The 92nd edition of the prestigious track and field event took place over two days at the revamped Alexander Stadium
The English Schools Track and Field Championships is well known for helping create stars. From Mo Farah and Kelly Holmes to Greg Rutherford and Jessica Ennis-Hill, the work to an Olympic gold medal started years and even decades before.
All four competed at the championships and, bar Rutherford (who finished fourth in the long jump twice), claimed titles at intermediate and/or junior levels.
Both of the Brownlee brothers [Alistair and Jonny], Paula Radcliffe, Hannah England, Darren Campbell, Dean Macey and a myriad of other famous faces honed their craft at the English Schools Championships.
Quite simply, it’s one of the most significant athletics events on the calendar.
Here are five of AW‘s takeaways from the 92nd edition of the event.
Innes FitzGerald remains imperious over her age group
It was one of the most dominant displays from any athlete at the championships.
Innes FitzGerald, 17, stormed to a stunning victory in the senior girls 3000m and blew away the entire field, clocking 9:16.14.
The winning margin was just a tad over 33 seconds and FitzGerald lapped a number of runners on her way to victory.
Rebecca Flaherty, who recently claimed under-20 gold for Great Britain at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Austria, was second in 9:49.28.
FitzGerald missed out on Paula Radcliffe’s 31-year-old championship record of 9:04.37 but it was still as seriously impressive performance.
The Devon-based athlete has already claimed English Schools Cross Country, Mini London Marathon and England under-20 3000m titles this year.
It will be fascinating to watch to see how FitzGerald develops into the senior ranks.
Phoebe Gill stars in inter girls 800m
Over the past few years British middle-distance running has taken off again and it’s obvious the next crop coming through have been inspired.
One of those athletes is Phoebe Gill, 16, who starred in a high-class inter girls 800m and clocked 2:03.12 to win.
It’s the third consecutive month she has recorded a 2:03 mark and the fact the St Albans-based runner was disappointed she didn’t break her personal best of 2:03.10 – set at a Watford BMC meet in May – speaks volumes.
Gill was pushed a lot in a competitive race which included Shaikira King, 14, who in the heats had unbelievably taken down Jo White’s 46-year-old championship record of 2:05.6 with 2:03.79.
That meant Gill had to be near her best in the final and after going out in a blistering 57.6 first lap, she reigned it in over the second half of the race.
Such one-lap speed will only suit her well in the future and an athlete who watches a lot of Keely Hodgkinson’s races can only be motivated.
The 110m hurdles lived up to expectation
On paper, it was the event of the championships and the senior boys 110m hurdles delivered.
It was a straight shootout between Noah Hanson, 17, and Daniel Goriola, 18, at the Alexander Stadium and the training partners pushed each other all the way.
Hanson took the victory in a rapid 13.55 (0.8) to Goriola’s 13.61, with the former missing out on Tade Ojora’s five-year-old championship record of 13.54 by a whisker.
That time puts Hanson 13th on the UK all-time under-20 list and he will fancy climbing up that ranking over the next few years.
The future looks bright for both.
James Dargan shows impressive range
Recognisable for his bright red hair, James Dargan, 17, is not hard to spot on the track. He’s also normally at the front.
The young endurance runner has had the best year of his career so far, becoming England under-20 5000m champion and after winning the Mini London Marathon, had the trophy presented to him by world 1500m champion Jake Wightman.
He triumphed over 1500m on the track at the Alexander Stadium and clocked 3:54.65. That’s still far off his personal best of 3:44.47 that he set in the same city last month.
Dargan also has bests of 8:04.53 and 14:03.10 in the 3000m and 5000m respectively, showcasing his fantastic range in the middle to longer distances.
He states the 5000m is his favourite event and it will be intriguing to see which one he prioritises in the long-term.
“The Olympics is the ultimate dream but let’s do some work before that, I don’t want to get done.”
Talk about range 🤯
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) July 1, 2023
Alexander Stadium atmosphere was electric
The fact that the action returned to Birmingham for the first time in four years meant the 2000-plus athletes from 46 counties got to experience a glimpse of those who competed at last year’s Commonwealth Games.
The two temporary upper sections of the stands on the bends had been taken down but the lower tier of the main stand was full and it provided an excellent atmosphere down the back straight.
Conditions were a bit windier than many athletes would’ve liked but when AW spoke to them after their events, most of them talked about why it meant a lot to race in such a huge stadium.
Those memories will stay with them for life and a taster of what could yet come in the future.
This event is the definition of inspiring the next generation.
Calling @WightmanGeoff 📞
Sweet Caroline is back at the Alexander Stadium, after the athlete’s parade at the 92nd edition of the English Schools T&F Champs 🏟️ pic.twitter.com/ufx9Cdtgsy
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) July 1, 2023
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