411 athletes made the journey to Manchester’s Regional Arena and such is the connection between Loughborough and athletics, that 91 of those competing at this year’s Championships were either Loughborough students past or present, or currently use Loughborough as their training base. From those 91 athletes competing, 44 medals were claimed over the two-day competition.
The first set of medals awarded at the Championships went to the men’s javelin, where Dan Bainbridge and Tom Hewson, proudly wearing their Loughborough vests throughout the competition, picked up silver and bronze with throws of 70.50m and 68.49m respectively. Having never thrown over 70m before this season, Bainbridge now has five 70m+ throws to his name this season and is yet to finish a competition in 2020 with a mark under the 70m barrier.
Other success in the throws came from current scholars George Armstrong (2nd men’s discus, 58.48m) and George Hyde (3rd men’s shot, 16.55m PB), alumni Craig Murch (1st men’s hammer, 73.24m stadium record) Chris Scott (3rd men’s discus, 52.79m) and Emma Hamplett (2nd women’s javelin, 51.80m) with six other Loughborough based athletes picking up medals across the shot, discus and hammer (Lewis Byng, 2nd discus; Amelia Strickler, 2nd shot; Kirsty Law, 1st discus; Jade Lally, 2nd discus; Shadine Duquemin, 3rd discus; Chris Shorthouse, 3rd hammer). Six time Paralympic medallist and Loughborough alumnus Dan Greaves (F44) was included as a guest in the men’s discus and threw a solid 54.90m as he returns from injury.
One of the highlights from Day 1 was the inauguration of Harry Coppell to the league of world class pole vaulting. Loughborough based, and training partner to scholar Holly Bradshaw, Coppell cleared a new British record of 5.85m on his third attempt, soaring him to a sixth ranked position in the world this year. Loughborough alumus Ethan Walsh took the bronze medal with a season’s best 5.05m. Not to be outdone by the men, Bradshaw took her 7th consecutive British Championships gold medal with a stadium record jump of 4.35m, with training partner Sophie Cook taking silver with 4.25m. For an athlete that has a Diamond League win under her belt this year and is used to jumping well into the 4.70s, Bradshaw told journalists in her post-competition interviews that her grandad, her biggest supporter and ever present at previous Championships, had passed away the day before. She explained that he would have wanted her to turn up, compete and enjoy herself. Ever the ultimate professional, the Loughborough family send their best wishes to Holly at this difficult time.
Elsewhere in the jumps there was success for scholar Morgan Lake in the high jump, taking gold in 1.80m, with new MSc scholar Emily Borthwick taking bronze in 1.77m. It is testament to the excellent coaching at Loughborough that five of the six athletes competing in the women’s high jump final are coached by Loughborough-based coaches. This was obviously a contributory factor in the men’s competition too, where all three medallists are also linked to Loughborough. Gold in this event was taken by former student Joel Clarke-Kahn in a 2.18m PB, with silver going to scholar Will Grimsey in 2.15m.
In the horizontal jumps, alumnus Nathan Douglas proved that age is just a number, with the 37-year-old taking yet another British Championships gold medal in the triple jump with a leap of 15.80m.
The men’s long jump was former Loughborough College student Reynold Banigo’s to lose, and with the pre-Champs favourite pushed all the way by training partner Jack Roach, he didn’t disappoint. The gold and silver come back to Loughborough with performances of 7.81m and 7.60m respectively, and Loughborough Athletics Head Jumps coach Lukasz Zawila made sure the Loughborough Sport logo was on full display during his extensive screen time in the coaching stands on the BBC! Loughborough-based Jazmin Sawyers recaptured the national title in the women’s long jump with a 6.69 season’s best.
As we’ve come to expect in recent years, PhD student Jessica Judd put in a momentous effort at this year’s British Champs to take two medals over two days of competition. In the leading pack from the start, Judd ran 15:37.42 to win the 5000m just as the rain started to come down on a cold and dark Manchester night. She was back just 30 minutes later to navigate the heats of the 1500m, where she qualified fastest to take her into the next day’s final. Taking advantage of a full day’s rest, the women’s 1500m was the last event of the day on Day 2 of the Championships, with the only athlete able to get the better of Judd in the final being 2 x Olympian and 4 x national Champion Laura Weightman. Judd’s time of 4:12.35 was good enough for 2nd and the silver medal.
