BMC Grand Prix: Junior talent shines at Manchester Sportcity

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BMC Grand Prix: Junior talent shines at Manchester Sportcity

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Though the British Milers Club flags on the infield fluttered aggressively throughout, it didn’t seem to matter in the slightest

Pointing the way towards the finish line, the bluster failed to hinder a vast number of the 308 runners competing across 28 races.

In the shadow of the Etihad Stadium, conditions were the sort to put anyone off their game – dreary throughout and the type to get in the head before a warm-up jog has been run. It probably explains the twitchy mood in the indoor warm-up area as runners eyeballed each other beforehand.

Outside, athletes and their entourage – parents, coaches, friends – made up the muffled couple of hundred sat huddled in the stands, waiting.

Jaw-dropping quality

But, while the Sportcity meet didn’t quite hit the same heights as the first grand prix of the season in Solihull two weeks ago, 118 personal bests were scored and a further 86 season’s bests run.

Two-thirds of those running came away with personal markers for the season ahead. There’s no other series in the UK that offers such opportunity. Why people bother going to Belgium, with all the expense and travel involved, when the BMC is on the doorstep seems a trifle puzzling.

Though the overall number of bests was down, there were several performances of jaw-dropping quality that the meet will be remembered for, none other than the 800m “C” race that featured Max Burgin.

The 15-year-old Halifax talent took down athletes twice his age to become the second-fastest 15-year-old in the world ever with 1:50.04. The two-second PB sees him move up to third on the UK U17 all-time list, above the likes of Peter Elliott, Charlie Grice, Michael Rimmer and Kyle Langford.

The fastest U15 in British history certainly shows no sign of slowing down.

Records tumble

The two-lap event proved ripe pickings for young talent to show their worth. Markhim Lonsdale showed no fear to sit and outkick Glasgow Commonwealth Games finalist, Guy Learmonth.

Lonsdale, arms windmilling as he approached the finish, ran 1:46.97 for a two-second PB, European U20 qualifying time and BMC junior record, taking two-tenths off Athens Olympian Ricky Soos’ 2002 record – the same year the Commonwealth Games were held in the stadium just behind.

While the pacemaker gets it right nine times out of ten, the women’s “A” 1500m was one of those rare occasions when the athletes had to take the initiative. Harriet Knowles-Jones pushed on impatiently behind the pacemaker before a full lap had been completed – and with good cause.

The top-ranking junior, pursued gamely by Jacqueline Fairchild, crossed the line in another Euro QT and just half-a-second outside her best in 4:16.07.

Building to a crescendo

Is there a more complete athlete doing the rounds at the moment than Jess Judd? Judd continues to show no regard for her previous best efforts, going after times with abandon – and frequent success.

The pacemaker could barely keep up with the pace. Just two laps, in fact. Judd delivered another solo masterclass over 12-and-a-half laps, lapping 5 of the 17 athletes in a field.

Her 15:34 effort made mincemeat of the Euro U23 QT – and saw her edge closer to the mark for both London 2017 and next year’s Commonwealth Games. Maybe if she has a race next time, she’ll find that extra 15 seconds.

It was all about chasing times – the Euro U23 qualifying time to be precise – in the penultimate event, the men’s “A” 5,000m.

Lane three cheer (no beer) barked the field along in the pursuit of sub-13:55. The race, led by messrs Emile Cairess, Patrick Dever, James West and Chris Olley, was still up in the air with 50m to run. It’s worth going back and watching it on Vinco.

Despite a frantic bit of nip and tuck racing and an epic sprint-finish (that we all wish we had), the attempt ultimately came up just short. Personal bests, though, were inevitable.

It is the BMC, after all.

Full results

Words by Christopher Rainsford
Image from Christopher Rainsford