30 Jan McLaughlin shines in Ireland, Bingham makes strong comeback – British round-up

In the background of the International Match in Glasgow, there have been some impressive performances by British athletes, either on home soil or around Europe and across the Pond, as the season moves up a gear headlined by a sensational new UK U20 indoor record over 1500m by Matt McLaughlin and a firm return to form for former European silver medallist Michael Bingham, as well as some promising sprinting in the arena of the Lee Valley. So let’s start a lengthy round to pick up what has come about in athletics from a British perspective in the last few days.

Athletics Ireland Open Indoor Games, Athlone

David Sharpe‘s mark of 3:46.21 had comfortably endured time for nearly 27 years before a potential conqueror emerged on the horizon as Matt McLaughlin turned in a runner-up 3:48.17 three weeks earlier in Sheffield but none, not even the latter himself, could anticipate the storm that was brewing up in his guise.

Even 200m out, the 18-year-old was still well tucked in a chasing pack behind drawing away Dutchman Mark Nouws when, as if taking his cue, he took off like a shot to rocket past a stunned field that looked virtually motionless within the next 80m and eventually cruise to a convincing victory down the home straight.

But if the win was much to his disbelief at the far end of the race, even more staggering was the time drawn up on the board, reading a superlative 3:42.87, meaning that he literally demolished the long-standing barrier in the way of British junior milers and took the game to faraway uncharted territories, slashing a huge 3.14 secs off the old landmark.

Sharpe went on to eclipse legendary Steve Ovett‘s 800m UK U20 record racing to a world class 1:45.64 in Oslo and romp to a comfortable world U20 title in Athens in the subsequent summer, to give a measure of his form in 1986, so if that is anything to go by then the sky should be the limit for the Ayo Falola charge. For the time being, though, McLaughlin could well set his sights on another Sharpe’s surviving marker, the current indoor U20 record over 800m at 1:48.53, before the winter goes out.

The performance of the meet at senior level was undoubtedly local favourite Brian Gregan‘s big PB of 46.07 to storm into second in the global 400m lists while Juan Carlos Higuero led a Spanish clean sweep in the 3000m winning in 7:52.14, followed by Arturo Casado in 7:53.08 and Roberto Alaiz in 7:53.99 (PB).

Among other Brits competing in Athlone, Tara Bird was fourth in the 800m in 2:06.86 (SB) and Tom Druce slotted in the same place in 48.13 secs in the main heat of the 400m.

London Indoor Games, Lee Valley

The sprints were billed as the top attraction and did not fail to deliver although the pre-meet favourites were rather surprisingly not cast as the leading figures of the plot.

On the women’s side, Annabelle Lewis shot straight to the top of the UK lists through a swift 7.32 secs in the first round and came back later on to shave another hundredth off into a second PB of 7.31 in quick succession, agonisingly missing the European qualifying standard by an equal margin.

Apart from a sound consistency, the 23-year-old sprinter of Kingston-upon-Hull also showed the confidence and mettle to convincingly defeat Montell Douglas and rises firmly as a serious contender for a place on the British team to Gothenburg, most likely to obtain a sound footing well into the qualification territory on that evidence.

Douglas herself was rewarded with a SB of 7.34 secs in that second flight as she looks to be steadily drawing back on track, showing ever more glimpses of her past form, while further behind U23 now Bianca Williams and Abbi Tyson left the track with new lifetime figures of 7.41 and 7.42 secs respectively.

The sprint spotlight was shared, however, with burgeoning sensation Dina Asher-Smith who tore twice down the infield straight to an identical setting of 7.36 secs as she thoroughly dominated the U20 women’s affair, a considerable PB to move seventh in the respective all-time list, where world U20 finalist Desiree Henry opened up in a best of 7.58 secs on the day.

Having blasted off to a screamer of 6.61 secs midweek, Sean Safo-Antwi arrived at the Lee Valley drawing plenty of expectation and all eyes weighing on him which may have taken the bite out of his sprinting as he could not quite reproduce the same level of display, eventually reduced to third in 6.69 secs in the second flight of the men’s 60m. Nonetheless, that was easily his second fastest time ever.