Elsewhere in the middle distance events, scholar Josh Lay, who has been having a sparkling 2020 by taking over 3 seconds from his 1500m PB this year, came away with a well fought bronze medal in 3:51.60. Boxed in at times during the race, he commented afterwards that he thinks he’ll ‘stick to racing in Germany’ in future, the location of his two best times from this season. Former student Jake Wightman, himself having a phenomenal year over the 1500m, dropped down to the 800m for these Champs, and was outpaced over the last 50m by 800m specialist and in form Daniel Rowden. The race was tipped to be one of the head to heads of the weekend, and indeed, it took a 1:45.94 stadium record to beat Wightman’s 1:46.26.
There was a huge 15 second PB in the 5000m from scholar Tom Mortimer as he took bronze in 13:43.47, mirrored by Hannah Nuttall in the 3000m steeplechase, herself taking a bronze medal in a PB of 10.25.43. Nuttall, returning to Loughborough university this autumn for a postgraduate degree after time spent in America, was competing in only her second ever steeplechase race. Loughborough based Rosie Clarke ran 9:46.31 for the silver medal behind the fast improving Aimee Pratt.
It was 12th time lucky for former Loughborough alumnus Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, who got the better of Andy Robertson and Tommy Ramdhan to win the men’s 100m. Beaten by Ramdhen in the semi final, and with Robertson having the fastest qualifying time from the other heat, Aikines-Aryeetey leant on his experience of competing on the highest stages to come through for the gold medal in a season’s best 10.35. 18 year old Amy Hunt, the 200m U18 world record holder whose training base is Loughborough, was competing in her lesser favoured event, the 100m. Competing against 100m specialists Imani Lansiquot and Krystal Awuah, she was rewarded with the bronze medal in 11.35 seconds.
Included for the first time at a British Championships, the men’s ambulant 100m was a showcase for Loughborough talent. Combining classifications, the event was won by former student Zach Shaw, a T13 (visually impaired) sprinter in 11.31 into a -2 m/s headwind. He was closely followed by scholar Thomas Young who competes in the T38 (coordination impairments) category, himself running 11.32 for second place. Loughborough based Sophie Hahn - world, Commonwealth and Paralympic Champion in the women’s T38 100m – enjoyed a comfortable win in the women’s ambulant 100m in a time of 12.80.
The women’s 200m was expected to be a showdown between 100m specialist Krystal Awuah, and 400m specialist Loughborough based Hannah Williams, but with Awuah being disqualified in the heat for a false start, it was assumed Williams would have an easy victory. However, showing she shouldn’t be disregarded by winning her heat, Loughborough scholar Georgina Adam gave Williams a close run in the final, with Adam bringing a silver medal back to Loughborough in 24.06, after ultimately being outclassed by Williams who took the gold in in 23.83.
The overwhelming favourite for the women’s 400m hurdles was former student Jessie Knight, and after just 100m of the 400mH final, it was clear to see why. A class above her fellow competitors, Jessie stopped the clock in a time of 55.80, over a second quicker than the next placed athlete. The primary school teacher will move to part time teaching in her bid for a place in next year’s Olympic team.
Another Jessica with Olympic aspirations was silver medal winner Jess Turner. Taking a break from her main event, the 400m hurdles, she set a new 400m PB of 52.57 behind Laviai Nielsen, displaying the 400m flat speed that has sealed her position on the Olympic World Class Programme for the 4 x 400m.
One of the most unexpected, and exciting, results of the weekend was the men’s 400m. All eyes were on the middle lanes where it was assumed international athletes Joe Brier, Alex Haydock-Wilson and Lee Thompson would fight it out for the medals. While scholar Haydock-Wilson ran a scintillating first 300m, he paid for his fast pace in the final 100m, while the opposite was true for scholar and 400m hurdles specialist Alex Knibbs. Six of the seven athletes in the race had run faster than Knibbs this season, but running his own race out in lane 8, the European U23 finalist came through the entire field in the past 30m to take the gold medal. Running a 46.65 PB, Knibbs will surely be looking to be included in future British 4 x 400m teams, as well as continuing in his favoured 400mH.
On behalf of all at Loughborough, thank you to all coaches and support staff who have navigated an incredibly difficult past six months to help athletes get back on the track or field. Here’s hoping for a far easier 2020/21 season.
By Emma Wiltshire