Great Britain wins inaugural DNA U20 Indoors match
22 February 2023
Great Britain emerged victorious at the European Athletics DNA U20 Indoors international match in Madrid on Wednesday (22), with three victories and a strong overall performance in the first 10 events providing an insurmountable cushion prior to The Hunt.
The opening mixed 4x400m – with teams able to decide which order to send out their runners in the six-nation contest at the Centro Polideportivo Municipal Gallur indoor arena, set the tone of the morning as Great Britain got maximum points thanks to the depth of the squad combined with some astute tactics.
Running their two female runners Ashley Nemits and then Etty Sisson on the second and third legs, Great Britain’s Onyeka Okoh took over in third a long way in arrears of France and Czech Republic but he quickly overhauled the two women in front of him and sped on for an emphatic victory in 3:26.19.
Ireland, interestingly adopting the same tactics in team selection as Britain, also came from a long way back to take a surprising second place in 2:28.25 with Spain’s current European U18 400m champion David Garcia too far back on the last leg and having to settle for third place.
The next event on the track saw Czech Republic’s Adela Holubova fulfil her role as the 800m favourite, running 2:08.35 just three days after she took third place in the Czech senior championships.
Just 15, Holubova showed maturing beyond her years as she bided her time while France’s Jade Buridon pushed the pace at the front, going through 400m in 1:04.39 and staying in pole position until the bell.
However, with almost exactly three laps completed, Holubkova then went through the gears and her rivals had nothing to offer in response.
Great Britain’s Indienne King came through well on the last lap to take second with 2:09.56 as the tiring Buridon slipped back to finish third in 2:09.83.
However, the positions between Czech Republic and Great Britain were reversed in a thrilling 2x2x200m relay.
Last year’s European U18 400m silver medallist Lurdes Gloria Manuel ran a superb second leg to hand, getting in front just before the halfway mark on her leg, to hand over a lead to her male compatriot Ondrej Loupal but the latter struggled on his second stint with the baton as Great Britain’s Samael Lunt recovered quicker from the first leg and swept to the front.
Taking over in third place on the last handover the impressive Manuel had a lot of ground to make up, but she almost did it, eating up the ground with every stride.
However, Sophie Walton had just enough in the tank to hold her off by 0.01 and secure Great Britain 12 points, winning in 1:43.29 to Czech Republic’s 1:43.30.
While the opening events on the track were taking place, there was also drama in the field, showing the DNA format’s capacity for producing surprises, with France’s Benjamin Zanetti emerging as the winner in the men’s shot put.
Spain’s Javier Cruz was the pre-event favourite and won his two preliminary head-to-head contests by convincing margins but in the battle for first place, Zanetti – ranked only fourth out of the six competitors on personal and season’s bests – sent his 6kg implement out to a respectable 15.91m and Cruz fouled in his attempt to go further.
Zanetti had engineered a similar outcome in the preliminary rounds to get himself a place at the top table when he won his head-to-head against Great Britain’s highly-rated Issac Delaney in similar fashion to the final, the Briton fouling his attempt after Zanetti had produced an effort of 15.64m.
Rusciano Thomas-Riley was a late substitute for Great Britain in the men’s 60m but the 16-year-old talent proved to be a very able replacement as he won in 6.79, just 0.02 away from his personal best and despite a poor start.
Drawn on the outside lane six, Thomas Riley came through strongly in the second half of the race to get in front with five metres to go. Directly on the Briton’s inside, Portugal’s David Landim had the race of his life to improve his personal best to 6.87 in second place.
Ireland’s Elizabeth Ndudi, as predicted, clinched maximum points for Ireland in the women’s long jump albeit with her worst jump of her three attempts.
After two six-metre-plus efforts in the preliminary rounds, she faced France’s Camille Le Roux who reached 5.74m with her jump in the first place contest. Able to jump a little conservatively, Ndudi – who is expected to be a medal contender at the European Athletics U20 Championships in August – took off a long way behind the board but still produced a jump measured at 5.85m.
In terms of distance, the best contest came in the preliminary rounds when Ndudi jumped 6.24m to beat Czech Republic’s Tereza Volkova, the latter producing a personal best of 6.03m.
Just six minutes after Ndudi’s win, Lucy May Sleeman flew down the 60m straight to give the team in green another win, stopping the clock in 7.38.
Behind the Irish sprinter, the judges couldn’t split Great Britain’s Renee Regis, who won a 100m bronze at last summer’s European Athletics U18 Championships and gold in the medley relay, and Spain’s Elena Guiu, a finalist in the 2022 World U20 100m, with both women given 7.47 and a share of second place.
Over the barriers, Sofia Cosculluela got the hosts first win of the morning when she posted a 60m hurdles personal best of 8.42. Meg Corker was left to rue her sluggish start but recovered quickly to take second place in 8.47 as Great Britain continued to pile up the points and extend their lead.
A short while later – with a brief hiatus for the concluding high jump contests – the men’s 60m hurdles produced several superlative performances headed by Daniel Castilla clocking a Spanish U20 record of 7.67, taking 0.02 off a mark which had stood since 1999.
Great Britain’s Daniel Goriola had a terrific run in second place taking 0.03 off his personal best in 7.69 while Portugal’s Sisano Ambriz had to settle for third despite running 7.80.
Despite a litany of failures during the preliminary rounds of the men’s high jump, which required the judges to look closely at the tie-break rules, it was the two best jumpers in Madrid who ended up contesting the head-to-head for first place.
Czech Republic’s Matyas Cudly, who can boast of a best of 2.10m,opted for an attempt at 1.98m while Spain’s Pablo Martinez, who won the Spanish senior title and improved to 2.12m on Saturday, chose an much more ambitious 2.07m. However, both men failed at their heights and so shared the points.
Having Great Britain having amassed 93 points during the first 10 events – 13 ahead of hosts Spain with Czech Republic in third with 73 points – the British quartet of David Race, Jessica Astill, Dean Patterson and Ava Lloyd were handed a significant advantage ahead of the gun going for The Hunt – a mixed relay comprising of a men’s 600m, women’s 400m, men’s 200m and women’s 800m – and didn’t falter.
Astill, a world U20 4x400m bronze medallist last summer and still only 17, ran a particularly impressive two laps of the Gallur indoor arena on her second to make sure that, barring accidents, it was going to be her team that triumphed.
Behind the British runners, Spain and Czech Republic had a superb tussle for second place with the latter prevailing over the hosts thanks to excellent contribution by Natalie Millerova on the final 800m leg, closing the gap on Great Britain to just over three seconds by the finish.