Instead, it was Rion Pierre that seized the moment to power to a clear victory in a PB of 6.63 secs and make his own case as a contender for a berth in Sweden ahead of Nigerian Adeseye Ogunlewe, who set an identical PB of 6.68 secs in both his races, third-placed Safo-Antwi and Harry Aikines-Ayreety on a safe season opener of 6.70 secs.

In the opening string of dashes, Tremayne Gilling came on top in an equal PB of 6.68 secs from the off this term but fell slightly short in the second round later (6.71) where Ryan Scott returned a SB of 6.73 and Linford Christie-coached Danish Walker-Khan got a PB of 6.76 secs.

One should also keep an eye on 17-year-old Joseph Dewar as he grabbed two notable PBs of 6.89 and 6.88 secs in a row in the U20 races.

Away from the sprints, Lucy Bryan announced her comeback to form and firmly back on track as she scaled a huge PB of 4.25m in the pole vault to lay the ghost of a frustrating last summer behind her for good. Her new mark saw her move third in the all-time U20 UK lists and there is plenty of time available to climb a lot higher with two full seasons in the age group lying ahead.

Among other notable performances, U23 Dan Putnam ran an indoor best of 47.93 secs over 400m, U20 Josh Street setting 48.14 secs (SB), and Laura Wake set 54.27 secs in the women’s edition while also U20 Matthew Fayers won the men’s 800m in an indoor best of 1:50.42 and Italian Marco Fassinotti cleared a solid 2.27m in the high jump.

International Combined Events Match, Valencia, Spain

Rising prospect Morgan Lake missed her recent pentathlon UK age 15 best of 9965pts, totalled in Sheffield three weeks earlier, by a mere and agonizing 4pts to provide a further demonstration of the wide range of her traits and qualities, consistency not least of all.

She put an indoor best of 12.42m in the shot and a SB of 9.06 secs in the 60m hurdles, as well as an equal SB of 1.77m in the high jump and 5.92m in the long jump, but a 2:36.91 clocking over the anchor 1000m was enough to let her down at the very end. Yet, operating within herself on the day, since her card did not contain any PB along the way, recommends that it is only a matter of time before she moves up another notch in the event.

Commonwealth bronze medallist Martin Brockman drew short of his recent PB on a 5366pts score in the heptathlon whereas Jade Surman added 10pts to a new best total of 3932 in her only second multi-eventer in any environment in six years, including PBs in the 60m hurdles in 8.63 and the shot at 12.48m.

Perche Elite Tour, Rouen, France

After a non-heighting start at Reno, Olympic 5th placer Steve Lewis edged into his stride down the runway to vault a big UK lead of 5.62m, at the second time of asking, to come equal fourth well behind a rampant Renaud Levillenie that soared over a big world leading 5.92m at the special event-oriented meeting of the French series.

The Briton then moved on to attempt three times at 5.70m but it wasn’t meant to be on the day, yet he is lying well ahead of schedule on where he was at this stage last year and can draw plenty of confidence on that.

Sally Peake enjoyed a good competition as she rose narrowly shy of her own Welsh record by a mere 2cm at 4.40m for runner-up and UK U20 record holder Katie Byres, engaging the U23 province this season, added 3cm to her SB to a figure of 4.25m for third in the women’s competition.

Last year’s surpise indoor UK champion Andrew Sutcliffe was also in action as he is slowly working his way back to form to register a SB of 5.25m.

Also on French soil, in Bordeaux, former European U23 silver medallist Luke Cutts went over a SB of 5.35m first time for second behind Romain Mesnil (5.45) and tied Max Eaves, 5.15 in Lempaala (Finland) at the weekend, in the same slot in the UK rankings.

Stateside…

Nearly forgotten Michael Bingham showed his mettle as he bravely weathered a couple of frustrating injury-dogged years, missing out on both Daegu and London, but now is steering out of the shadows with a vengeance and back on track to reclaim his place on the international 400m scene.

