Johnson-Thompson sets UK senior high jump record and Morgan Lake a national junior record at the Sainsbury’s Indoor British Champs in Sheffield
In a pulsating high jump contest, Katarina Johnson-Thompson was pushed to a British senior record of 1.97m by Morgan Lake as the 17-year-old set a national junior record of 1.94m.
With Isobel Pooley also in the line-up, it had the makings of a classic and did not disappoint. Before the competition, Pooley was joint holder of the UK record with Johnson-Thompson at 1.96m, but it was a day when heptathletes ruled over the specialist high jumpers.
Johnson-Thompson, the world heptathlon No.1 in 2014, soared over everything with ease up to 1.97m, with her only blip being a first attempt failure at 1.94m. Lake, the world junior heptathlon and high jump gold medallist, was more inconsistent as she cleared 1.88m and 1.91m at her final attempt before sailing over 1.94m – a national junior record – at her first try but the youngster then found 1.97m too high to handle.
Pooley, meanwhile, cleared 1.88m but went out at 1.91m as the competition turned into a head-to-head between the two combined eventers.
Johnson-Thompson was briefly under big pressure when Lake cleared 1.94m at her first attempt and the Liverpool athlete failed the same height first time, but “KJT” bounced back to clear 1.97m, improving the 1.96m national record height she set 12 months ago at the same meeting, and then tried unsuccessfully at 2.00m before bowing out to great applause in the EIS Centre.
“It is the big 2.00m on the board which puts you off a little bit,” said Johnson-Thompson, who competes in the 60m hurdles in Sheffield on Sunday before tackling the long jump at the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix on February 21. “It’s been a while since I’ve done the high jump so it’s good to get into competition. It’s good to have people jumping those heights with you and it really pushes you on.”
Lake said: “I’m delighted to get a British Indoor junior record, it’s amazing. It’s encouraging to jump so well in this field as they are the best in the country. Katarina is a massive role model to me so it was great to compete against her.”
Pooley was not so happy, though. “It’s incredibly frustrating. I feel like crying but I like a challenge – you either win or you learn from it. It doesn’t feel nice right now but this will shape my journey.”
The women’s high jump has been in the doldrums in recent years and hardly one of Britain’s strongest events, but all that is changing now. “We have a strong domestic scene,” added Pooley. “We are reshaping the event and are growing together and quite literally rising to the challenge. Katarina has set the bar so now I have to up my game.”
So often the blue ribbon event of the weekend, the men’s 60 metres was put in the shade on this occasion by the female high jump heroics. This was partly due to the absence of big-name sprinters James Dasaolu, Dwain Chambers and world indoor champion Richard Kilty.
Still, CJ Ujah thrilled the crowd in the EIS Arena with a 6.57 win ahead of Sean Safo-Antwi’s 6.66 with Roy Ejiakuekwu winning a tight race for bronze with 6.72 as Joel Fearon was fourth and Ojie Edoburun fifth.
“I stumbled a little bit at the start and looked up at the clock at the end to see what the time was like but I’m happy with that,” said Ujah. “I pulled up with a hamstring injury here last year so one of the main aims this season is to stay healthy.”
Dina Asher-Smith was similarly impressive with an emphatic victory in 7.15 over Rachel Johncock in second and Ireland’s Phil Healy in third. Asher-Smith had earlier run 7.14 in her semi-final, leading to hopes she might challenge Jeanette Kwakye’s UK indoor record of 7.08 but it was not to be for the Blackheath athlete.
“I’m excited and eager to go faster and to do my best in Prague,” Asher-Smith said, referring to the European Indoor Championships next month. “I had a fever last night but sprinting is okay as you don’t breathe that much.”
Lawrence Clarke continued his great return to form in the 60m hurdles as the man who was fourth in the Olympic sprint hurdles final in 2012 took gold in 7.69 from David Omoregie, the teenage talent running 7.78 to beat David King for silver.
Tosin Oke won the triple jump with 16.59m but with the Woodford Green athlete representing Nigeria nowadays it meant the British title went to runner-up Nathan Fox, who had a best of 16.25m
An exciting men’s long jump saw Dan Bramble earn victory with a sixth round leap of 7.90m after Julian Reid had led with 7.87m.
In the women’s pole vault Sally Peake was one of the most emphatic winners of the day, sealing victory with a first-time clearance of 4.10m before going on to clear 4.25m.
Lee Emanuel emerged as an emphatic winner of the 3000m and had time to celebrate in the home straight, but with 100m to go it looked far from straightforward as Tom Lancashire briefly challenged his lead on the last lap.
Emanuel’s finish was too powerful for Lancashire as the winner clocked 8:03.53 and Phil Hurst finished fast to snatch silver.
In the women’s shot put, Eden Francis took gold with 16.50m in the last final of the day to conclude at almost 7pm.
The championships continues on Sunday with its second and final day of action.
>> The next issue of Athletics Weekly will contain 15-16 pages of photographs, reports and results from Sheffield