English National Heptathlon Championships – Bedford 9/10 August 2014

Alice Hopkins U17 Woman

If you want the fruit to fall you have to give the tree a shake! Well with the weather forecast looking like October rather than August it was always going to be an interesting competition, on top of that could Alice shake off some of the demons from the javelin that ruined her points total from Mansfield in the English Schools in July?

She started like a rocket! The only English woman under 12 secs setting a new legal wind pb of 11.93 sec. On to the high jump – she opened at 1.37mts (1 cm below the height she finished on in Mansfield! Confidence was high) 2 failures at 1.43mts meant a nervous wait before she cleared at the 3rd attempt and then went on to clear 1.46 and 1.49 at the first time of asking. 1.52mts proved to be a jump too many as the first of the weekend winds blew the bar off, for many of the competitors the competition was a disappointment but Alice was only 1 cm below her PB and so moved to the shot putt, one of her best events, full of anticipation.

Warm up looked good with throws around 11 mts but for some inexplicable reason the competition throws were badly timed and she ended with a meagre (by her standards) 9.58 mts. This was a loss of some 60 points against her expected running total and would need to be recouped in the 4th event on day 1 – the 200 mts.

Drawn in the first heat she would have to battle a massive headwind around the 200 bend and then look to extend to the finish to attempt to record a PB around 26.5 secs. The wind proved a little too difficult to overcome but she did manage a win and a new electronic PB only 1 hundredth of a second off her manual timing of 27.0 secs with a 27.01 sec. And so day one ended 3 really good events and a little disappointment in what is technically her best event - she was 8th at close of play.

Day two started with a horrendous rainfall but miraculously at the duly appointed start time of 11.0 o’clock the rain stopped and the wind was almost still. Alice opened the competition with a 5.08 mt jump and lead the first round. Two more perfectly executed jumps saw her mark move to 5.28 mts a great start to the day and the possibility of going over the 4000pt mark was back on! Next came the much awaited javelin?? More rain had fallen but once again the weather calmed at 1 o’clock. The first round throw was flagged illegal – oh not Mansfield again! Round 2 was a safe throw of 17.92mts, further than Mansfield, but woefully short if the 4000pt mark was to be attained. And then as the sun came out current training memory kicked in and a new PB was achieved of 23.58 mts – a throw that meant that the 6th place she had moved to after the long jump was only downgraded to 7th.

The final event the 800 mts – universally hated by all heptathletes who come from the sprinting/jumping background – saw Alice in need of 358 pts to break 4000. Any time under 3 mins would do. With some trepidation and very sore hamstrings she duly delivered a time of 2min 55.36 sec to finish 7th overall with the much sought after points total of 4051. A great weekends work goal accomplished and the knowledge that if the fruit on the tree is not too bruised a UK top ten score will be a certainty in September – watch this space.

Pete O’Keefe