Daryll Neita (club: Cambridge Harriers; coach: Jonas Dodoo), Richard Kilty (Middlesbrough; Benke Blomkvist) and Jodie Williams (Herts Phoenix; Stuart McMillan) led a clean sweep of British qualifiers with victories on the opening night of the European Team Championships Super League 2019 while Kirsty Law (Sale Harriers Manchester; Zane Duquemin) and Tom Hewson (Andover; Mark Bradford) secured the team’s first points in Bydgoszcz.
Neita ran an impressive 11.19 season’s best to qualify fastest out the women’s 100m heats while Kilty navigated lane two to cruise to victory in his heat of the men’s 200m in 20.72 and so did Williams with relative ease in the women’s 200m, the only one of the field to go under 23 seconds after a 22.97.
Law kickstarted the British campaign in Poland as she placed eighth in the women’s discus final with a best of 54.78m, posting the team’s first five points, before debutant Hewson defied age and experience to throw out to 64.93m in the men’s javelin final and notch a point to push the GB&NI tally to six overall.
After all ten Brits in qualifying action progressed, the night came to a close with a British record in the mixed 4x400m relay as Niclas Baker (Crawley; Piotr Spas), Yasmin Liverpool (Coventry; Stewart Marshall), Jessica Turner (Amber Valley & Erewash; Nick Dakin) and Alex Knibbs (Amber Valley & Erewash; Nick Dakin) came together brilliantly in the non-points scoring event to clock 3:19.40.
Olympic bronze medallist in the 4x100m relay, Neita put in one of the performances of the evening for the British team, looking extremely relaxed and impressive as she won the opening heat of the women’s 100m. She left European indoor champion and Poland’s home favourite Ewa Swoboda in her wake after a great start and then execution, clocking a season’s best 11.19 for the victory and a tag of one to watch in the final.
Neita said: “It was just a really relaxed run. In my head I was trying to recite all of the things that I have been practising – sticking to my plan and not panicking – and it is a really good set up for the final. I am confident and happy, really happy.”
Kilty, fresh from a 20.39 clocking less than ten days ago, battled a tough lane draw to take the win in the men’s 200m in 20.72 and, importantly, put space between him and the rest of the field as the fastest qualifier by 0.10.
He said: “I was gutted when I saw it last night [the lane draw] because off the back of my run [20.39] I thought I would get a nice lane draw but it was the outside lane, and there is nothing you can do, you’ve just got to go with it. It was rough getting around, it is a tight track but I’ll be all business on that bend in the final. I am just going to floor it and enjoy it. I am really enjoying running the 200m. I beat people who have run quicker than me and I want to make sure I get maximum points for the team.”
Williams was the last of the individuals to compete on the opening night and delivered a professional performance from lane two to ensure all ten who were in qualifying action advanced to race for maximum points during the rest of the weekend.
She powered out of the blocks and around the bend before easing up, clocking 22.97 – the quickest in her heat by 0.32 and overall by 0.07. She said: “I am happy with the run. I wanted to take it out pretty hard, run to 150m and I am pretty happy with how that went. There are a few things I can work on in the final and I came off the gas quite a bit in the last 20-30m so hopefully there will be something faster.”
Law had the honour of getting the British team up and running with the women’s discus scheduled first up and she hit 54.78m with her opening effort. A 52.54m followed before a foul with Law’s first attempt placing her eighth overall and securing the team five points.
She said: “I would have liked to have thrown better obviously but I am happy that I performed better than I was seeded and that I got more points for the team. This was a priority for me, I competed here for the first time in 2015 I think, and I really enjoy it because it gives me the chance to compete against the best in Europe and see how I can do.”
Hewson, the only other British athlete in points-scoring action on the opening night, composed himself during what was the biggest occasion of his career, finishing his series on his senior British debut in the men’s javelin with a best of 64.93m.
The English Schools’ champion opened with a 64.39m before a 63.05m with his second attempt and then closing with his best effort of the three. He said: “The experience was fantastic. To be able to compete on a stage like this with athletes like this is something I will remember for a long, long time. I’m not overly happy with the performance if I am honest. Maybe the stage got to me a little bit – daunting to say the least – but hopefully having got past this hurdle I will be able to perform better next time.”
While Neita, Kilty and Williams collected victories there were a number of other impressive performances in qualifying including European under-23 bronze medallist Cameron Fillery (Woodford Green Essex Ladies; Michael Baker) in the men’s 110m hurdles.
Fillery pushed his 13.60 personal best close as he clocked 13.64 to finish second in his heat and progress automatically while British team captain, and 2017 winner at this event, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Sutton & District; Benke Blomkvist) led by example as he recovered from a difficult start in the men’s 100m to importantly finish in the automatic top three spots in third in 10.29.
Chris McAlister (Thames Valley; Marina Armstrong)
Chris McAlister (Thames Valley; Marina Armstrong) was the first Brit to take to the blue Bydgoszcz track as he qualified for the men’s 400m hurdles final as an automatic qualifier from the first heat. McAlister finished strongly, clocking 50.32 to place third and book a second run for big points.
British No.1 Meghan Beesley (Birchfield Harriers; Michael Baker) followed suit, taking the first heat of the women’s 400m hurdles out hard before easing back in the final 50 metres. She also placed third in 56.35 to automatically qualify for the final.
Representing the British team since finishing an agonising fourth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Cindy Ofili (Woodford Green Essex Ladies) cruised into the final of the women’s 100m hurdles in a time of 13.16, which placed her third in her heat.
Dwayne Cowan (Hercules Wimbledon; Lloyd Cowan), who secured a breakthrough victory at this event two years ago in Lille, ran a solid race in defence of that win in the second of the men’s 400m heats, posting a time of 46.82 to place as an automatic qualifier in second and fifth overall.
Amy Allcock (Aldershot Farnham & District; Glyn Hawkes) followed in the women’s 400m as the lights took over and shot out of the blocks and pushed on the back straight, staying strong on the home straight to hold onto a spot in the final as a fastest loser in 53.47.
The British mixed 4x400m relay team of Baker, Liverpool, Turner and Knibbs rounded off the evening in style for the team in the non-points scoring event against Spain and France. Baker got the team off to the perfect start and handed over to Liverpool, who immediately made the most of a poor exchange from France.
Liverpool held her own as Spain and France attempted to chase her down before handing over to Turner, who composed herself early on as all three nations bunched. She kicked around the bend with Knibbs bringing the team home on anchor, keeping the French at bay when they attempted to kick past.
Their time of 3:19.40 is a new British record after the nation’s first ever outing in the event at the IAAF World Relays and Liverpool said: “It was really special. It is was my first time as part of a mixed relay and only my second 4x400m ever. It was really special, we had a great team and I am so happy that we went sub-3:20.”
Action continues tomorrow from 15:00 BST. The timetable for the Championships can be found via https://bit.ly/33sY1KL.