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Phil and Cindy light up Olympic trials

The 2024 Microplus UK Athletics Championships and Olympic trials at Manchester saw many impressive performances from Woodford athletes, highlighted by a historic performance by Phil Norman and yet another title and Olympic selection for Cindy Sember. Will Grimsey was the other WGEL winner, winning the high jump gold in just two jumps.

Phil Norman has been in good form in recent weeks, running 8:20 in France before improving his PB to 8:19.58 in Vienna on 22 June as he has focused on gaining a second Olympic selection. He and his fellow 'chasers were well aware as they lined up that the UKA standard is 8:18.50. While the automatic Olympic standard was 8:15.00, a win and the UKA standard would likely be enough for one of 4 athletes to be to be invited via the Road to Paris quota but the four agreed to work together to chase the target despite unfavourable Manchester conditions. Only Phil was strong enough to keep the tempo going in the late stages and he drew decisively clear by the bell. He closed with the best last lap of his life (62.6) to take the championship record, in the fastest time by a British athlete in 32 years, but 8:18.65 was agonisingly 0.15 outside the time set by the British selectors for Olympic selection even though the result just moves him into the zone at which World Athletics will extend an invite.

Cindy Sember has had a solid season including making the world indoor final and she just missed out on a medal when 4th in June's European championships. This left her the clear favourite for a fifth outdoor British champs and only a trip and fall after crossing the finish line in her heat (in 12.79) threatened this. Conditions were unfavourable by the time of the final, which she won by over half a second in 12.85 (-1.8w) to guarantee her place on the Eurostar to Paris. Jasmine Clark, Yasmin Uwakwe and HCA Jane Davidson also competed in the event, finishing their heats in 13.85SB, 14.00PB and 13.91 respectively.

Eugene Amo-Dadzie was given a bye into the 100m semi-final but would have preferred the relatively benign conditions that the previous round offered. While not the biblical storm he ran through in last year's final, the weather was not ideal for the semi-final in which he qualified despite a slow reaction in 10.43 (-1.1). It was distinctly damp and chilly for the evening final to round-out Saturday. Eugene started well and held a slight lead at 60m but was overhauled in a tight race to finish 4th, in 10.39 (-0.8), hopefully sufficient for Olympic relay selection having been part of the 4th placed team in last year's world championships after missing out on the Toyko Olympics relay despite taking 2nd in the 2021 trials. The other Woodford 100m sprinter on show was Gwendoline Datey, who missed out on the women's 100m semi-final (determined solely by times) by 0.01 seconds despite a PB of 11.85. Gwen was back for the 200m on Sunday with her 24.25 placing 14th overall while Kiah Dubarry-Gay ran 24.43.

Yemi Mary John came into the trials looking to improve on her third place from last year and was third fastest overall in the heats even though she just missed out on winning her heat for automatic qualification (51.60). It left her in the outside lane for the final, from where she ran a controlled race but was unable to close down on the top 2 in the home straight. She finished third in 51.26SB, outside the individual Olympic qualifying time but hopefully enough to ensure she gets a chance to run both 4x400 relays after earning two medals in them in last year's world championships. Also in the 400m U20W Rebecca Greive ran 54.74 in her first run as a first claim WGEL athlete having previously been HCA.

At 800m Daniel Rowden was unfortunate to draw by far the hardest 800m heat in a year when qualification included no time qualifiers for the first time. Despite being the defending champion he was drawn against Britain's two middle distance medalists from last year's world champs and his predecessor as champion and while well placed to come through on the home straight was unable to do so, finishing 5th in 1:46.51. In the women's 800m HCA Leah Keisler did not progress with a 2:08.92SB. The other track competitor for Woodford was Ben Potrykus who finished 11th in the 5000m 13:57.00.

Will Grimsey entered the high jump with a straightforward clearance at 2.07, passed 2.11 and found his first time clearance at 2.15 enough to win the competition with 3 other athletes failing at the height, adding to his UK indoor title from last year. He chose to miss the next scheduled height before three failures at 2.21. In the men's long jump Samuel Khogali took 4th place in 7.70 (+0.6), while in the women's triple jump Mary Elcock finished 7th in 12.62 (-1.6). WGEL's only throws representative was Shadine Duquemin who finished 6th in the women's DT in 50.64.