Having set up by way of a strength work 800m in 1:58.42 a week earlier, the 2010 European silver medallist mounted a vigorous comeback to the centre of affairs as he surged to a sound 46.42 secs for runner-up behind Brycen Spratling‘s (USA) PB of 46.25 secs at the Penn State Invitational, best time indoors since 2009 and his fastest ever opener to a season by a street.

A kingpin for Britain both on the individual and the relay end, he is going to shape a substantial boost to the country’s hopes in that quarter and looks as though he could even go on to venture into territories he has never been before, his PB lying at 44.74 secs from the semifinals in Berlin 2009.

London Olympian Shana Cox earned a hard-fought win over Kiara Porter in a season’s debut of 53.35 to 53.43 secs in the women’s equivalent for a solid return to competition for the first time since summer.

At the New Balance Games in New York, James Brewer found American Craig Miller‘s pace (3:56.90, PB) too hot and had to settle for runner-up just outside 4 mins in 4:00.77 (3:45.95 at 1500m) in his season opener, maybe a little race-rusty yet although his last 109m in 14.82 secs suggest a storming finish, while Tom Lancashire came some way behind in 4:03.41 for sixth (3:46.75 at 1500m) and Mark Draper ended up a further two places behind in 4:05.28 (3:47.89 at 1500m).

Over in beautiful Seattle, Jemma Simpson was out in a rare indoor appearance to put away the women’s mile in 4:37.96, an apparent debut over the distance in any environment, but the main news from a British point of view was Josephine Moultrie‘s ground-breaking huge PB of 9:06.35 over 3000m drawn by a fast pace employed up front that saw the four top markers drop inside 9 mins, led by Brie Felnagle in 8:54.74 – second fastest in the world.

The Scot has a previous best of just 9:39.8 prior to the race and burst through all the way to second in the British charts behind only ever improving U23 Laura Muir.

Dropping down in distance, U23 Sam Watts looked promising in an indoor PB of 21.21 secs over 200m in College Station, Texas, to replace U20 Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake, who set a total PB of 21.40 secs at the Razorbank Invitational the previous day, at the top of the British rankings.

Also in Fayetteville, Tom Farrell got off to a brisk start to his season as he drew second in a mile debut of 3:58.20 behind Patrick Casey (3.56.28, PB) while David Forrester and U20 ‘chaser Zac Seddon ran 8:17.07 and 8:24.71 respectively in different sections of the men’s 3000m. Georgia Peel came fourth in the women’s mile in 4:40.55 (PB).

Rich Peters also started well in a 3:59.57 for fifth a long way behind an invincible Gallen Rupp, who blazed to a world class 3:50.92 in the highly anticipated mile at the Terrier Invitational in Boston, where Matt Gillespie broke inside 4 minutes for the first time ever in a PB of a faster 3:58.55 to notch the second section.

At the same venue, Daniel Clorley put in an indoor best of 8:07.57 for fifth in the main heat of the men’s 3000m, won by John Bleday in 7:59.33.

Further afield in New Mexico, at the altitude of Albequerque, Adam Bitchell gave a good account of himself to take a close third in 4:05.17 (PB) in the mile, translating to a faster mark at sea level, and Luke Caldwell was sixth in 4:08.89 (PB).

Lee Emanuel continued his strong comeback to form although he slightly faded towards the end into an eventual fourth in 4:00.35 in the mile (3:43.09 at 1500m) having gone off for the win around 400m out at the Indiana Relays in Bloomington and Mike Edwards opened up with a 2.16m in the high jump in Gainsville, Florida.

Europe

Talking of the high jump, Samson Oni and Tom Parsons placed 9th and equal 10th at the quality event special meeting laid on in Hustopece, both SBs, as the main action up high was played out between Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov and Mutaz Essa Barshim, with the Russian nosing higher on countback at 2.30m.

Finally, in Bratislava, Guy Learmonth and Chris Warburton warmed up for the Indoor Classic in Vienna by chalking up comfortable wins in 1:50.21 and 3:49.72 over the 800 and 1500m respectively while Josh Swaray got the dash in 6.76 secs (SB) and Sebastian Roger was second in 47.79 (iPB) in the 400m.