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Fantastic European Finalists for BUAC

After a fifth place in the event from Mari Smith* at the 2019 Championships, Issy Boffey made it a duo of BUAC members to race over the women's 800 metres at the European Indoor Championships.

Joining her on the 46-strong British team was Amelia Quirk, trading the mud of Aarhus for the smooth blue Mondo of Toruń as she competed for the second time in a senior British vest.

Day 1 - Thursday

Women's 3000 Heat 2

Quirk leads an experienced pack

At only the second Euro Indoors to be held over four days, there was BUAC action on the first day in Toruń as Amelia Quirk raced in the second heat of the women's 3000 metres.

Showing confidence well beyond her 21 years in a race featuring athletes over ten years her elder, the Bracknell athlete moved to the front from the off. The race lead was an exercise in contrasts, as Dutch athlete Jip Vastenburg sat behind Quirk, her six-foot frame towering over the young Brit.

Quirk led the field through 2:59.74 for the first kilometre

Leading for much of the race, Quirk led the field through 2:59.74 for the first kilometre, as she looked to protect herself from the jostling that often occurs indoors.

Upping the pace to 2:57.65 for the second kilometre, and still looking eminently in control of the race, Quirk only relinquished the lead with just over four laps remaining, confident that her strong early pacesetting would mean that the four non-automatic qualifiers would come from the second heat, in addition to the first four across the line.

Verity Ockenden was one of three athletes to pass Quirk, with Vastenburg and Mišmaš-Zrimsek the other two. The Mick Woods-coached athlete remained strong over the final laps, finishing fourth across the line to comfortably secure a place in the final.

There was late drama after the athletes finished, with Mišmaš-Zrimsek and Vastenburg both disqualified

There was late drama after the athletes had finished, with Mišmaš-Zrimsek of Slovenia and Dutchwoman Vastenburg both suffering at the hands of the potentially overzealous track judges out in Poland, disqualified for stepping onto the inside of the track.

Their removal from the results saw Ockenden top the heat, with Quirk a place behind, as the British pair were the two fastest qualifiers for the following day's final. Quirk's time was 8:53.21, a new personal best, and a great indicator of performances to come.

I think I was in a good position for most of the race, running smoothly. That was the plan, to stay out of trouble; if I get a shove, I'm probably going over. So, you do have to be a bit careful. Yeah, then at one point we were 1-2-3, but I just didn't quite have it. I've still run under 8:50, and that's what my coach said I could do on the day, it just wasn't enough, but these girls are older and stronger, and there's more to come. Amelia Quirk
Quirk on her way to securing a place in the final

Full results can be found here.

Power of 10 results can be found here.

Day 2 - Friday

Women's 800 Heat 3

In the third of six heats where athletes looked to advance to Saturday's semi-finals, speed played second fiddle to position, as the first three of each heat qualified automatically, with no non-automatic qualifiers.

An out of focus Boffey waiting to unleash her kick

Starting out in lane six was of no concern for the Enfield & Haringey athlete, as after a bit of jostling when the athletes broke for the inside, she sat comfortably in second behind the fast-starting Daniela Garcia of Spain.

Once in the top three, Boffey never departed from it

Once in the top three, Boffey never departed from it, despite losing her second-place position to Italian Bellò, who squeezed through dangerously on her inside with a lap gone as she looked to take on the pace.

The order of Bellò, Garcia and Boffey held until the bell lap, as Boffey kicked for home down the back straight, passing Garcia and closing the gap to the Italian leader. Finishing fast, Boffey crossed the line in second in a time of 2:04.08, securing automatic qualification to the semi-finals.

Full results can be found here.

Power of 10 results can be found here.

Women's 3000 Final

Markovc and Ockenden celebrate a successful final

There was a full complement of British athletes in the women's 3000 final on Friday night, as heat 2 qualifiers Amelia Quirk and Verity Ockenden were joined by recent British 2 Mile record-breaker Amy-Eloise Markovc.

The race began with Selamawit Bayoulgn of Israel taking the pace out hard, a gap forming between herself and the rest of the field at points. Sat in second was Quirk, who looked equally happy to be led through a fast pace as she did taking the pace out hard in her heat.

The first third of the race saw the athletes strung out, with athletes single file round the bends, and some small tussles for position down the straights. The field covered the initial kilometre in 2:56.25, as Quirk was followed by Maureen Koster of the Netherlands, a slight gap forming behind the Dutch athlete.

Quirk looked equally happy to be led through a fast pace as she did taking the pace out hard in her heat

With six laps of running remaining, a lead pack of nine had formed, including all three Brits, as the pace slowed to a 2:59.19 second kilometre. With chances of a British medal increasing, Markovc and Ockenden looked to cement their positions at the front of the race with 800 metres remaining, both moving to the head of the pack alongside Quirk.

The move accelerated things at the front, with the nine leaders soon becoming eight as the pace quickened. Four wide down the home straight as the lap counter showed three remaining, the three British athletes still remained in the top five, led by Quirk, as early leader Bayoulgn appeared to tire. A fall from Koster that impeded Swedish athlete Meraf Bahta with 300 metres remaining meant that despite being passed by a couple of athletes, Quirk was still well placed in fourth.

