The England Athletics Under 20 and 23 Championships.
Report – Paul Bearman.
Lewis Byng made history at the England U23 and U20 Championships in Bedford last weekend, becoming the first man ever to win titles in both age groups at the same championships.
The event has been an important stepping stone for many of the country’s top athletes, with the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford and Katarina Johnson-Thompson having won medals during their younger years at past editions.
Byng, however, went beyond anything that any other British man had managed to do in the 20-year history of the event and came away with gold medals from both the U23 and U20 shot put.
Even in his own age group, the U20 category, most of the athletes in the field were older than Byng, but he produced the second-best throw of his life to win comfortably with 18.94m, retaining his title from last year. It also secured his place on the British team for the European U20 Championships in Boras, Sweden, next month.
Twenty-four hours later, he was back in the shot put circle, this time competing in the older age group against athletes four years his senior and with the heavier weight implement. He smashed his PB – and the senior Stratford club record – with 17.16m. Only one other British athlete – national record-holder Carl Myerscough – has ever thrown farther at the age of 17.
Byng dominated the competition as all five of his measured throws were farther than the second-placed athlete’s best effort.
“I was confident of doing well in both age groups but I’m proud to be a double gold medallist, especially as the other main competitors were three or four years older than me,” said Byng. “I’m really looking forward to throwing in Sweden in the Euros now.”
Six other Stratford AC athletes were in action in Bedford.
The U20 men’s 110m hurdles final, one of the most hotly contested events, was again chosen as the closing race of the championships.
Stratford duo Jack Sumners and Ollie Cresswell had contrasting fortunes in the heats. Sumners booked his place in the final with his run of 14.11, while Cresswell didn’t get out of the blocks well and clattered a couple of hurdles, finishing seventh in his heat.
With one eye on the European U20 Championships qualifying time of 13.75, Sumners got off to a strong start in the final. Pre-race favourite Josh Zeller pulled away over the final few barriers but Sumners held on to take the silver medal in a PB of 13.90.
One day prior, Sumners came close to claiming a medal in the long jump. He had been in third place for most of the final but was overtaken in the final round. Nevertheless, he was rewarded with another lifetime best and outright club record of 7.29m.
Sisters Jess and Imogen Sheppard lined up in separate heats of the U20 women’s 400m. Jess finishing fifth in her heat in 59.17, while Imogen placed sixth in a PB and club record of 57.66.
Kaili Woodward had two marginal fouls in the U20 women’s long jump but pulled out a valid leap of 5.15m in the third round to finish 15th.
Rory Dwyer unfortunately had a recurrence of an old ankle injury and was unable to register a height in the U23 men’s high jump.