Primary school teacher caps strong season with dominant victory in Glasgow, while teenager Keely Hodgkinson and Amelia Strickler also achieve top marks
Jessie Knight was top of the class in Glasgow on Sunday as the primary school teacher claimed a dominant 400m victory at the SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships.
Capping an impressive indoor season which saw her storm to success at the Müller Indoor Grand Prix on the same Emirates Arena track just one weekend earlier, the 25-year-old clocked 52.76 to win her first national title ahead of Crawley’s Holly Turner, who ran an indoor PB of 54.22, and Blackheath’s Krystal Galley, who also ran an indoor best of 54.83.
“Exactly what I wanted from this weekend has happened,” said a delighted Knight, who improved her PB to 51.57 at the Grand Prix event. “I’m really happy. It’s the perfect end to what has been just an amazing indoor season.
“Last year I didn’t make the final here,” added the 400m hurdles specialist. “I know a lot of girls are missing this year but I really feel like the times I have run would have put me in a good position coming into this weekend anyway.”
Athletics took a back seat for Knight a few years ago when she decided to focus on her teaching career, but the Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow athlete teamed up with coach Marina Armstrong 18 months ago and the decision to return to the sport is clearly paying off as she balances it with leading her 32-strong year six class in Epsom.
“Seeing my class tomorrow morning will be just so exciting,” Knight smiled. “I hope I have inspired them as well, we have a lot of talks about it, they know how hard I work, so I hope it has inspired them and they are very excited, as I am.”
On combining her athletics with work, she added: “There are so many athletes that do work full-time and it is really hard. There are times in the winter that I have come home almost in tears because it’s just sheer exhaustion.
“It just goes to show that if you get the right coach, the right training set-up, time management, you can do it. Just keep going everyone because it can all come together. The messages I have received have just been amazing, so much support.”
Hodgkinson steps up for senior win
In her first ever indoor season, 17-year-old Keely Hodgkinson followed her European indoor under-20 800m record with a British title victory, running a well-judged race to clock 2:04.37 ahead of Birchfield’s Mari Smith in 2:04.72.
Finishing third in 2:07.27 was 39-year-old Philippa Millage, who had broken the British W35 indoor record with her heat time of 2:05.70 the day before and, after claiming bronze, joked that she was old enough to be winner Hodgkinson’s mother.
“It’s my first indoor season ever, my first British Championships, so I’m really happy to prove myself on the bigger stage, have a strong race and come away with the gold,” said Hodgkinson, who ran 2:01.16 at the Vienna Indoor Classic earlier this month.
“I only decided to do indoors late on,” added the Leigh Harriers athlete, who is coached by Trevor Painter, the coach and husband of world medallist Jenny Meadows. “I was going to stick to cross country this winter but thank god I didn’t, the weather is absolutely ridiculous!”
In the 1500m, victory was claimed by Cambridge & Coleridge’s Holly Archer, who like Knight works full-time to support her athletics.
In Glasgow, the pharmaceutical marketing associate ran 4:21.99 to finish ahead of Fife’s Jenny Selman (4:22.57) and Preston’s Jacqueline Fairchild (4:22.58) and admitted she had surprised herself with victory.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’m British champion,” said Archer. “I wasn’t expecting to do this well this year.
“It was always our plan to medal, but the game plan changed a little before today’s race.”
A tactical 3000m final was won by Melissa Courtney-Bryant as she clocked 9:48.54 after a 2:39.4 final kilometre, back on the track where she claimed European indoor bronze last year.
Swansea’s Verity Ockenden secured silver in 9:50.39 and Epsom & Ewell’s Commonwealth steeplechase fourth-placer Rosie Clarke claimed bronze in 9:52.02.
The women’s 5000m race walk was combined with the men’s event, with the two-strong race won by Aldershot, Farnham & District’s Abigail Jennings in 25:28.46 ahead of Hyde Park Harriers’ Pagen Spooner.
In the 200m, Enfield & Haringey’s Ama Pipi powered to a UK-leading indoor PB of 23.23 ahead of Gateshead’s Jazmine Moss with 24.17 and Colchester’s Rebecca Jeggo with 24.33.
Strickler’s shot put success
Amelia Strickler unleashed the throw of her life to win her second British shot put title after the outdoor gold she claimed in 2018.
In the first event of the day, the Thames Valley thrower launched the shot put out to 17.97m in the fourth round for an overall lifetime best which beats her previous PB of 17.83m, set outdoors last year.
The final had seen a battle between Strickler and defending champion Sophie McKinna in the opening rounds as Strickler took an early lead with 16.83m before McKinna replaced her at the top with her second-round 16.90m. Strickler regained the lead with her next throw of 17.45m before improving again to her winning mark, which exactly matched McKinna’s winning distance from last year.
It also moved Strickler up to equal third with McKinna on the UK indoor all-time list.
Great Yarmouth’s world finalist McKinna, who threw an impressive 18.61m in Doha last year, this time had to settle for the silver with a best of 17.39m, while Birchfield’s Adele Nicoll got bronze with a 16.19m indoor PB.
After her runner-up finish in Glasgow at the Müller Indoor Grand Prix the weekend before, Birchfield’s Bethan Partridge won the British high jump title after clearing 1.87m. Having cleared a PB of 1.91m in January, she went on to attempt 1.92m but knocked the bar in her three attempts.
Commonwealth medallist Morgan Lake was visibly upset after a performance which saw her clear a best of 1.84m, some way off her PB of 1.97m, while UK leader Nikki Manson, who has managed 1.93m this winter, also cleared a best of 1.84m for bronze.
There was a sixth British triple jump title win for Naomi Ogbeta as the European finalist leapt 13.83m, while Woodford Green’s Shanara Hibbert secured silver with a 13.03m PB performance. Bronze was claimed by Shaftesbury’s Eavion Richardson with a 12.73m jump.
“This is my sixth British title and that was exactly what I wanted today to be about, winning the title,” said Ogbeta.
“Getting a season’s best as well, you can’t ask for any more than that.
“The feeling never wears off when you win a British title and this one is just as sweet as the first one.”
Full results can be found here.
» Click here for a report on the men’s events on day two of the SPAR British Indoor Championships