The performance was even more notable in that it was the second-fastest run by a British U23 indoors

Making her move as they took the bell, Quirk smoothly moved past the Israeli athlete for a British 1-2-3. The first bend saw both Quirk passed by a hard-charging Alice Finot of France, who motivated Ockenden in second to kick on and challenge Markovc for the lead.

Across the line it was Markovc who was the victor, with Finot between her and Ockenden, who secured the bronze. The battle for fourth was tight, but a fast-finishing Quirk was just edged out by Bahta by four-hundredths of a second, 8:48.82 her time and a new club record to boot.

Fifth place was just reward for some incredible running at the championships by Quirk, producing the fastest fifteen laps ever seen by a BUAC athlete, breaking Lauren Heyes' club record of 8:52.00 set back in 2013. The performance was even more notable in that it was the second-fastest run by a British U23 indoors, behind Zola Budd, and the time places her UK#11 U23 in any setting.

The field ready for 15 laps of indoor running

Full results can be found here.

Power of 10 results can be found here.

Day 3 - Saturday

Women's 800 Semi-Final 2

Józwik and Boffey battle down the home straight

Drawn in lane six again, Issy Boffey was due to face a sterner test than her heat as she battled against home favourite Joanna Józwik, as well as the winner of her heat, Elena Bellò, and experienced pair Lovisa Lindh and Selina Rutz-Büchel.

Qualification conditions were even tighter for the athletes than in the previous round, with only the top two from each of the three semis going through to the six-person final.

Qualification conditions were even tighter than in the previous round

Happy to let others take up the pace, Boffey was forced out into lane two for much of the first bend, as nervous athletes jostled for position. As the running order settled down after a fast 28.67 first lap taken out by Rutz-Büchel, Boffey found herself in fifth position, tucked in behind Tanja Spill of Germany.

Remaining relaxed after sixth-placer Lindh moved up to third down the back straight, Boffey looked composed as she came round with two laps to go, moving up onto the shoulder of Spill to sit two-wide as they entered the bend.

Remaining in sixth for a prolonged period of time, it was at the 250m mark where Boffey unleashed an electrifying kick for home, the 2020 UK #10 over 400 metres showing her speed as she hit the front a mere 30 metres later, taking the bell two-tenths of a second ahead of Rutz-Büchel.

Boffey unleashed an electrifying kick for home

Benefiting from a fading Rutz-Büchel taking up much of the space on the inside, those chasing had to go the long way round to catch the Enfield & Haringey athlete, who had built up a lead of around five metres.

Those chasing went three wide into the final bend in an effort to catch the British athlete, but in the end only Józwik was capable of reeling her in, and she qualified in second, a time of 2:03.34 for her efforts.

I'm really happy to have executed my plan well, really stayed strong and secured my place in the final. Issy Boffey
Boffey secures her place in the final

Full results can be found here.

Power of 10 results can be found here.

An interview with Issy after her race can be found here.

Day 4 - Sunday

Women's 800 Final

GB v Poland was the key battle in the final

With three British athletes in the final of the women's 800 metres, hopes were high for the trio with an average age just a shade over 20. Newly nineteen Keely Hodgkinson and practically ancient 22-year-old Ellie Baker joined BUAC favourite Issy Boffey on the start line, with Boffey drawn on the inside for the first time, starting in lane two.

The change in lane did very little to change Boffey's tactics as the race began, settling into a comfortable cadence in fifth as the other two Brits and the Poles battled for the top four placings early on.

Pace ebbed and flowed through the first two laps, with both Józwik of Poland and Hodgkinson looking reluctant to take the racing on at the front. The first 100 metres, covered in 14.3 seconds, was followed by a second that was 2.5 seconds slower, as the athletes sat two wide through the corners of the second lap, waiting for someone to make a move.

The race was bunched for much of the first half

65.3 seconds for the first 400 metres was positively pedestrian even for a championship race, and it was with 300 metres to go that the pace quickened. With the athletes strung out, Boffey sat in sixth and unfortunately looked distanced from the leaders, with fifth-placed Hoffman of Switzerland letting a large gap out to the athletes in front.

At the bell, Hodgkinson accelerated further, a gap opening between first and second, but unfortunately the lightning-fast kick of the heats and semi-finals was not forthcoming from Boffey, who was potentially victim to scheduling which saw heats, semi-final and final compressed into three consecutive days of the four-day long championships.

Crossing the line in a distant 2:07.26, the performance was not for a lack of effort, and a sixth place at the European Indoor Championships is an outstanding result as a first outing in a British senior vest. The race was the final one of a very strong, albeit short indoor season from the BUAC athlete, who ran 2:02.45 at her best to come within 0.11 of the club indoor record set by Mari Smith in 2019.

Hodgkinson celebrates victory

Full results can be found here.

Power of 10 results can be found here.

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