Four More for BUAC
Cover photo by @jrhodesathletics
After the success of Amelia Quirk in the very final televised event the day before, while most athletes were surely just rising in their Manchester-based temporary accommodation on the Saturday of the championships, medals were being won by BUAC members and alumni on the track.
Three silvers came on the day, including one for Issy Boffey, as well as a gold in the women's race walking, coverage of the event unjustly brief for those who all too often find their races bookending meetings.
Women's 5000 Walk
Looking positively patriotic in the red, white and blue of Oxford City worn by many a successful BUAC alum, Gemma Bridge* went in the women's 5000 metre walk.
The order from the off was Heather Lewis, of Liverpool Pembroke Harriers, then Bridge, and defending champion Bethan Davies of Cardiff in third. Lewis stretched her lead over the subsequent laps, despite her kilometre splits slowing from 4:13 in the first to 4:31 in the fourth.
With a clear lead of over 100 metres at around the 20-minute mark, Lewis accrued her third red card, enforcing a diversion into the new World Athletics innovation of the pit lane.
After a thirty second wait, attempting to make up for lost time, Lewis sped out of the penalty box, but it wasn't to be for her on the day, as her technique garnered a fourth red card with only a hundred metres remaining, and a disqualification.
This left Bridge in the lead, and her walking carried her to the line in a time of 22:51.15, a personal best, and a British title.
Men's 3000 Steeplechase
From the gun, and wearing the new style vest of the London-based club, Pearce went to the front from the off, with Imroth sitting in sixth place.
Last year's silver medallist Phil Norman, wearing shades to combat the rarely seen Manchester sun, sat two or three strides off Pearce through the first lap, giving him space to work as Imroth moved into fifth on their second circuit of the track.
With four laps to go, there was a clear front three formed, with Bedford & County's Dan Jarvis sat in third, and Pearce still leading Norman. Imroth sat further back behind Chris Perry of Vale Royal, a gap of around 50 metres to the front three.
Utilising his long stride, Pearce almost avoided getting wet altogether traversing the water jump, and his strong hurdling technique complemented a languid running style as he carried the race to 500 metres to go.
It was at that point that Norman made his move, with Jarvis vying for position on his shoulder. Taking a fast exit from the home straight barrier, Norman wound up the pace from there on, stretching the gap to Pearce to a maximum with 200 to go, before being chased by the Birmingham Track Elite member down the home straight.
It took a stadium record from Norman to have the beating of Pearce, who came home in 8:33.61, a massive personal best, securing a silver medal. Imroth came home in fifth and a time of 9:08.19, another strong showing for the athlete soon to join the talented crop of steeplechasers training at the university.
Men's 400 Hurdles
After an easy qualifying round on Friday, Chris McAlister* was due up in the men's 400 metre hurdles final.
Starting in lane six, the Thames Valley Harrier was running blind in relation to the other favourites, Efe Okoro of Birchfield in 3, and Guernsey's Alastair Chalmers in 4.
It was no surprise when those three rose first, Okoro leading Chalmers and McAlister as the trio pulled away from the field. The athletes maintained order down the back straight, with Okoro making up the stagger on Chalmers by the 200-metre mark.
With Okoro and Chalmers level entering the home straight, McAlister had a lot of work to do, and charged towards the last two hurdles.
Taking a strong run out of the penultimate hurdle, McAlister passed a tiring Okoro who looked to be going backwards. He continued his push, and despite a rough clearance of hurdle ten, McAlister pulled away from those chasing behind for a time of 50.54 and a silver medal behind the lifetime best-setting Chalmers.
Women's 3000 Steeplechase
Maisie Grice and Lucy Jones went for BUAC in the women's 3000 steeplechase, for Aldershot, Farnham & District, and Charnwood. Grice had been in strong form since lockdown, racing five times before the championships, including a new personal best over 1500 metres.
Rosie Clarke and 800 metre finalist Aimee Pratt held a large gap from the off, taking up the pace from the gun. Pratt led Clarke early, and by the time the athletes reached the water jump, the gap between the two was over 20 metres.
Grice and Jones were leading the chasers behind, a fluid pack changing order with some regularity. While Pratt ran away with the title and a stadium record, over 100 metres up on third place when she went through her 3:06 first kilometre, those behind still had much more work to do in sorting out of the positions.
