Hayley McLean represented Great Britain at the 2022 European Athletics Championships. Photo: Daniel Rees

Shaftesbury one of four Championship winners as new format begins

Written by Daniel Rees

NAL Championship East Round 1 – Chelmsford – Saturday 1st June

Results on OpenTrack

Jade Ive, Hayley McLean, and Krishawn Aiken helped Shaftesbury Barnet to victory in the opening match of the National Athletics League season as the battle for promotion commenced.

The former Premiership club were demoted last season to the Championship East along with Chelmsford and Newham and Essex Beagles.

On Saturday, all three teams opened their campaigns with the intention of returning to the top tier of the domestic athletics pyramid at the first time of asking.

Having retained their Championship tier status last season, Havering, Herts Phoenix, and Herne Hill Harriers looked to upset the newly-relegated clubs.

On a cold and windy day in Essex, it was host club Chelmsford which made the strongest start, with Amelie Scott recording 5.57m to win the women’s long jump and Onyekachukwu Okoh holding off Steven Garrett in a gripping race to win the men’s 400m hurdles.

Fellow Shaftesbury Barnet 400m hurdler Hayley McLean took full points in the women’s race ahead of U20 Herts Phoenix athlete Louise Grenfell.

McLean has now won nine NAL 400m hurdles races, a number which rises to 11 if you include all distances. If you include before 2021, under the old UK Women’s League, it goes up to 16.

In the men’s 800m, Henry Dover – who represented Great Britain and the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in March – ran a superb PB of 1:51.80sec to win the two-lap event as Shaftesbury took control of the match early on.

Herne Hill’s Sophie Tooley and Lucy Jones completed a clean sweep over the same distance, with the former running her first 800m in three years.

Making the journey from neighbouring Hertfordshire, 400m runners Lauren Rule and Jessica Astill both secured dominant victories to give Herts Phoenix a boost halfway through the match.

In the field events, Havering secured valuable points when U20 Ruby Tillson cleared 1.65m, whilst Newham’s Katie Head won by a huge margin in the women’s hammer by throwing 62.30m.

Head’s brother and fellow Beagle, Thomas, completed the same feat in the men’s hammer by throwing 64.32m to finish ahead of Chelmsford’s Oliver Graham and Yasha Bobash.

In the sprints, Shaftesbury’s Krishawn Aiken and Phoenix Lyon both doubled up over the 100m and 200m distances to take 40 points from a possible 44.

One of the strongest performances of the day came from Shaftesbury’s Jade Ive, the gymnast-turned-pole vaulter who had endured a torrid opening to her outdoor season after failing to record heights in Spain, Loughborough, and Finland last month.

The UK indoor champion from last year banished that form in some style with an excellent height of 4.25m, and came close with her subsequent attempts at 4.35m.

In the relays, Newham prevailed in the women’s 4x400m thanks in part to an opening leg from Victoria Ohuruogu, whilst the 4x100m men’s team also managed to take full points.

Shaftesbury managed to secure overall victory with victories in both the women’s 4x100m and men’s 4x400m, reaching the 600-point mark in the process.

Chelmsford held on for second place in the final standings from Havering in third, whilst Herts Phoenix took fourth place.

Newham and Essex Beagles finished fifth, with Herne Hill Harriers in sixth.

NAL Championship West Round 1 – Swansea – Saturday 1st June

Results on OpenTrack

Swansea took a comfortable victory by 146 points as they hosted the first Championship West match of the season.

International 4x400m medallist Joe Brier’s 400m win was one of the standout performances as the Welshman achieved a season’s best of 46.16s.

Moments later, Hanna Ulvede made it a one-lap double for the club, taking more than a second off her lifetime best to come home in 57.94s.

Cardiff were strong too, managing a men’s 100m double through Alex Azu’s 10.64 and Sam Gordon’s faster 10.53 in the B race.

They achieved the same feat in the women’s 100m hurdles through heptathletes Lauren Evans and Grace Morgan.

But Basingstoke and Mid Hants had the consistency to finish second overall between the two Welsh sides.

