanks to a 4.25m indoor personal best, beating defending champion Jade Ive (Brian Hooper) on countback
Scott Lincoln (Paul Wilson) secured his third British title within two rounds in the men’s shot, eventually finishing with a best of 18.40m, almost a metre clear of runner-up Scott Rider (John Hillier), with double world and Paralympic champion Aled Davies (Ryan Spencer-Jones) impressing with a lifetime best of 15.42m with the 7.26kg implement..
Eilidh Doyle (Brian Doyle) safely navigated the first two rounds of the women’s 400m and will start as strong favourite in tomorrow’s final at 15.40. Fastest in the UK this year prior to this weekend, Doyle set a further season’s best with a clear 52.11 semi-final win to strengthen her grip at the top of the rankings.
It was an up and down day for Doyle’s fellow Scot Zoey Clarke (Eddie McKinna), getting pipped on the line in the heats before bouncing back to win her semi-final and set a World Indoor qualifying time of 52.73, also an indoor personal best.
Stepping up a distance the 800m heats also went to script, Andrew Osagie (Mark Rowland), Elliot Giles (Bigg), Adelle Tracey (Craig Winrow) and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (Bigg) winning their races to advance. Eilish McColgan returned to the track to book her place in the 1500m final, as did Katie Snowden (Rob Denmark) who also has the Birmingham 2018 standard.