Ian Kennedy reports on BA and EA indoor meetings
Seven days after Piers’ fabulous performance at the World Indoor Tour he was back at the Emirates Stadium in Glasgow for the British Athletics Indoor Championships. A week earlier he had been the best of the Brits over 1500m, this time around he turned his attention to the 800m.
The championships attracted a high quality entry, aside from Neil Gourley (injured), the best in the country were there. Piers had a job on his hands to be one of the six in Sunday’s final. There were to be three qualifying heats with only the heat winner guaranteed passage into the final, fastest losers’ time would decide the other places. Despite Piers’ form this indoor season over 800, 1500 and 3000 metres, he was unlikely to be seeded and this could place a very significant challenger in his heat, and so it proved.
Piers was drawn in Heat 3 alongside Guy Learmonth, probably considered the favourite for the championship. Learmonth was drawn on the outside with Piers in lane 5. Knowing that the time could be important Piers ran an untypical race, it’s often the case that early on he will sit on the back. It soon became evident that the race win would come from either Guy Learmonth or Piers. With Piers trailing off the final bend, he saw daylight on the inside to take the win. Piers’ time was 1:48.06 a new indoor PB, and with Learmonth only a fraction behind him, he was also through to the final.
While the British Athletics Championships were taking place in Glasgow, the next indoor action for Wimborne AC athletes over the weekend were on Sunday in Sheffield at the England Athletics U15/U17/U20 Championships.
Both Wimborne athletes, by chance, were competing at the same time, but in very different events. In the field Toby Hiller was taking part in the long jump. He recorded a best distance of 6.44m. This is an indoor PB for Toby, being a 5cm improvement on the distance he recorded early in February at Lee Valley in the South of England Championships. Toby came 8th.
While Toby was busy in the long jump pit, Maddy Johnson was on the track for the under-20s 1500m. The previous race was a well-populated U17W 1500, so it was a disappointment that there were so few in the under-20s race. Maddy recorded 4:55.09 for the silver medal.
The men’s final for the 800m in Glasgow offered a mouth-watering prospect. The line up, in order of qualifying times was: Andrew Osagie, Josh Kerr, Piers, Guy Learmonth, Alex Botterill and Daniel Howells. What made this race such an exciting prospect was that there were so many in the field capable of claiming the win.
With Piers only interested in placings, he ran a more typical race, using tactics that have brought him so much success this season. All was going to plan going into the fourth and final lap. Immediately after the bell there was a coming together between Alex Botterill and Andrew Osagie who was following him. Josh Kerr was ahead of the ensuing melee. Botterill was down (and out), Guy Learmonth managed to leap over the fallen Botterill, while Piers found himself upon the recovering Osagie. Piers had to take evasive action and took a few steps on the inside of the bend, as he recovered the track he’d lost a great deal of momentum and there was now a clear gap between himself and Kerr, Learmonth and Osagie ahead of him.
With Piers carrying so little speed off the curve, were Piers medal ambitions a lost cause? Josh Kerr was still leading going into the bend, but being quickly caught by Learmonth and Osagie. On the BBC coverage Piers was out of shot, when he appeared it was clear he was the fastest man out there … commentator Kris Temple described him as ‘finishing like a train’.
Guy Learmonth (who Piers had beaten in the heat) took gold with a PB in 1:46.89. Andrew Osagie claimed silver in 1:46.98 and Piers had caught Josh Kerr in the final metres to take bronze in 1:47.21 … a second PB in two days.
Of those that finished, the most compromised by the coming together was Piers. It would be interesting to know just how much time he lost, and just how fast he’s capable of running an 800m, however, the incident did cost him any serious chance of challenging for the gold medal.
It was a great shame that we were denied a finish with all six runners. Incidents of this sort do seem to occur more frequently in the tight confines of indoor tracks. Alex Botterill will be sorely disappointed with how events unfolded, but race winner Learmonth has had his falls and disappointments in the past too, famously breaking his hand after punching the track in frustration in a Grand Prix meeting in Birmingham after a fall.
Two PBs, including a heat win and heading some top quality athletes, meant another great weekend for Piers, the speed he carries in the latter stages of races make him an exciting athlete to watch.