Steph Twell (coach: self-coached; club: Aldershot Farnham and District) took a memorable victory at the Night of 10,000m PBs, while Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall; Dundee Hawkhill) and Ben Connor (Steve Vernon; Derby) bagged European silver and bronze medals respectively on an entertaining evening at the European 10,000m Cup at the Night of 10,000m PBs.
Twell, running in her AFD vest, produced a phenomenal display to overhaul European Championships 10,000m gold-medallist Lonah Chemtai Salpeter (ISR) with 600 metres to go to earn a popular victory in front of a boisterous home crowd.
The Israeli went off hard, moving away over the opening kilometres, looking in supreme form while Twell and McColgan stuck with the pace maker as they eyed personal bests, and with it, standards for the IAAF World Championships and Olympic Games.
As Salpeter was reeled in, Twell took her opportunity, making a decisive move and holding her composure on the final lap to seal the British title in a magnificent time of 31:08.13, the sixth fastest time ever by a Briton.
Twell said afterwards: “I still really can’t quite believe it. The atmosphere was electric. I was really just following the light gates for so long, and I didn’t realise what kind of race I was in until the second half. I can’t wait to see the full results, but I think I smashed it!”
On how she judged her race well to seize victory in London, she added: “A few months ago, in my head, I would probably have let her go. On the back straight, I just thought, I could still see her heels, ‘I’m not letting her go’. I didn’t even think about her as European champion, she was just another girl in the race and that was important to me to think she wasn’t out of reach.”
McColgan continued her impressive 2019 form, earning a massive personal best, 31.16.76, which secured European silver behind Salpeter – as Twell was not part of the European Cup entrants.
Following her prowess over the shorter distances – improving to 4:00.97 over 1500m and 14:47.94 in the 5000m – this was another significant best for the Scot who moves to seventh on the 10,000m UK all-time standings for the 10,000m.
She said afterwards: “I was absolutely insane. When I dropped off the pace, mentally I can sometimes feel sorry for myself and drop off, but the crowd were going so crazy when the light caught me. It panicked me a bit and I thought ‘god that’s the qualifying time, I want to do this and get it out of the way’. I felt like I was flying over the last 600m, maybe I wasn’t but I felt really strong. I felt the buzz going through my body as I was running. I’m glad I ran Highgate, and glad it was part of my plan. I’ll be back again.”
McColgan’s individual European silver medal earned the British team the gold medal overall in the European Cup, following on from victory in 2018. Backing up the Scots impressive performance was Alice Wright (Ben Rosario; Worcester) in 32:27.57, the second counter in the GB & NI team, with Verity Ockenden (Tony Houchin; Swansea) next in 32:34.47.
Charlotte Arter (Chris Jones; Cardiff) [32:40.60], Sarah Inglis (Mark Bomba; Lothian) [32:52.51] and Mhairi MacLennan (Helen Clitheroe; Edinburgh Uni Hare & Hounds) [32:58.42] all contributed to the gold-medal moment for the squad of six.
The men’s race built up into a highly entertaining contest, with Britain’s Ben Connor winning his first European Cup medal, sealing bronze and clocking sub-28 minutes for the first time.
Although his time of 27:57.60 was outside the Doha qualifying standard, the prospect of gunning for the time is still a possibility for the Derby athlete.
Connor said afterwards: “I’m delighted – British champ, third overall, sub 28, it couldn’t have gone much better to be honest. I felt really good up to 5000m, went through in 14:05ish. I was wary that I’ve blown up before – it’s so easy to mess up a 10,000m track race. I’ve made mistakes before and didn’t want to make them again.
“I want to chase the world championship qualifying time, whether that is over the 10,000m or the 5000m. I’ll decide on that in the next few days.”
The Italian Yemaneberhan Crippa won the senior men’s race from Amanal Petros in 27:49.79 to the Germans 27:52.25.
Nick Goolab (Craig Winrow; Belgrave ran a strong race, crossing the line in eighth position after pushing for the podium places in the closing stages of a thrilling race. In his first ever track 10,000m, his time was recorded at 28:10.49.
The third Briton in the contest – although not competing within the GB&NI team for the European Cup – was Chris Thompson (Alan Storey; AFD), who posted a time of 28:28.55.
Adding to Connor’s third and Goolab’s eighth place, the rest of the British men helped to guide the team to the silver medal.
Matt Leach (Philip O’Dell; Bedford & County) narrowly won the race long tussle with Jack Gray (Mark Vile; Cambridge & Coleridge), coming in at 28:47.24 to Gray’s 28:49.53. Team captain at the World Cross earlier this year, Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin; Southend) was next in 29:13.54 while Andrew Heyes (Steve Vernon; Hallamshire) followed in 29:32.90 in what became increasingly wet conditions.