Weekend, 14-15 January 2017
The Northern Athletics U17/U20/Senior Indoor Championships saw seven Blue Vests travel to Sheffield compete. As usual, the group was dominated by sprinters and jumpers, with Martin Reid the sole distance runner. He finished eighth in the senior men’s 1500m in a time of 4:11.16. Long-serving senior Sian Pledger flew in from her home in Malta with high hopes until she was laid down with a virus just a week ago. She decided to compete nonetheless and on Saturday, she raced over the unfamiliar 400m for the first time. She was a little tentative due to the lack of experience at the distance and clocked a good time of 59.88s, but certainly could have run quicker. On Sunday, she won her 200m heat in 26.24s and followed it with third place in the semi; her 26.08s meant she missed out on the final by an agonising 0.06 seconds.
Jack Dickinson raced the 400m as a senior for the first time; after a tremendous first 200m (which was just outside his PB), he faded to finish fifth in 53.68s. Meanwhile, U17 Olivia Kimbowa also made her debut at this regional level, clocking an indoor PB of 44.69s for the 300m, with a strong finish for fourth in her heat.
Three U17 athletes competed over 60m – the shortest race distance. Kehinde Taiwo stormed through his heat and duly came fifth in the semi-final with a new PB of 7.69s. Twin sister Taiwo Taiwo, breezed through her heat and semi despite being 12 months younger than many of her competitors; she finished a fantastic seventh in the final in her fastest time of the day – 8.07s. Hannah Kelly also competed in the 60m, winning her heat in 7.83s despite easing down, her semi-final in 7.81s before breaking her PB in the final with 7.76s to take gold comfortably.
The three junior sprinters all lined up again on Sunday, but this time in the 200m. Kehinde ran a great race to finish third in his heat in a new PB of 25.11s, unfortunately missing out on a place in the semi-final. Taiwo, in her favoured event, once again showed class by winning her heat in 26.17s. Three hours later, 26.07s brought a second place in the semi before just missing out on a medal in final, finishing fourth in 26.02s. Training partner Hannah Kelly was in superb form though. Powering away from the rest of the field in the heats, she was able to jog the last 50m whilst still clocking 26.15s! The semi saw her line up against teammate Taiwo and, knowing she would have to work harder, ran a second quicker (25.15s). She lined up in lane 5 for the final with tough opposition in Rotherham’s Ellie Booker (the UK’s #2 rank in 2016) just outside her. Hannah, as ever, got a great start and within 100m had closed down the stagger and run past her main competitor. She was in imperious form and took her second gold of the weekend with a time of 24.93 seconds, the fastest U17 time in the country this year. Winning two Northern titles in a weekend is a superb achievement and confirms her outstanding potential, with coach Les Hall ambitious for the future based on her continued progress.
Both Hannah and Taiwo will now go to the national indoor championships in February, with high hopes of winning more medals.