Julia Bleasdale’s breakthrough one of several Olympic qualifiers in Stanford

Julia Bleasdale slashes almost three minutes from her 10,000m PB to post Olympic qualifying time at Payton Jordan Invitational

Julia Bleasdale (Randy Miyazaki)

Almost seven years have passed since Julia Bleasdale last contested the 10,000m, but last night the 30-year-old returned to the 25-lap distance to comfortably dip inside the Olympic A standard at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Stanford, California.

Bleasdale took a break from track running between 2006 and 2010, focusing instead on cross-country. But she made a return to track running last year in impressive fashion, winning the UK 5000m title in her first track race since 2005.

Earlier this month the Hillingdon runner reduced her 5000m PB to 15:25.62, but she discovered her best track distance last night in Stanford.

Bleasdale, whose previous best was 34:20.77, finished fourth in the 10,000m in 31:29.57 – well inside the Olympic A standard of 31:45, ranking her at No.5 on the UK all-time list behind Paula Radcliffe, Liz McColgan, Jill Boltz and Jo Pavey.

Kenya’s Betsy Saina won the race in 31:15.97, ahead of USA’s Amy Hastings (31:19.87) and European cross-country champion 31:29.22 – all of them setting lifetime bests.

Three other athletes dipped under 32 minutes, but Britain’s Charlotte Purdue just missed out on that mark, setting a PB of 32:03.55 in 11th place.

Bleasdale’s performance was one of five Olympic A standards achieved by British athletes in Stanford. Olympic finalist Andy Baddeley was a convincing winner of the men’s 1500m with a world-leading time of 3:35.19. Fellow Brits David Bishop (3:37.51) and Chris O’Hare (3:37.95) both slashed around three seconds from their PBs to finish seventh and ninth respectively.

European silver medallist Chris Thompson posted the second-fastest 5000m clocking of his life to finish fourth in 13:15.21, just a fraction ahead of Tom Farrell as the 21-year-old continued his rapid progression by taking an 11-second chunk off his PB with 13:15.31. They both finished just a few seconds behind USA’s Lopez Lomong, who won in 13:11.63.

World silver medallist Sally Kipyego of Kenya was a class apart in the women’s 5000m, winning by more than 25 seconds in 14:43.11. A few places behind, British steeplechase specialist Barbara Parker smashed her PB with 15:14.26 to finish one place ahead of Steph Twell (15:15.24).

World University Games 5000m champion Andy Vernon stepped up to the 10,000m but missed out on the Olympic A standard by eight seconds. Nevertheless, he was rewarded with a big PB of 27:53.65 as he finished 15th in a race won by Canada’s Cameron Levins, who made an impressive debut at the distance with 27:27.96, just four seconds outside the national record.

Fastest Brit in the steeplechase was Rob Mullett, who set a PB of 8:32.80 in sixth place, but was agonisingly just 0.80 seconds outside the Olympic B standard.

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