Bleasdale breaks record, Williams one of four double winners in Bedford

Highlights of this weekend’s England U23 and U20 Championships

Holly Bleasdale (Mark Shearman)

Swirling winds in Bedford hit day one of the England Athletics Under-23 and Under-20 Championships, but on day two conditions took a turn for the better on a weekend when many championship records and qualifying marks were set by Britain’s rising stars.

Pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale was one such star performer. The 19-year-old added three centimetres to her own UK under-23 best in clearing 4.53m, extending her lead at the top of both this year’s UK rankings and the European under-23 rankings.

The most exciting and highest-quality event of the weekend was undoubtedly the men’s 400m hurdles. The event has gone from strength to strength in recent years and all eyes were on the up-and-coming Jack Green. The 19-year-old did not disappoint and set a PB of 49.06 – but so did Nathan Woodward, who edged Green on the line to snatch a surprise victory.

Not only did the pair smash the competition record, but they also equalled the UK under-23 best set three years ago by Rick Yates. Woodward and Green were followed across the line by Niall Flannery (49.76) and Thomas Phillips (49.78), who both set PBs and dipped well below the previous competition record. With Phillips going under 50 seconds for the first time, he becomes the seventh British man this year to break that barrier.

The consistent theme running through the whole weekend was that of double winners, of which there were four. World junior champion Jodie Williams lived up to expectations and won the 100m with a wind-assisted 11.33 (2.5m/s), having clocked a wind-legal 11.34 in the heats. The wind did not play ball in the 200m final and the 17-year-old had to contend with a -3.4m/s headwind, but she won with 24.13 after recording 23.55 in still conditions in the heats.

Williams’ fellow world youth champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson almost pulled off a triple victory, but had to settle for two golds and a silver after a very successful weekend. The heptathlon specialist set PBs in both of her gold medal-winning events, clocking 13.90 in the 100m hurdles and 6.44m (1.3m/s) in the long jump, the latter being the best performance by a British junior for 12 years.

Johnson-Thompson’s 1.79m leap in the high jump was bettered by Emma Nuttall (1.82m), but it was nevertheless an outdoor season’s best.

In the men’s sprints, David Bolarinwa matched Williams’ achievements from the women’s equivalent as he took gold in the under-20 100m and 200m. The shorter sprint was a particularly close finish, but the 17-year-old won it in a photo finish from Adam Gemili as both clocked a wind-assisted 10.23 (2.8m/s). The wind turned in the 200m, but Bolarinwa powered through the -1.6m/s headwind to win in 21.27.

At the other end of the distance spectrum, Jonny Hay won the under-20 1500m and 5000m with sensational runaway victories in both finals. On day one he won the 5000m by almost nine seconds with 14:35.85 before returning the following day to take the 1500m gold too, winning by more than two seconds from Charlie Grice with 3:44.78.

Many championship records were broken over the course of the weekend, including Nigel Levine in the under-23 men’s 400m (45.85), James Shane in the under-23 men’s 1500m (3:40.44), Katie Kirk in the under-20 women’s 400m (53.69), Stevie Stockton in the under-23 women’s 5000m (16:10.63), Lawrence Okoye in the under-23 men’s discus (61.05m), Sophie Hitchon in the hammer (67.07m) and Hannah Frankson in the under-23 women’s triple jump (13.44m).

Other good performances came in the under-23 men’s 100m which was won by James Alaka in 10.23 (0.9m/s) from Andrew Robertson (10.29), both setting PBs. The longer sprint in that age group was won by European Team Championships representative Danny Talbot, who clocked 21.01 from Alaka’s 21.09.

Ashleigh Nelson won the under-23 women’s 100m in 11.42 (2.9m/s), while Andy Pozzi came within a whisker of the competition record in the junior 110m hurdles, winning in 13.68. Hay’s training partner Emelia Gorecka put in a dominant run to win the junior women’s 3000m in 9:25.35, and Lynsey Sharp notched up another victory in the 800m, winning the under-23 final in 2:06.06.

Joe Dunderdale was one of the surprise packages of the day, winning the under-20 javelin with a big PB of 72.55m. It moves the Lincoln Wellington athlete 10 places up the UK all-time junior list to No.7. David Smith was another big improver, adding three centimetres to his PB to win the high jump with 2.22m – some 11cm better than his pre-2011 best.

» Click here for full results. See next week’s Athletics Weekly, out on Thursday, for complete coverage from Bedford, including results, reports and pictures.

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