ANDREW Pozzi continued his stunning form with another 60m hurdles victory over some of the world’s finest at Saturday’s Müller Indoor Grand Prix at the Barclaycard Arena – but the previous weekend it was the turn of Stratford Athletic Club’s next generation of stars to shine at the Birmingham venue.
Pozzi, who will be gunning for glory at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, in early March, competed and won many medals as a junior in the Midlands Indoor Championships and is the inspiration to the Stratford AC youngsters who try and emulate him.
They were bidding to do exactly that at these championships, which attract eligible athletes from both the West and East Midlands and the South West of England.
The indoor event was a welcome respite from the grim weather for a group of 14 Stratford AC youngsters who produced some great performances across seven different events.
Superlatives are often overused and should be reserved for great performances, but that is what Stratford’s under 17 hurdlers Ollie Cresswell and Jack Sumners produced in a cracking 60m hurdles final that got the Stratford supporters around the arena out of their seats.
Along with their training partner Zephan Boxall, they all eased through their heats to reach the final and a bit of club history was made when the three Stratford athletes lined up in a high level final for the first time.
They all exploded out of their blocks with Ollie getting to the all-important hurdle first – a position he held throughout the race. In typical style, Jack came back at him but his surge to the line was not quite enough and Ollie held his form to finish in a new personal best of 8.15secs, with Jack just one hundredth of a second and the thickness of a vest behind in 8.16secs.
This means that, going into the National Championships, the UK’s top five ranked hurdlers at this level are covered by just six one hundredths of a second and Stratford have two of them.
In his first championship since returning from a severe hamstring injury and in his first year as an U17, Zephan finished sixth with a new PB of 8.64secs to move into the top 20 times ran in the UK this year.
Ollie could not have asked for a more difficult timetabling of his events. The hurdles final was actually run whilst his high jump final was going on but, although he was shattered from the hurdles, he popped over his opening height of 1.75m and went on to finish in the gold medal spot with a final leap of 1.85m – two golds in the space of ten minutes!
Archie Hurley also competed in the same high jump competition and as a first timer at this age. Although he found his rhythm and the fast track difficult to master, he still finished eighth with a final jump of 1.50m.
Jack had his golden moment a few hours earlier in the long jump with a superb series of jumps so early in the season that saw him on to the top of the podium with a best of 6.24m and still ranked number three in the UK this year.
Rory Dwyer is the outstanding high jumper the club has produced and, now he is away at Loughborough University, his spikes are being filled by the club’s talented group of young jumpers.
With Ollie winning gold, the medal rush continued with U20 athlete Issy Cain jumping 1.65m to win silver and U17 Jodie Watson jumping 1.60m, U15 Evie Lowe setting a new PB of 1.50m and U15 George Fox-Rowe jumping 1.50m to all win bronze.
U15s Maddie Clark (1.35) and Ellie Bryan (1.30) finished tenth and 11th in the high jump before multi-eventer Maddie went off to the shot put and, after a series of consistently good throws, she emerged with a gold medal.
In her first competition as an U20, Emily Madden Forman literally bounced back to her best in the triple jump with a good series of jumps.
The organisers decided to combine the male and female competitions, which took two-and-a-half very long hours to complete. Unsurprisingly, with all the hanging around waiting to jump, the quality of jumping tailed off, but Emily’s early effort of 11.23m was good enough to win the silver medal.
Emily had a messy start in her heat of the 60m hurdles but managed to qualify for the final in which she really built up a head of steam and finished just outside the medals in a time of 9.49secs.
Taz Chape got an early season confidence boost competing in the hurdles. After a nervous start she got into the rhythm of the race and finished with a PB of 9.87secs.
U17 Georgia Clark, competing for the first time in a championship in a Stratford vest, had what can be best described as a busy, very tiring day in the 60m hurdles and 200m.
With not much recovery time, she ran well to reach the finals of both events and finished with an indoor 200m PB of 27.15secs and was a tenth outside her PB in the hurdles with 9.38secs.
The sprinters had a mixed championships and the busiest was U15 Beth Cate who had a superb but nonetheless very frustrating meeting.
She reached the final of the 60m – running a PB of 8.19secs which saw her just miss a medal in a blanket finish – and then after three gruelling 200m races and reaching the final she ran another PB of 26.89secs which put her firmly at the top of the West Midlands rankings.
U15s Grace Fairweather (8.45secs) and Maddie Clark (8.64secs) both ran PBs to reach the semi-finals of their 60m, whilst the U17s also impressed as Dani Horton (8.33secs) ran a season’s best in the 60m and Gabriella Porter set a new PB of 28.65secs in the 200m as they also reached their respective semi-finals.
Reflecting on a very successful championships, the athletes’ lead coach Paul Bearman said: “We admire the youngsters turning up week in, week out during the winter to train in generally poor, sometimes lousy conditions, and then seeing them turn in performances that set a benchmark for things to come in the summer was very encouraging.
“The outstanding race of the championships was obviously Ollie and Jack backed up by a resurgent Zephan, but seeing the jumpers doing really well, particularly with five of the high jump training group winning medals, was special because they are training in technical events in all weathers and rarely complain – although the coaches often do!”
Report courtesy of Paul Bearman.