British Championships: White Rose prospects ready to bloom

Top prospect: Alexandra Bell.
Top prospect: Alexandra Bell.
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It is hard to look at the field for this weekend’s British Athletics Championships in Birmingham without feeling that the sport in this country is at the start of a new dawn.

Gone is Mo Farah, chasing glory on the road.

Heading to a new career is Greg Rutherford, stricken by appendicitis and in his final year.

In their stead is a smattering of familar names; such as Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Dina Asher-Smith of the national scene.

But the inescapable feeling as two days of action kicks-off this morning at the Alexandra Stadium is that the focus is very much on the future.

For as well as doubling up as the trials for the European Championships in Berlin in August, these British games could quite easily be billed as an audition for the up-and-coming stars of British athletics to capture the headlines with the next Olympics in Tokyo now just two summers away.

Certainly in Yorkshire there are a whole host of new athletes to follow this weekend and in the coming years.

Middle-distance runner Alexandra Bell, for one, is a name that can be bracketed amongst the rising stars.

The 800m runner from Pudsey in Leeds has run the third fastest time in Britain this year (1:59.93) placing her inside the top 25 in the world in 2018.

The 25-year-old reached the 800m final at the Commonwealth Games in Australia two months ago, underlining the upward trajectory of her career.

On the men’s side, Yorkshire boasts three 800m specialists all of whom have made a mark in the junior ranks.

Alex Botterill from York will earn his second Great British vest at the World Junior Championships in Tampere, Finland, next month after winning the trials in Bedford. He has clocked the fastest 800m by an Under-20s athlete in the country this year (1:47.95) and won a gold medal in the event at the Commonwealth Youth Games.

Max Burgin, 16, of Halifax is the fastest Under-18s athlete over the distance in a time 1:47.50. He heads to Gyor, Hungary, next week for the European Youth Championships to earn his first British vest.

While those two are both at the trials this weekend, a third member is denied a place by injury.

George Mills also has a shadow to emerge from. For the 2016 European Youth Champion from Harrogate is the son of former England and Leeds United footballer Danny Mills.

As he proved two years ago, the younger Mills is capable of making a name for himself and is expected to continue improving in the company of training partners like Commonwealth Games silver medallist Kyle Langford in the coming months.

Staying on the track, Chesterfield-born and Sheffield-based Alicia Barrett arrived on the British stage last year by winning the 100m hurdles title she defends today. Barrett, who is coached by Toni Minichiello, set the fastest time by a British junior ever last year in Bedford.

Amy-Eloise Neale from Wakefield is currently the sixth best 3,000m runner in Britain in just her first year as a senior. She is studying and training in America at the University of Washington and will compete in the 5,000m this weekend.

Out in the field events, the battle for pole vault supremacy between Dearne team-mates Luke Cutts and Adam Hague is always an intriguing one.

In February, Hague, 20, broke his training partner’s British indoor record with a leap of 5m 65cm only for Cutts, 30, to edge out the younger man for a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games two months later.

York’s Scott Lincoln is looking for his fourth straight British Championships shot-putt title and is just 78cm shy of the European qualifying standard.

Leeds’ George Armstrong finished 2017 as the top Under-23 discus thrower in the country while Taylor Campbell of Sheffield and Dearne Athletics Club needs to add 1m 69cm to his hammer throw to qualify for Berlin. Armstrong placed fifth at the Commonwealth Games.

Another Sheffield and Dearne athlete, Joe Dunderdale, is looking to defend his 2017 javelin title and needs to make up six metres to attain the qualifying standard.

Finally, high-jumper Abby Ward of Wakefield is off to the World Juniors in Finland next month hoping to have been emboldened by her experience in the seniors against Johnson-Thompson and Morgan Lake in today’s high-jump final, an event which embodies the sense this weekend of the present battling the future.