Herne Hill Harriers’ hurdler Blade Ashby made a stunning breakthrough with an unexpected national gold medal at the England Athletics U20 and U23 Championship at Bedford on Sunday.
Ashby’s victory in the U23M 400m hurdles capped off a remarkable week for the Tooting-based club, with team-mates Marvin Popoola striking silver twice in the U20M 100m and 200m, and Aisha Naibe-Wey winning silver in the U23W 400m hurdles.
Katie Snowden also lowered her outdoors 800m club record just eight days after revising the 1500m mark. Harriers’ senior men, meanwhile, celebrated success on the road running circuit, by clinching team silver medals at the Surrey 10k road championships held at Ham.
Yet it was the brilliant Ashby that would steal the headlines. Having been allocated the outside lane despite being the third fastest qualifier from the Saturday heats, Ashby realised this meant he had to go out hard from the gun and he stormed to victory in a big personal best time of 50.93.
Ashby’s fierce opening 200m left everyone else standing and while the inevitable thoughts with 100m left to run were whether he could hold on, nobody got close as his winning margin was over half a second. Ashby’s time was a strong improvement of almost a second on his previous best of 51.79.
Naibe-Wey did her best to emulate Ashby and ran extremely well to claim a silver medal in the U23W 400m hurdles. The time of 58.87 for Naibe-Wey, the British Students’ champion, was just outside her 58.56 personal best and club record that had been set in Belgium last month, and a couple of seconds behind a very clear race winner. Naibe-Wey is on the start list for this weekend’s British Championship in Birmingham and will be looking to run fast there.
Popoola’s excellent season continued as he won silver medals in the U20M 100m and 200m. In the 100m Popoola’s 10.47 clockings in both his heat and final were faster than Harriers’ long-standing club senior men’s record of 10.50, but in both races the wind was over the permitted limit for record purposes. He therefore had to settle for a club junior men’s (U20) record of 10.51 (-0.5 m/s) with his one legal wind time of the day a tantalising one hundredth outside the senior men’s record. This time improves the previous club U20 men’s mark by 0.04 seconds, with the ever-increasingly likelihood that Popoola will soon become the fastest man in Herne Hill Harriers’ club history.
However, it is the 200m which is the individual event at which Popoola is bidding to make the Great Britain team for the World Junior Championship to be held in Oregon, USA, in July. Popoola claimed his second silver medal of the weekend over this distance, winning his heat in a comfortable 21.59, but ironically after benefitting from a tailwind in two of his 100m races, he was slowed by a headwind in the 200m final and ran 21.48, a little outside his best of 21.34 set when winning the South of England U20 Championships sprint double a week earlier.
Popoola appears likely to be named in the GB sprint relay squad at least for Oregon and has the opportunity to improve his time which would qualify him for an individual event at the World Championships should he decide to race at this weekend’s British Championships for senior men in Birmingham. The following weekend he has been selected to race for GB Juniors in the international meeting in Mannheim, Germany at 200m and 4 x 100m relay on 5th and 6th July.
To illustrate the club’s current prowess in one-lap racing, with or without barriers, Jessie Knight was placed fifth in the U23W 400m final and was fourth in the championship itself as an American guest athlete was one of those ahead of her. It would be difficult to find a more consistent athlete than Knight at the moment as almost every race is frustratingly just outside her personal best and club record of 54.41. At these championships Jessie recorded 54.65 in her heat and 54.45 in the final.
Another hurdler, Rushane Thomas, placed a very good fourth in his U20M 110m hurdles final with 14.10, just missing out on a medal. Thomas’ time is not far outside Ashby’s club junior record for this event, while his coach was also well represented by Tayo Andrews, who placed equal sixth in the U20M high jump with a clearance of 1.99m, just 2cm shy of his best.
An out of sorts Lewis Lloyd placed 11th of 18 in a tactical straight final of the U23M 1500m, while although eliminated from her heat of the U23W 800m, Hannah Edwards ran a superbly positive race and produced a time of 2:10.96, which is her second best ever, not far outside her PB that dates back to 2008 and suggests that a sub-2:10 performance is a realistic proposition. Jamal Rhoden-Stevens competed in the U23M sprint races, but was also unable to progress beyond the heats as he ran 10.99 and 22.69 for 100m and 200m respectively.
Elsewhere, Katie Snowden continued to rewrite the Herne Hill Harriers’ senior women’s middle distance record books at the age of 20 as she set her second club record in the space of eight days. She followed up a resounding revision of her 1500m record when defeating a good quality field in the prestigious BMC Best of British race series at Stretford with an excellent second place at Watford in the 800m race in the same BMC series to set another new club standard.
Snowden’s latest personal best time of 2:03.46 was achieved in a strong international field as she finished second behind Emily Dudgeon of Scotland and beat into third place Northern Ireland athlete Katie Kirk, both of whom will be representing their countries at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this year. Michael Dyer also returned to form at Watford, with a season’s best 1:51.90 in the 800m following an injury-disrupted season.
There was less success for Harriers’ junior squad who face relegation from their division of the Youth Development League, despite several notable individual successes. Ore Adamson equalled the club record in the 75m with 9.9 – her second club record this season, and Maddie Shaw achieved an English Schools qualifying time with 2:16.6 in 800m, a personal best of nearly five seconds. There were also victories for Adamson (U13G long jump) Jess Collins (U13G high jump) Saskia Millard (U15G 1500m) and Clarissa Nicholls (13G 1200m).
The senior squad were in action at Tooting in a Southern Men’s League Division 1C fixture. Individual winners were Isaac Ogunlade (400m hurdles A race and 200m B race), Feysel Nadew (1500m A race and 400m B race), Christopher Sinclair (long jump A event), Phillip Thomas (triple jump A competition and long jump B event) and Stuart Thurgood (B standard shot). Multi-eventer Thomas Ashby won the A shot and A discus, while Gavin Johnson-Assoon threw 66.39 to dominate the javelin.
On the road, Harriers won Surrey road league silver medals at the Ranelagh Harriers Richmond 10k. Jonathan Stead led the three-man team home in fourth, clocking 33.38, with Robin Jones (16th in 35.05) and Louis Waterman-Evans (35th in 36.17) making up the counting trio. Jonathan Ratcliffe (41st in 36.30), Ed Barrow (62nd in 37.43), Ashley Bailey (77th in 38.33) and Andrew Grigg (79th in 38.39) also made the top-100. Nikki Sturzaker was Harriers’ first female athlete, clocking 41.40 in 156th, with Ieva Lobacuite (173rd in 41.55) and Ruth Chalmers (178th in 42.12) in close pursuit.
Racing at the Run Hackney Half Marathon, Tom Boswell was 62nd in 82.04, with Robert Edwards finishing in 92nd in 83.53. In the pick of the parkrun action, Mohammed Ismail was first at Dulwich in 16.29, while Carl Ferri was another winner at Crystal Palace in 17.31. Jonny Muir was second in the inaugural Peckham Rye parkrun, clocking 17.28. Cathy Ansell returned to racing on Monday, clocking 17.56 as she won the women’s race at the Sri Chinmoy road 5km in Battersea Park.