The outstanding event of the domestic 10,000m calendar once again lived up to its billing. Jessica Andrews and Ross Millington won the main races, which as well as including the England Athletics & British Athletics Championships, also gave athletes opportunities to gain.
As part of their series covering England Athletics Championships, Vinco was covering the event. If you wish to watch coverage of races please click here
It was the women’s race that proved the highlight of the night but few had predicted it would be Jessica Andrews (Palamos AC) who produce such a breakthrough performance to take the victory, break 32min, and hit the Olympic Qualifying standard, in such style. Andrews booked a place on the British team for the Rio Olympics.
Helen Clitheroe (Preston) set the early pace and from the off it was clear that the 32:15 Rio Qualifying time was in the target. Jo Pavey (Club: Exeter Harriers, Coach: Gavin Pavey) was at the front of a stream of runners who were all operating at a high pace. As 3K was passed in around 9:32 and Clitheroe then stepped off it was Pavey who led the field. But it was not long before 2009 World Champion Linet Masai (Kenya) went to the front and injected her own pace. With Sabrina Mockenhaupt (Germany) in close order, a gap starts to open to the leading British athletes.
However, that chasing pack which as well as Pavey included Andrews, Beth Potter (Shaftesbury/ Glasgow, Mick Woods), Kate Avery (Shildon, Tony Simmons), Salome Roche (Portugal) and Krisztina Papp (Hungary) passed through 5K in 16:04 showing the calibre of the field.
With 10 laps to go, it was still Masai leading with Mockenhaupt in close order as the group of chasers whittled down and Potter kept the pace high. The pack which reduced to Potter, Avery and Andrews never gave up the chase and with four laps to go it was just Masai ahead and this trio still pushing the pace as they sought to catch her.
But it was to be Andrews who bridged the gap. With 1K to go she was back to Masai but choosing not to sit on the Kenyan’s heels she instead rolled past and went on the attack. The last lap saw her pulling ever further away to cross the line in 31:58.00. The huge PB and qualifying time for Rio meant, by virtue of her being one of the first two British athletes home, she made her Olympic place secure. As Masai came home second in 32:03.48 Potter secured third ahead of Roche with 32:05.37 to 32:05.82. Potter was again inside qualifying time to make the other automatic qualifying spot. Next in was Avery (32:11.84) then Papp (32:32.54). Seventh place went to Lauren Deadman (Havering, Bill Foster) ahead of Sophie Duarte (France, 33:11.52), the 2013 European Champion at Cross Country. National Cross Country Champion Lily Partridge (Aldershot, Farnham & District) was 9th in 33:12.44 with Jo Pavey completing the top 10 in 33:22.76.
Andrews commented, “I came into the race with nothing to lose today. I knew I was in great shape and training was going crazy good. A couple of weeks ago after an easy run, I said to my partner, ‘I have this vision that I am going to win’ – and I laughed about it because everyone has that thought in their head coming into the race."
While outside the Rio qualifying time the men’s race saw great head to head racing from the leading athletes.
From early in proceedings Juan Antonio Perez (Spain), Ross Millington (Stockport, Steve Vernon) and Dewi Griffiths (Swansea, Kevin Evans) had always been to the fore. Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham & District, Nic Bideau) had hung off the early pace but lurked ominously just off the back of the lead group.
As the pace makers departed Perez, Millington and Dewi Griffiths were all having turns at the front. The 5K mark was passed in around 14:05 and with 12 laps to go, Vernon was back on the lead group.
It was Perez who made a long bid for home and with 6 laps to go Millington led the chase from Griffiths and Vernon. But while Millington and Griffiths bridged the gap to the Spaniard the gap back to Vernon opened out, it was becoming clear the winner would come from the other three contenders. With800 to go Millington was on the front and pushing on, the bell saw him attacking hard and while Perez responded Millington kept on moving through the gears to win in 28:28.20 with the Spaniard two seconds back. Griffiths took third with Vernon fourth and Ben Connor taking the fifth place and third English finisher.
Millington said, “That race was unbelievable today. I’ve run road races that get close to this, but to have this atmosphere on a track is great. I was 20 seconds off the standard (Olympic) today so it is going to be tough to make that time but I might race in a few weeks. I am close to the European and Olympic qualifying time so it is going to be a conversation with my coach to see where we go from here.”
As well as the Championships races there were four other races held as part of the Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs. The event lived up to its name with a host of PBs being set. With crowds moved into lane three as the races were underway, athletes running through a tunnel of noise created by fans in a marquee on the back straight, a Samba band and general party atmosphere the event was once again one to savour.
The B race saw three athletes under 30min as well as a 30:38.08 for Master Ian Hudspith to lower the British M45 record from Nigel Gates' 31:05.69 set in 1998.
Organiser Ben Pochee commented, “It is an utter privilege to see the passion within the sport rising to the fore. This is why we love our sport. The community comes together to create a platform for our sport to really shine. That passion has always been there and this is just the tip of the iceberg of what our sport can inspire.”