A round-up of the first day of BUCS Championships action

Two Commonwealth Games standards in a competitive women’s hammer final, a championship best performance from Izzy Jeffs (pictured) in the javelin and an appearance from London 2012 Olympian Adam Gemili provided plenty of excitement on the opening day of the British Universities’ Championships at Bedford on Saturday.

With only three finals, it was mostly a case of athletes trying to gain qualification for finals on tomorrow and Monday. Having dipped under the 20 second barrier for the longer sprint last year, it was refreshing to see Gemili representing his university (East London) in his first outing of the year, where he took a routine victory in his 100m heat, clocking 10.64. Marilyn Nwawulor (Middlesex) defends her title in the women’s 100m, with Clieo Stephenson (Brunel) and Rachel Johncock (Loughborough) likely challengers.

The women’s hammer final was arguably the highlight of the opening day, providing a thrilling battle, which resulted in two athletes not only breaking the 60m barrier, but also gaining Scottish Commonwealth Games qualifying standards. Kimberley Reed (Edinburgh) was leading until the fifth round, when fellow countrywoman Rachel Hunter (West Scotland) unleashed a lifetime best throw of 63.43 to seal victory. Reed had to settle for silver with 61.77m.

Reflecting on her biggest achievement to date, Hunter said: “I’m absolutely ecstatic. It’s great to get another Commonwealth Games standard, but I know I can’t sit back and rest as the competition for places in Scotland is fierce. My plans now are to continue working hard with my coach, Chris Black, on technical weaknesses and to try and become more consistent throughout the competition which will hopefully help maintain or improve my future performances.”

Fresh from a PB of 58.63m in the Loughborough University Trials last month, Jeffs successfully defended her javelin title from last year with a throw of 55.42m, which was also a championship best. Meanwhile, Youcef Zatat (Middlesex) enjoyed three throws over 16m to take the men’s shot with a PB of 16.51m.

On the track, last year’s European Junior 1500 champion Jake Wightman cruised through to the 800m semi-finals tomorrow, while the women’s equivalent is shaping up to be a high quality affair, with BUCS indoor 1500 champion Sophie Tyers (Loughborough), last year’s silver medallist Hanna Tarver (Cambridge), last year’s BUCS indoor champion Katie Snowden (Nottingham) and the in-form Georgia Bell (Birmingham) all set for the semi-finals.

Niall Flannery (Loughborough) looks a strong favourite in the 400m hurdles, as he attempts to make it five consecutive BUCS titles, while the women’s event looks set to be a case of Ireland versus Wales, as Christine McMahon (Queen’s Belfast) will go head to head with Commonwealth Games hopeful Caryl Granville (Swansea).

In the flat one lap event, Alex Boyce was fastest qualifier, whereas the women’s event could prove to be a battle of the purple Loughborough vests, with former champion Emma Pullen, this year’s indoor champion Amy Allcock and Jess Knight all qualifying with ease. Zoey Clark (Aberdeen) looks the most likely to spoil the Loughborough domination.

In the distance events, Will Mycroft (Sheffield) and Alex Teuten (Southampton) took their respective heats, while BUCS indoor 3000m champion Steve Mitchell (Cardiff Met) will go head to head with Michael Callegari (St Mary’s) in the 5000m. The women’s event looks set to be a battle of the Mick Woods-coached athletes, with St Mary’s duo Beth Potter and Louise Small up against training partner Jess Andrews (Brunel).

Gemma Kersey (Middlesex) starts as a strong favourite in the women’s 1500m, whilst BUCS indoor 1500m champion and World Masters indoor champion James Thie (Cardiff Met) hopes he can blow away his younger rivals once again in the men’s race.

» See the May 8 issue of AW for in-depth coverage from Bedford