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McCain UK Challenge Final 2011


Sarah Holt Hammer

Sarah Holt Hammer

British men’s throwing was boosted again today with a quality hammer competition at today’s McCain UK Challenge Final in Birmingham as Mike Floyd (coach: Kevin Madden) came away with the victory and a PB.

The Commonwealth bronze medallist made his intentions known from the outset as he blasted the hammer out to 72.45m, becoming the fourth British man this year to break 72 metres. It remained his best of the competition, although he ended his series with two more throws over 70 metres. UK champion Alex Smith (Shane Peacock) came within five centimetres of Floyd’s lead in round three, but on this occasion had to play second fiddle to his Sale Harriers team-mate.

“I’m very pleased with that. It’s been a good season and I’ve been waiting for another PB,” said Floyd, whose 72.45m is exactly two metres farther than his PB from last year. “It’s slightly uphill here so there’s probably a bit more there. Alex has beaten me to a fair bit of prize money this year, so it’s nice to come out on top!”

The women’s hammer was equally as exciting. With UK record-holder Sophie Hitchon out in Ulsan in preparation for Daegu for the IAAF World Championships, UK silver medallist Sarah Holt (Bob Weir) was the favourite to win in Birmingham. But Edinburgh’s Susan McKelvie (Alan Bertram) made Holt work hard for her share of the Golden Challenge £5000 bonus.

McKelvie took an early lead with 61.61m, but Holt moved into first with her 65.55m in round two. McKelvie then shattered her PB with a 65.03m throw in the following round. Holt had two more throws over 64 metres, while McKelvie had one more, but the positions remained the same.

I was pleased to win, but I think I’m capable of a bit more,” said Holt. “The pressure was definitely on because Susan was throwing really well. I like competing when there’s a bit of pressure, and usually it’s me trying to chase Sophie so today was a bit different.”

Holt shared the Golden Challenge £5000 bonus with triple jump winner Nadia Williams (Peter Stanley) and discus winner Jade Nicholls (Andrew Neal).

On the track, Caryl Granville (Darrell Maynard) was one of the surprise performers. The Swansea Harrier smashed through the 58-second barrier for the first time to win the women’s 400m hurdles with a PB of 57.61 to enter the UK all-time top 40 and move to fourth on the McCain Power of 10 rankings for 2011.

“That’s a good day’s work,” said Granville. “That PB is long overdue – I’ve run 58 seconds three times this year which has been frustrating. I was secretly hoping that I’d bypass 57 and run 56 seconds, but I’m still really pleased.”

The women’s one-lap flat event also saw another big revision of a lifetime best as Shelayna Oskan (Ayo Falola) took almost half a second off her 400m PB to defeat Emma Pullen (Darrell Maynard). The 21-year-old came through strong to clock a winning time of 53.20 to go to 12th on the McCain Power of 10 rankings.

“Even though it was the end of the season, I wasn’t lacking in motivation,” said Oskan, who has recently switched to train with Ayo Falola, a group that includes Daegu-bound 800m runner Marilyn Okoro. “That PB has been a long time coming.”

European junior silver medallist Andrew Pozzi (Malcolm Arnold) ended his season on a high, beating his senior rivals in the 110m hurdles. The 19-year-old ran 13.84 – his second fastest wind-legal clocking over the senior hurdles, made all the more impressive given the -1.0m/s headwind. Nick Gayle (Lloyd Cowan) and Julian Adeniran (Eliska Binks) also dipped under 14 seconds with 13.92 and 13.99 respectively.

“I was hoping for a little quicker, but I’m happy to end my season on a high,” said Pozzi. “On paper we were all closely matched so it was good to come away with the win.”

Footballer-turned-sprinter Greg Cackett (Margot Wells) was another surprise winner. The Belgrave Harrier defeated his more experienced opponents in the 100m, running 10.56 in to a -2.0m/s headwind. European under-23 bronze medallist Andrew Robertson (John Smith) and European junior silver medallist Adam Gemili were more than a metre behind in second and third respectively, both clocking 10.68.

“I’ve been working on my starts and trying to overcome shin splints,” explained the 21-year-old. “But also in the past few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of power exercises and that’s really helped so I was really confident coming into today. I knew who I was up against and I just wanted a good race. To come away with a win and running 10.5 into a strong headwind has given me a lot of confidence for next year.”

The distance events were incorporated into the BMC Nike Grand Prix Final, held during the evening. The outstanding event of the night was the women’s 1500m. European 800m finalist Jemma Simpson (Mark Rowland) was using the race as a time trial opportunity and she led for much of the way, paced by Celia Brown. But world junior silver medallist Ciara Mageean (Eamonn Christie) was never too far behind Simpson and with 100m to go the Irish 19-year-old made her move.

Mageean hit the lead and despite Simpson’s best efforts she could not quite regain pole position. The European junior silver medallist crossed the line in 4:07.45 to improve her own Irish junior record by almost two seconds. Simpson clocked 4:07.53 in second, while Abby McGhee was the top finisher of those entered in the McCain UK Challenge final, finishing fifth with 4:19.60.

“I couldn’t be any happier,” said a delighted Mageean. “I wanted go out and try to run a PB and I’ve been waiting all season for it. I wasn’t at my peak at the Europeans because I had a niggle earlier in the season. But I’m hitting my top form now and I just want to keep racing.”

The men’s 1500m was won by Finland’s Niclas Sandells in 3:41.16 with second-placer Chris Warburton winning the McCain UK Challenge contest, clocking 3:42.01. But the most impressive performance came from the third-place finisher. Less than three months shy of his 40th birthday, Anthony Whiteman recorded 3:42.40 – the fastest performance for seven years for the 1996 Olympian.

Tara Bird (Ayo Falola) timed her finish well to reel in Karen Harewood (Charles McConnell) to take victory in the women’s 800m with a PB of 2:02.77. Harewood held on for second in 2:02.88, her second fastest outdoor time ever and her quickest performance since 2006.

“I haven’t run a PB since 2009 and I’ve been stuck on 2:05s all season, but I knew I had a 2:02 in me,” said Bird, who now sits at eighth on the McCain Power of 10 rankings. “It’s come at the end of the season, but thank God it’s come. I really enjoy racing against Karen and it’s great to see her run well too.”

The men’s 3000m steeplechase saw a return to form from Stuart Stokes following a double hernia operation, and his pace over the final lap was too much for UK champion Luke Gunn (Bud Baldaro). Stokes kicked away to win with a season’s best of 8:36.87 to go to third on the McCain Power of 10 rankings. Gunn and James Wilkinson (Philip Townsend) followed him across the lines with respective times of 8:38.64 and 8:40.52.

The night ended with the two 5000m finals. The women’s race was won by Gemma Turtle in 15:59.16, smashing her PB by 10 seconds and breaking the 16-minute barrier for the first time, while Hannah Walker (Bud Baldaro) was the top finisher in the McCain UK Challenge with 16:17.56.

The men’s race was far more competitive as UK 10,000m champion James Walsh (Mike Baxter) played a game of cat-and-mouse with Tom Humphries. The lead was exchanged several times on the last lap, but Humphries came away the winner in 13:47.22, with Walsh finishing a second behind in 13:48.24, the highest finisher of the McCain UK Challenge participants.