WRITTEN FOR THE ON CAMP WITH KELLY WEBSITE (ON JULY 10TH)
Recently-crowned English junior 800m champion Rowena Cole stole the show in a high-quality OCWK invitation race at the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix and Diamond League event on Sunday, storming to a lifetime best with a gutsy 2:03.61 display.
The 19-year-old Coventry Godiva Harrier improved on her 2:03.83 previous best from the 2009 season and sped to a performance which was over two-seconds quicker than her previous fastest of the year.
Racing fellow OCWK athletes Tara Bird and Alison Leonard in addition to two of Britain’s best seniors and a specially-invited overseas duo, Rowena joined 21-year-old Blackburn Harrier Alison near the front of the pack in the first quarter of the race before 23-year-old Tara (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) moved into the runner-up spot at the 200m mark.
Easing back into third place on the home straight approaching the bell, Tara was overtaken by the Norma Pugh-coached Rowena, who clocked a swift 63.93 400m split ahead of Alison’s withdrawal from the race at the mid-way point due to an ongoing foot injury.
At the 600m mark, Tara – coached by Ayo Falola – was strongly positioned in third just ahead of Rowena, who then subsequently moved up another gear in the final 100m to clinch an impressive victory as she finalised her preparations for the European Athletics Junior Championships (21-24 July) in the best possible form - heading to Tallinn, Finland in medal-winning shape.
“It went really well, I wasn’t expecting that at all,” a delighted Rowena explained.
“I felt really relaxed so I enjoyed it and I’m glad I had a kick at the end and just saw how I went.
“I’ve been feeling really good in training and I’m really pleased with the tactics worked out really well.
“It’s lovely to get a PB after being injured last year. I’m flying out next Monday (to Tallinn) and I just want to run well and see what happens in the final.”
Runner-up Tara, meanwhile, registered a season’s best of 2:03.83 to improve by almost a second and a half in her fastest runs of the year.
“A season’s best is good and I gave it a good try on the first lap and had a good go on the back straight but Rowena had an amazing race,” she revealed.
“It was a solid run, not good but I’m feeling ok so that’s good. I’m doing the 400m at the England champs next weekend.”
The duo beat Greece’s 27-year-old Eleni Filandra (a 2:00.88 runner at her best), who ran 2:03.93 for third and Corby AC’s Karen Harewood, 35, in fourth with 2:04.53.
In the women’s international 1500m, 21-year-old Gateshead Harrier Stacey Smith continued her impressive season with a scintillating 4:06.81 lifetime best in fifth place overall.
The Mick Woods-guided athlete took over three seconds off her outdoor best in pushing European 3,000m indoor champion Helen Clitheroe (4:06.49) to the line, a fortnight after retaining her England under23 title over the metric mile.
Starting the race at the rear of the field with fellow OCWK athlete Hannah England, Stacey hit the one lap to go mark still at the back until making a determined move with 300m remaining.
In fifth place, two positions ahead of Hannah, with 1,3000m passed, Stacey stormed the final straight to hold the same position and firmly beat a plethora of established senior international performers.
“It went really well and I enjoyed it and I think I’ve done quite well here today,” she explained.
“I’ve been working on my speed and I hope to get a medal at the European’s (under23 championships in Ostrava later this month) and do well in the World trials.”
Oxford City’s 24-year-old Hannah, meanwhile, crossed the finish-line in seventh place with a time of 4:07.79 – her fastest of the season so far by over two seconds after an injury-ravaged pre-season.
“I’m quite pleased with that after having Achilles problems earlier this season but it’s all good now.
“I’m feeling alright and it was good to get into a good race but I’d really like to get the qualifying standard for the World’s.”
Continuing her rapid rise to form in the senior ranks, Emma Jackson finished a fine third in the international 800m in 2:02.18.
The 23-year-old City of Stoke athlete – with a best of 2:00.24 from earlier this year – bided her time at the back of the top-class field until the bell, where she swiftly piled on the pressure by moving into second place in comfortable fashion.
With 200m remaining, Emma held her position well until launching into a last-gasp dip at the line to finish behind UK number-one Jenny Meadows (2:02.06).
The 2010 Commonwealth Games 4th placer explained afterwards:
“I felt really good today but it was a bit messy, though I’m really pleased still.
“Training’s been going really well but I just need the right race to go really fast – hopefully in Italy next week.”
Crawley’s Charlotte Best, 26, narrowly failed to reach the qualifying time for the World University Games with a solid 2:02.95 clocking in eighth place.
“It wasn’t what I wanted so it’s disappointing.
“Training’s been going really well so I’m still going to try to get the time,” she revealed.