Ian Kennedy reports
In previous winters, Wimborne AC’s Piers Copeland has shown his ability ‘on the boards’ at indoor athletics meetings. His objective in the 2020/21 season was to qualify for the European Athletics Indoor Championships. With fixtures covid lockdown-impacted, the opportunities to race were severely restricted. Two race wins in February were to secure Piers’ a Team GB call-up at a time when competition for those places is intense and with British middle distance running enjoying a renaissance with a cluster of emerging talent in the country. Here’s how he did it.
Piers has been South Wales-based since attending at Cardiff Metropolitan University where he’s been able to train at the National Indoor Athletics Centre and enjoyed tremendous support from Welsh Athletics. He opened his account for the indoor season on 13 February in an invitational meeting at Sportcity, Manchester. The small 1500m field contained just elite athletes with the main competitor being Andrew Butchart who has competed at the Olympics and World Championships. Piers’ race plan was simple, stay with the pace and if it wasn’t quick enough, take the lead. After the pacer dropped out, Andrew Butchart kept the pace honest and when Piers decided to kick, he got away from the field. Coach Bob Smith watched him execute a perfect race plan and claim a convincing win. British Athletics reported that, ‘A sub-27 seconds final lap helped Piers Copeland on his way to an indoor 1500m PB of 3:38.55 in the men’s contest.’
This performance is currently the16th fastest on the UK All Time list for an indoor 1500m and the 15th fastest in Europe this year (26th in the world). It was also a Welsh National indoor record and inside the Welsh qualifying time for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games to be held in Birmingham. You can watch this convincing win here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQgcc9YKjZo As a Nike-sponsored athlete Piers is wearing their blue/green colours for this race.
1500m – Bryggen Sports Invitational – Sportcity – 13 February
1 – Piers Copeland (Wimborne AC) – 3:38.55
2 – Andrew Butchart (Central AC) – 3:40.82
3 – Archie Davis (Brighton Phoenix) – 3:42.09
4 – David Mullarkey (Manx) – 3:44.20
5 – Jonathan Davies (Reading AC) – 3:53.70
Eight days later Piers was back on the boards at Sportcity for the British Athletics European Indoor Selection Trials. The very nature of the event ensured that once more there was a quality field. Although the race evolved very differently from the previous week Piers once more claimed the win. British Athletics reported that, ‘Piers Copeland (Bob Smith; Wimborne) continued on his upward trajectory with a measured victory in the men’s event, clocking 3:52.17 for victory. In a cagey affair, it was Copeland who had the clinical edge when it mattered most, kicking away in the final 50m to take the win from Archie Davies (Joel Kidger; Brighton Phoenix) and George Mills (Jon Brigg; Brighton Phoenix) in 3:5294 and 3:53.12 respectively’. This race can be viewed here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsBr1G6InWM
1500m – British Athletics European Indoor Selection Trials – Sportcity – 21 February
1 – Piers Copeland (Wimborne AC) – 3:52.17
2 – Archie Davis (Brighton Phoenix) – 3:52.94
3 – George Mills (Brighton Phoenix) – 3:53.12
4 – Thomas Keen ((Cambridge & Coleridge AC) – 3:53.71
5 – Joe Ewing (Edinburgh AC) – 3:57.98
6 – Andrew Butchart (Central AC) – 3:58.50
7 – Sol Sweeney (Perth Strathtay Harriers) – 3:59.28
The win at British Athletics European Indoor Selection Trials didn’t guarantee selection, but clearly Piers had put himself very firmly in the reckoning for selection. We awaited the British Athletics statement with interest, anxious to see who had been named in the team for the championships. The news came through on Monday afternoon confirming that Piers had secured his first Team GB vest as a senior athlete. He’s looking forward to competing alongside Europe’s best at the European Athletics Indoor Championships at the impressive indoor track at Torun in Poland on 4 March. Go Piers! Go Wimborne!