The cold May weather didn’t stop some of the world’s best athletes putting on a show for a 3,000 thousand-strong crowd at the 57th annual Loughborough International Athletics Match.
For Loughborough, the match couldn’t have got off to a better start, as in the first event Mark Dry smashed his personal best, throwing 76.93m to take victory in the men’s hammer. That throw surpassed the World Championship qualifying standard, was the longest ever seen at the Paula Radcliffe stadium and was also a Scottish national record.
The men’s 100m also gave the crowd a taste of world class athletics, with European Junior champion and 9.96 man Chijindu Ujah crossing the line in 10.04, although with a marginally illegal +2.1m/s wind. Despite the wind, that was the fastest 100m ever run on the Loughborough track.
Ujah went on to contest the 200m for England, again taking victory in an impressive 20.50, this time with a legal wind. That was a personal best for the young sprinter, who has his eyes on the World Championships in Beijing this August.
Undoubtedly it was Jessica Ennis-Hill who was the star attraction for the large crowd that had packed themselves onto the pavilion bank, and she ramped up her comeback in the long jump and javelin. In just her second competition back after giving birth to son Reggie last year, the Sheffield star was third in the long jump with a 6.16m effort.
She returned to the track less than two hours later to finish sixth in the javelin, the Olympic champion producing a best throw of 43.88m. After that competition she told the assembled media:
It’s great to come here and compete. I’m happy to have come here and jumped and got a good throw in; a 43 metre opener in the javelin isn’t too bad really, so I’m reasonably happy. I’m happy to get out there, get rid of that rustiness and get back into the swing of things, so I don’t think I can be too disappointed.
There was further Loughborough success in the women’s 1500m as first year student Jess Judd, a Loughborough sports scholar, outkicked a very strong field to take victory in 4.12.67. Judd, ordinarily an 800m runner, will take a lot of confidence from her performance over three and three quarter laps, as her partnership with Loughborough coaching legend George Gandy continues to flourish.
It was really good and I’m really happy. My friends and family were here to watch and I’m just really happy to win. George told me to take the inside, but my legs are so long I was just running into bodies all over the place! But when I got into the last lap I felt at home again and it was great.
Glasgow 2014 sixth placer Laura Whittle gave the local supporters yet more to cheer as she ran a scintillating last lap to win the women’s 3000m in 9.06.85. Sophie Hahn was a another local winner, with the Charnwood AC athlete winning the Ambulant 100m in a personal best of 12.93, her first time under 13 seconds.
The final Loughborough winner of the day came in the women’s javelin, Laura Whittingham throwing 53.31m in the first round, a season’s best by almost 10 metres.
At the end of a long day of competition in the six-way match, Loughborough past and present came away third, behind strong England and GB & NI junior teams.