KJT shows fine early season form at Loughborough – AW

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson wins the high jump in 1.86m and stretches her legs in sprint hurdles and 4x400m as England win the annual international match

    World heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson underpinned her Paris medal hopes by recording a season’s best in the high jump at the Loughborough International on Sunday (May 19).

    On a glorious spring day, in front of a capacity crowd at the Paula Radcliffe Stadium, Johnson-Thompson cleared 1.86m to take gold ahead of Thea Brown (1.83m) and Halle Ferguson (1.75m).

    Johnson-Thompson also ran 13.81 (-0.8) in the 100m hurdles won by Etienne Maughan in 13.54 as the sprinters and sprint hurdlers battled a slight headwind all day.

    The previous week, Johnson-Thompson had opened her outdoor season with a 13.68 (0.3) sprint hurdles and 44.88m javelin at Graz in Austria.

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Peter Simmons)

    Johnson-Thompson’s jump in Loughborough will give the 31-year-old a welcome boost ahead of the world’s biggest sporting stage in France’s capital this later summer in addition to the European Championships, the latter of which kicks off in Rome in just over a fortnight.

    Billed as the ‘Battle of the Nations’, Loughborough athletes took on competitors representing England, Wales, Scotland, GB & NI Under-20s and the National Athletics League for the annual competition.

    Loughborough sports scholar and Tokyo Paralympic champion Ntando Mahlangu wowed spectators by storming to victory in the men’s para 400m with a personal best of 52.42. The South African international beat John Bridge (Wales – 53.64) and Cameron Thores (Scotland – 53.81) to take the win for the home side.

    Ntando Mahlangu (Peter Simmons)

    Current British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) outdoor champion Poppy Malik also won an impressive gold for Loughborough in the women’s 400m, crossing the line in 53:41 ahead of England’s Hannah Kelly (54.05), and Wales’ Tess McHugh (54.26).

    GB & NI Under-20s navigated slight headwinds to take a clean sweep in the 4x100m relays, winning both the men’s (39.76) and the women’s (44.59) races.

    GB U20 sprint relay winners (Peter Simmons)

    The annual match is always a good chance for young athletes to put down an early-season marker and Innes FitzGerald and Jess Bailey excelled in the women’s 3000m as they finished one-two in 9:08.91 and 9:10.18 respectively – both World Under-20 Championships qualifying marks.

    Ayeesha Jones was also in good form as the Commonwealth youth champion threw 51.66m in the javelin for a world under-20 standard

    Mabel Akande, just 17, turned heads in the women’s 100m to beat all the senior athletes in a personal best 11.52 (-0.2), ahead of Alyson Bell (11.62) and Rachel Bennett (11.62).

    In the under-20 men’s 110m hurdles, Noah Hanson (13.64) held off Daniel Goriola (13.76) –as they also build up toward the World Under-20 Champs in Peru in August.

    England’s Sophie Hahn found the kind of form that won her gold at both the 2016 and 2020 Paralympics as she cruised to victory in the women’s para 100m in a season’s best 12.90, ahead of GB’s Maddie Down (13.20) and Lana Sutton (13.38).

    Adele Nicoll (Peter Simmons)

    Elsewhere, shot putter and European under-23 medallist Serena Vincent, representing England, added 56cm to her personal best with a throw of 17.78m. Welsh athlete Adelé Nicoll also recorded a season’s best 17.28m.

    There was a welcome return for fit-again Taylor Campbell who competed for the first time in almost three years to throw an encouraging 69.75m in the men’s hammer.

    Loughborough’s Bekah Walton showed consistency once again to win the women’s javelin in another strong distance of 59.26m.

    To cap an exhilarating day of first-class athletics, England included Johnson-Thompson in the 4x400m women’s final to ultimately edge out Loughborough and win in 3:34.65.

    In the men’s event, there was also a win for England in 3:09.21, ahead of GB in 3:11.14, with an invitational team taking third in 3:11.89.

    Loughborough 4x400m winners (Peter Simmons)

    Overall team scores

    England 191 points; Loughborough 159; GB 152.5; National Athletics League 136; Wales 104.5; Scotland 99

    Full results, see here

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