Junior Trials sprint races cause headache for selectors

Surprise winner of men’s 200m at junior trials means Britain will have to leave behind one of two top sprinters in that event for World Juniors

Sophie Papps (Mark Shearman)

The only downside to having so many good athletes in any given event is that not all of them will be able to represent their country at major championships.

It is a situation that rears its head at most trials events – and no doubt will do so at the Olympic Trials this weekend – but the situation at this weekend’s World Junior Trials in Bedford, most notably in both 200m finals, was particularly gutting because for each event there are only two available places on the team for Barcelona.

David Bolarinwa, the European junior 200m champion, and Adam Gemili, the teenager who recently caused a stir with his European age-18 best of 10.08, both won their respective 200m heats. Bolarinwa clocked 21.24, while Gemili set a PB of 20.61 into a -1.1m/s headwind – the fastest by a British junior since 1998 and the second-best ever by a British 18-year-old.

But both athletes scratched from the final, leaving the selectors to do the decision-marking – which would have been an easy one to call, had Josh Street not won the final with a huge PB of 20.90 (0.9m/s), comfortably inside the 21.1 qualifying standard for the World Junior Championships.

The UKA selection policy stated that the winner of each event at the Trials would be pre-selected, provided they have the qualifying standard. It meant that Street – who was beaten by Bolarinwa in the heats of the 200m – has now secured his spot on the team, leaving just one place open.

Either Bolarinwa, the European junior champion in the event, or Gemili, the fastest European this year in both sprint events, will miss out on making the team for the World Junior Championships in that event.

At least the decision in the 100m will be an easier one to make. Bolarinwa won the trial race in 10.40 (0.0m/s), leaving one space open on the team which will doubtless be awarded to Gemili, as he has recently stated that the shorter sprint is his preferred event. 200m winner Street finished a close second to Bolarinwa in the 100m with a PB of 10.43.

But a similar situation arose in the women’s 200m. Having won the 100m on Saturday with a big PB of 11.47 (0.4m/s) – and going to tenth on the UK junior all-time list in the process – Sophie Papps returned on Sunday to win the 200m with another lifetime best, winning in 23.48 (1.5m/s).

It means that she has assured her place on the team in both events, but team selectors have the unenviable task of choosing who gets the other team places.

Sixteen-year-old Dina Asher-Smith finished second to Papps in both races, clocking PBs of 11.54 and 23.57 – both well inside the qualifying standards for both events. But Bianca Williams, who tops this year’s UK junior 100m rankings with 11.47 and has set a 200m PB of 23.59 this year – chose to sit out the Trials.

More significantly, Desiree Henry – who won a surprise gold in the 200m at last year’s World Youth Championships at the age of 15 – finished just third in the 200m trial race, meaning Britain could be leaving behind a reigning global champion in the event.

Aside from the selection headaches, several championship records were broken in other events throughout the course of the weekend in Bedford, which also hosted the England Under-23 Championships. British record-holder Lawrence Okoye smashed the championship record in the discus with a throw of 63.66m, with all five of his legal throws landing past the 60-metre line.

World Indoors representative Katie Byres set a UK junior outdoor best in the pole vault with a clearance of 4.36m to book her spot on the team for Barcelona. Her indoor best of 4.52m – the third-best mark in history by an under-20 athlete – remains the outright British junior record for the event.

World Youth silver medallist Sophie McKinna set a UK age-17 best in the shot as she smashed through the 16-metre barrier for the first time in her life, winning with 16.16m. The last time a British junior threw farther was 1984 – 10 years before McKinna was born.

James Gladman – training partner of World Indoors fourth-placer Andy Pozzi – established himself as a name for the future in the 110m hurdles. Having already hacked away at his PB throughout the season, the 19-year-old took another chunk off his best, reducing it from 13.63 to 13.50 (1.8m/s). That performance puts him at fifth on the UK all-time junior rankings for the event and third on this year’s world junior rankings, putting him in contention for a medal in Barcelona.

Heptathlete and part-time bobsledder Jazmin Sawyer looked to be in danger after two rounds of the long jump. But a leap of 6.09m saw her jump into the lead just in time for the half-way cut off, and she continued to improve with her remaining three jumps. She ended her series with a big PB of 6.42m (1.9m/s).

» See the next issue of Athletics Weekly, out on June 21, for a full report on all the action from Bedford.

One Response to “Junior Trials sprint races cause headache for selectors”

  1. Ray Eaton says:

    Good to see plenty of outstanding performances from our youngsters. If Adam Gemili chooses to go to the Olympics instead of the World Juniors, he will save the selectors, a few headaches.

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