Brits Contest First Finals In Tallin

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The start of session two of the European U23 Championships was greeted by a torrential downpour, but that failed to damped the GB & NI spirit as the first finals were contested.

Taking place later in the programme once the rain had ceased, Marc Scott (coach: Steve Gulley) and Kieran Clements (Ricardo Santos) lined up in the men’s 10,000m, the first final of the championships. The field was a strong one, but nobody could do anything to stop Ali Kaya storming to victory in a championship record of 27.53.38.

There was however a mighty tussle for the minor medals, in which Marc Scott played a large part. With just under ten laps to go, the chase group was down to five and it was anyone’s guess which way the medals would go. In the end though the going got just that bit too tough for Scot who had to settle for sixth in 29.21.99, still a great performance.

“It was tough! The five of us were together and the pace was just surging every 300m, which is incredibly tough to do in a race. I tried to dig deep and I’m pleased with the result. I was gritting my teeth and I did my best, so I’m pleased with sixth place.”

There was disappoint for Clements though who was forced to drop out late on due to breathing problems.

After qualifying with her final throw this morning, Sophie McKinna (Mike Winch) was back at the Kadriorg Stadium this evening to contest the women’s shot put final. Taking centre stage at the end of the programme, McKinna once again produced her best effort of 15.68m in round three, but agonisingly missed out on making the top eight by just 17cm.

“Ninth place is possibly the worst place you can finish and missing out by centimetres has killed me. But athletics is rough and smooth; winning silver in 2013 but then 2015 not so good. I came expecting more of myself, but I’ve just changed coaches so hopefully my technique will settle down and I’ll come back stronger.”

First up in session two was Elizabeth Bird (George Harrison) in heat one of the 3000m steeplechase. Knowing that a top five finish would guarantee her place in the final, the Princeton student made sure she was always in contention, and finished strongly in a time of 10.03.69 to take fourth and advance safely.

With the surface bearing more resemblance to her surname than a track, Iona Lake (Pauline Ash) wasn’t about to waste her opportunity in heat two, immediately hitting the front and making sure the pace was honest. Despite being swamped on the last lap and ending up sixth, she progressed as the fastest loser courtesy of her 9.59.79 clocking.

“It was a weird race and given it was pretty steady I took it on, but got bombed on the last lap! Given the conditions I wanted to be able to see the barriers, and although I wanted to come top five I was kind of aware of the time, and I’ve done enough. I wanted to play it safe and qualify [by keeping it fast] but in the final I’ll be the one sitting.”

The 1500m boys duly followed suit, both employing front running tactics to make sure they progressed. In the first heat, Cameron Boyek (David Lowes) made all of the running before being crowded out down the home-straight. Thankfully, by keeping the pace quick, he ensured his sixth place finish in 3.44.00 was the fastest of all the non-automatic qualifiers.

“I didn’t want to leave it until the last 400, as I knew if I did and I got out kicked I’d be in trouble. With 80m to go I sort of misjudged where I was and I didn’t see the French guy coming. I’ll be ready for the final and I’ll do things differently – today was just about qualifying.”

It was much the same story for Neil Gourley (Gordon Lockie) in the second of the two heats, however he held his form better down the home-straight to finish third and make absolutely sure of his final spot.

“No one seemed keen to lead it and I saw the opportunity to go, so I thought I might as well take advantage of the inside lane. I’m happy with how I executed the race – it wasn’t the plan but it worked out just fine. I don’t know whether it was Cameron’s plan either but he got through too so it’s all good, two Brits in the final. I’m expecting a burn up in the final like I’m sure everybody is, but I’m ready for that as training has been going well – I’m looking forward to it.”

With the proposed three rounds cut to just two, 800m runners Adelle Tracey (Craig Winrow) and Katie Snowden (Alasdair Donaldson) knew they must finish in the top two in their respective heats, or be one of the two fastest losers if they were to make Saturday’s final.

Up first was Tracey, who on her GB & NI debut ran a smart race. Sitting second all the way, she used her pace to good effect to hold off a fast finishing Ukranian and ensure she progressed. It needed a photo-finish to separate the top three, but the youngster was happy with the outcome.

“It was a bit to close for comfort but I felt within myself so I’m happy with that. My aim was to try and make it as easy as possible and try and qualify confidently and I did that. In the final I’m just going to give it my best shot and leave it all on the track.”

In the final heat, Katie Snowden knew it would be quick and so she put herself on the shoulder of the leader. Slipping to third down the back-straight, the Herne Hill Harrier fought all the way to the line, and was relieved to hear her 2.04.67 time was enough to see her through.

“It was a bit risky leaving it to a fastest loser spot but thankfully that’s the worst bit out of the way and I can focus on the final now. Hopefully I’ll run a lot better than that as I didn’t feel great there. Fingers crossed come Saturday I’ll be good to go.”

There was a confident performance from Chris Kandu (Fuzz Ahmed) in the men’s high jump qualifying as he topped Pool A. Clearing 2.10 and 2.15 first time, a second time clearance at 2.18m was enough and he’ll now line up as one to watch in Saturday’s final.

“I was pretty relaxed even though I knew it was going to rain, and I’m not comfortable in rain. Overall though I was pretty relaxed as I know training is going well and hopefully this week I’ll put it together. I had to be prepared and my coaches always tell me I have to be two steps ahead of the game. I knew 2.18m would be enough today.”

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