At the London U13-U17 Games at Lee Valley, Biggleswade Athletic Club hurdler Natasha Ryall was in indoor action. The event, which is now an international open, saw the youngster contending with higher hurdles than last season, having moved up to the under-15 age category.
Arriving with an open mind, her aim for the 60m hurdles competition was to gain experience over the barriers, and looking towards an opportunity to compete at the England Athletics Age-Group Championships in Sheffield later this month.
Natasha’s PB in the event was technically over 12secs, but having improved a great deal since that performance, she was looking to get close to the required mark of 10secs needed to qualify for Sheffield, and had two opportunities in Lee Valley to try and obtain the time.
In her first outing, she got a good start and was very clean over the barriers. Indeed, with one hurdle to go was in the lead, before two rivals closed in. At the finish you could put a blanket over all three, but the photo finish gave her third place, in a huge personal best time of 10.25secs.
Her performance meant she was promoted to a higher standard of competition for her second outing, and once again she was swiftly out of the blocks, leading going into the final hurdle once more. This time she was pipped out of the first three, crossing the line in fourth with 10.38secs. Still more to do to attain the qualifying standard, but good experience.
Coach David Brown said: “With indoor facilities now open to all, there are now opportunities for competition all year round. This has only been available in the last 10 years with the build of the Lee Valley Athletics Centre at Enfield, which has a complete full indoor athletics competition facility.
“With now such competitions it is good to see where the athlete is in their development and we can adjust training depending on the results off the winter comps and the performances in the summer improve.”
More evidence of this came at the same venue the following weekend, for the London Senior & U20 Games. The popular annual meeting has acquired an international flavour, attracting a great standard of athlete both from the UK – with internationals such as Dwain Chambers and Andrew Robertson as well as athletes from the USA, France, Germany, Ireland and Malta. Joining them on track were BAC’s Euan Dickson-Earle, competing in the senior 60m hurdles, while Bradley Strong took the line for the U20 200m.
First in the blocks was Loughborough University student Euan, and as he progresses in the senior ranks finds himself among some of the best hurdlers in the country. A former World Youth Championships finalist, he lined up against European junior and under-23 medallist Gianni Frankis, coached by 1991 World bronze winner Tony Jarrett, and fellow youth international Khai Riley-Laborde, who was second at last year’s senior British Championships.
Euan approached his first race cautiously, but made a good start to be in contention for the lead over the first hurdle. As the race wore on, with little room for error, he was slightly down on Laborde and Frankis, and despite a blanket finish he was down in fifth place, in 8.08secs
Second time around, against the top four from his first race, Euan was more aggressive and attacked the race from the off. He led over the first two barriers before those chasing reeled him in, and while Laborde and Frankis again took first and second, he came away with fourth spot, equalling his season’s best time of 8.01secs.
Euan now looks forward to the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Indoor Championships in Sheffield later this month, where he won the silver medal last year.
Later in the day Bradley lined up in the 200m heats, looking to establish where his fitness is at the is time of the season. Lined up in lane three, a favourable draw as the banking is not as steep in the inside lanes, hegot a good start going into the tight bends. In a good rhythm coming off the turn, he injected more speed and attacked the athletes on his outside.
Keeping his form into the final bend and off the curve, Bradley come home sixth in a new indoor PB of 26.69, his best indoors or out for a couple of seasons. With training going well this early in the season, a target of sub-25secs looks a promising challenge for 2018.
Many thanks to David Brown for contributing to this report