It was Jones' Charnwood clubmate, Hannah Nuttall, who eventually took bronze behind Clarke in second, with Grice finishing out in lane 3 for a time of 10:39.07 and sixth. One position back was Jones, a battling 10:56.03 her time for only her third race of the year.
Jonny Davies* started in the inside group of the split start of the men's 5000 metres, and 200 metres in he sat comfortably at the back of the group. The pace was shortly taken up by Jake Smith wearing the blue, white and red of Cardiff, to Davies' Reading red, white and blue.
As Smith took the athletes through the first kilometre in 2:42, Davies sat mid-pack, sheltered behind the freshly shaven head of Phil Sesemann.
Smith, Tom Mortimer of Stroud, and Marc Scott, newly anointed British 5K record holder, led through the first three laps, building a gap of around ten metres on the rest of the field, prompting a response from Davies as he moved to the front to control the gap to the leaders.
Around the four minute mark, Scott hit the front and never looked back, opening up a gap of over 30 metres through the halfway point. His efforts caused the field behind him to splinter, with a pack of four remaining behind to battle for the lower two steps of the podium.
That group featured Davies, early leader Smith, as well as Mortimer and Jack Rowe of Aldershot. With seven laps completed, Davies fell off the back of the group, and that order would last until the finish. Despite a group behind threatening to reel him in, Davies held on for fifth place, and a 13:52.51.
Issy Boffey started out of lane six in the women's 800 metres final, and started well, emerging at the front after the athletes ran six wide down the back straight.
29 seconds for the first half lap was lightning quick, as all involved were keen on leading things out. After settling down slightly, Boffey led the pack through the bell in 62 seconds, as the attacks began to start behind.
Khahisa Mhlanga, having a tremendous season on the comeback trail, attempted to catapult herself up to the front with a charge from lane two, while Keely Hodgkinson attempted to dart down the inside of Boffey with around 250 metres to go. It was Ellie Baker though who finally overhauled the Enfield & Haringey athlete, with Hodgkinson tucking in behind.
Hodgkinson kicked again with 150 metres to go, taking the long way around the bend as she passed Baker to come into the home straight in the lead.
Boffey still held a gap of a few metres to Baker in second with 100 to go, and with a lot of work to do, showed the speed that placed her UK #10 over 400 metres this year, surging past Baker, to secure a silver medal and a 2:04.73 clocking.
James Gormley and Ian Crowe-Wright* had both secured places in the men's 1500 final, which was bumped up to thirteen athletes after the reinstatement of a previously disqualified Michael Wilsmore a day prior.
Tactical, cagey racing occurred from the off, with all athletes running within themselves, and Gormley and Crowe-Wright both seemed content in the latter half of the pack. Despite the fairly docile pace, the temperament of those running it was anything but, and Crowe-Wright was caught in some pushing and shoving with 500 metres gone, lucky to stay on his feet.
Through two laps, the athletes were still making plenty of use of the eight-lane track offered to them, the red and black vest of Crowe-Wright making periodic appearances out in lanes two and three.
In around eleventh position at the bell, and boxed in, Gormley had plenty of work to do to get into contention, and much of that was done down the back straight, sitting in sixth with 200 metres to go.
Unfortunately, those at the front had had a much less disrupted final lap, and their conserved energy allowed for a strong kick, keeping Gormley in sixth, crossing in a time of 3:53.15.
Crowe-Wright was unfortunately run out of things at the end, after battling strongly, finishing in 3:54.18 for eleventh place.
In the final race of the championships, Emily Thompson was to contest the women's 1500 final.
Showing off a familiar vest of red, blue and gold, Thompson eased into the race, sitting on the shoulder of firm favourite Laura Weightman early on. Content to sit back, the Banbury Harrier made sure she took the shortest line around the track, hugging the kerb round the bends.
Continuing her heavy involvement in the championships, Jess Judd took up the pace shortly after two laps gone, and the pack thinned out behind her as she tested the field.
A group of Judd, Weightman and Katie Snowden of Herne Hill achieved separation with 300 to go, and unfortunately for Thompson separation was achieved behind too, as a gap of three metres formed between her and early leader Beth Kidger.
As Laura Weightman pulled away, the rest of the field flooded in behind silver medallist Judd, with Thompson finishing in a time of 4:23.09, for twelfth place.