This weekend’s British Universities & Colleges (BUCS) Championships at the London Olympic Stadium in Stratford, which has been chosen as the official athletics Test Event, marks the start of seven weeks of frantic activity as many of our best athletes strive for places in Team GB in July.
For 400 metres hurdler Eilidh Child, who has still to achieve the official Olympic qualifying standard (55.50), it may be a tense and fraught period, but if conditions are kind and her great English rival Perri Shakes-Drayton does compete as promised, she will have every chance of reaching the promised land, a time of under 55 seconds being well within her capabilities. With Natasha Danvers and the sometimes overlooked Meghan Beesley, who last season ran 55.69, only 0.02 seconds slower than Child, also in the field this could be as competitive a one lap over the barriers as the UK Trials themselves.
Beesley is a legitimate BUCS competitor but UK Athletics have, quite sensibly, taken the opportunity to give many others a chance to experience the dimensions and the atmosphere of the stadium where the medals will be handed out at the end of July; so BUCS events will be interspersed with UK Athletics invitation events throughout the weekend and on into Bank Holiday Monday.
Guy Learmonth (Lasswade) is already moving out of the student athlete category into elite, as his UK season-leading 1:48.13 for the 800m in USA bears testimony, but a bout of food poisoning thwarted his ambition to set a new personal best in the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford.
US-based Scot David Bishop took full advantage of the Stanford meet to leap to the top of the Scottish 1500m rankings and he will run in the 3000m Test Event, while Capital Scots Chris O’Hare and Kris Gauson stay Stateside this weekend.
Another former EAC member, Mark Mitchell, also goes in the 3000m, the event in which he made a big breakthrough indoors last winter.
There is quality all over this weekend’s events with pole vaulter Gregor MacLean, hammer-thrower Mark Dry and, of course, Child all capable of breaking Scottish records, in the latter case her own. Just below the radar, there are others who could take advantage of the competition to move into international contention, including high jumpers Ray Bobrownicki (Edinburgh Univ) and Allan Smith (EAC), while Emily Stewart has already surprised this year with her performances indoors and in the World University Cross Country.
Stewart turns her attention to the 2000m steeplechase, an event she dabbled in surprisingly well last season, clocking, without any hurdles training, 6:52.82, just over 10 seconds slower than Eilish McColgan, who holds the Scottish record for the 3000m chase. Dundee’s McColgan, back to full fitness after breaking her ankle last season, is entered in several events this weekend but has not indicated a preference.
Stewart’s EU team-mate Rhona Auckland, who broke the course record in the Balmoral 5000m last weekend, is entered in the BUCS 10,000m where she should be capable of running sub 34 minutes.
Who says selectors are heartless? No sooner had I castigated the British selectors for leaving Lee Merrien out of the Olympic marathon than there was a change of heart and the Channel Islander was added.
First Brit in London Marathon in 2:13.41, Merrien had not fulfilled the UKA’s strict selection policy though he had run two minutes faster than Dave Webb, who was picked because of his Top 20 (15th) finish in last year’s World Championship in Daegu.
Now another storm has arisen, led by former Scottish Athletics PRO Chris Broadbent, over the decision to include him.
Bolt is back in the blocks
The attention of the athletics world will be on Kingston, Jamaica this weekend with sprinter Usain Bolt due to make his season debut.
Bolt has already stated his intention to retain his Olympic sprint crowns and has hinted he might run the 100 metres in 9.4 seconds, compared to the world record of 9.58 seconds which he set in Berlin in 2009.