Rising star 19-year-old decathlete Sammy Ball improved on his previous best of 14.89 to win the 110m hurdles in 14.74s, and Guy Stevens was five seconds clear of the rest in a 4:03.17 men’s 1500m win.

Samantha Callaway won the shot and discus Southampton, before Joshua Douglas did the same for them in the men’s discus.

Yeovil Olympiads’ Skye Sauter won the 200m in 25.51, while Jacob Dibble was the highest-scoring javelin performer with 58.33m and Emily Bonnett triumphed in the 400m hurdles.

Yate’s Kane Lee won the men’s 800m in 1:55.60.

NAL Championship North Round 1 – Nottingham – Saturday 1st June

Results on OpenTrack

Lee Thompson ran his fastest 400m time in three years as City of Sheffield won the opening Championship North match of 2024 in Nottingham.

The world indoor semi-finalist came through in 46.34s, more than two-and-a-half seconds clear of Jack Hocking’s 48.90s time for Trafford.

Sheffield had great quality in the field too, with George Heppinstall and Adam Hague amassing a maximum total of 22 points in the pole vault, thanks to respective clearances of 4.80m and 4.60m.

Later on, Chuks Osammor took top spot in the discus with 55.46m, more than five metres ahead of his opponents.

Trafford were second-placed finishers overall and Halle Ferguson got the club’s first victory of the day in the women’s high jump, clearing a highest height of 1.70m.

Ferguson won British Universities’ (BUCS) gold for Manchester earlier this month and one fellow BUCS winner, Etienne Maughan, opted for the 100m flat instead of her usual sprint hurdles.

That worked out a treat as the Bedford and County athlete went sub-12 seconds for the first time, coming across the line in 11.90s.

The same club also celebrated a one-two finish in the men’s 1500m through Benjamin Davies and Noah Campion.

Similarly, Harry Whyley and Tae Jan Blake secured first and second for Notts AC in the high jump, with Whyley ahead on countback and both setting new personal bests of 2.05m.

Their teammate Imogen Smith won by the same method, but only needed one single jump to take 12 points from the women’s pole vault, with a first-time clearance at 3.70m being enough.

Emma Alderson took the women’s 400m win for City of Liverpool in 55.74s, while sixth-placed Marshall Milton Keynes watched on as Rebecca Chivers was victorious in the javelin, courtesy of her first throw measuring 36.33m.

NAL Championship South Round 1 – Portsmouth – Saturday 1st June

Results on OpenTrack

Tonbridge won the Championship South match in Portsmouth by over 100 points.

Performances like a one-two in the high jump helped City of Portsmouth consolidate second place overall through clearances of 1.75m and 1.70m for Mia Judd and Amy Tarver respectively.

But Tonbridge’s decathletes did their usual reliable job to keep them on top, while the club showed their typical middle-distance prowess.

Lewis Church won the pole vault with 4.50m and the high jump with 1.93m, finishing second in the long jump and shot put and third in the javelin.

Team England Commonwealth Games star Harry Kendall led a discus one-two for the club and he was also runner up in the sprint hurdles and 200m.

That wasn’t the only time that a Tonbridge pair were unbeatable, Calum Laing and Michael Ellis were nearly half a minute clear of the rest to take 22 points from the men’s steeplechase.

But the Kent club were pushed into third and fourth by Belgrave’s Mimi Corden Lloyd and Orna McGinley in the women’s 3000m, as the former set a personal best of 10:25.71 to finish eight seconds clear of her teammate.

Belgrave, who placed third overall, were also strong in the sprints. Sam Ige won the men’s 100m in 10.91s, with Rosey Smythe taking first in the women’s event in 12.41s.

Crawley’s Pyers Lockwood triumphed in what was the first track race of the day, winning the 400m hurdles in 54.69s, before Callum Holder made it a hurdles double over 110m.

Kingston AC and Poly’s Joely Bytheway equalled her personal best to take the women’s 400m hurdles race in 64.03s.

Sixth-placed Bournemouth got some joy from the women’s 2000m chase as Harriet Slade ran a fastest ever 7:31.45 to beat teammate Nikki Sandell, who was surprisingly the only other athlete in the race.