Photos: Bilal Aouffen (Maria), USATF, UGA, Princeton, Gators
A recent welcome development from World Athletics is the introduction of a “protected weekend” for national championships. It helps ensure athletes do not need to miss high quality meetings on the circuit in order to compete at their national championships.
The approach is not consistent. Not all Federations include the combined events in their main championships, and not all Federations schedule their championships for the protected weekend.
But on the weekend of 25-27 February there was plenty of combined event action in National Championships, including in the USA, UK, France, Italy and Spain, among others. Combined eventers were also busy in individual championships across Europe, and there were also some very big heptathlon and pentathlon performances on the US college circuit.
Decathletes of Europe was in Birmingham to cover the British Championships, in which there was a close battle in both the heptathlon and pentathlon. Lewis Church won the men’s title in 5488, while 17-year-old Ella Rush won the women’s in 4365. You can read a full review of the championships in the stadium that hosted the 2018 World Indoor Championships here.
USA: NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
The USA has one of the most complex situations with regard to qualification for the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, complicated further by the Federations’ own rigid selection policy. Athletes qualified via the Combined Events challenge wildcard, athletes qualified via the 2021 world lists, athletes who would qualify via the 2021 world lists but don’t because they’re the second American in the category, athletes qualified via the 2022 world lists, college athletes who meet the World Athletics qualification criteria but who couldn’t attend the championships because they clashed with the college meets… too many combinations to explain here. Look out for this week’s rankings analysis to see how things shake out.
But back to the action in Spokane. Two of the USA’s three Olympians were in action at the US Championships heptathlon, Garrett Scantling and Steven Bastien. Bastien only competed in two events, fulfilling the USATF requirement that athletes need to show up at the trials if they want to be considered for Belgrade selection. Bastien is the second American in the 2021 world lists, so if for some reason Scantling did not accept his 2021 invitation, he comes into play. And they were two decent events from Bastien too: sub 7 seconds in the 60m and over 7.50 in the long jump.
With a few big names giving the championships a miss, including Zach Ziemek, there was room for athletes to get their first taste of national competition. The two days were rich with lifetime best performances. But of course, the standout performance was from Olympic 4th placer Garrett Scantling.
Scantling led from start to finish, his series: 6.86 PB, 7.34m, 16.16m, 2.05m, 7.81, 5.20, 2:43.04. That scored him a lifetime best of 6382 points, adding almost 100 points to Simon Ehammer’s world lead. He moved to 3rd on the US all time lists behind Ashton Eaton and Dan O’Brien, and 9th world all time. Seven of the other ten athletes also set lifetime heptathlon bests, and Sam Black and Jack Flood had excellent competitions to take silver (5866) and bronze (5803) respectively.
In the pentathlon, Kendell Williams had already qualified via the wildcard from the 2021 Combined Events challenge, so she had the luxury of using the championships as a tune-up for Belgrade and scored 4399 to finish second. However, Chari Hawkins returned to competition with guns blazing, her long trail of injuries seemingly behind her. Hawkins led from start to finish to take the title.
Hawkins’ series was 8.20 PB, 1.84m PB, 13.55m PB, 5.99m, 2:21.61, scoring a PB of 4492 to put her 6th on the 2022 world lists. Williams scored 8.28, 1.78m, 12.26m, 6.40m, 2:27.30 to finish second in 4399.
Maddie Holmberg Nickal took bronze in 4120, just 1 point ahead of Ashtin Zamzow Mahler.
You can find the full results here.
USA: CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
While the US champs were happening in in Spokane, across the country a number of impressive performances were delivered at college meets.
At the SEC Championships in College Station Texas, Anna Hall posted the highest score in the world in 2021-22 – 4618 to overtake Adrianna Sułek as the world leader. Hall’s series was 8.33-1.79m-12.85m-5.99m-2:05.33. Hall’s 800m time improved her 2:07.91 best from a year ago and is one of the fastest ever recorded in a high-level pentathlon. Hall has now qualified for the World Indoors, although whether she is selected will be a matter for USATF, given that she did not compete at nationals.
And from one World Championships qualifier to another – Kyle Garland won the SEC heptathlon with a lifetime best score of 6205 to improve his 6163 from a few weeks ago. He is 4th on the 2021-22 world lists and as things stand is the second qualifying American behind Scantling. But as for Hall, whether he is selected is a matter for the bureaucrats. Garland’s series was 6.93-7.46m-16.02m-2.11m-7.90-4.55m-2:43.68.
At the Big 12 Championships in Iowa, European U23 5th placer Kristine Blazevica won with 4308, 100 points short of her early world lead of 4402 a month ago, but well clear of the rest of the field. The 2018 World U20 silver medallist Gary Haasbroek won the heptathlon in 5833. Haasbroek owns the Oceanian record in the heptathlon (5949), at least until his fellow Australian Ash Moloney makes his debut at the World Indoor Championships later this month.
But perhaps the most surprising result came at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships at The Armory in New York. While Cornell’s Beatrice Juskeviciute won the pentathlon in 4116, Princeton’s Andrei Iosivas had a spectacular breakthrough, adding over 500 points to his previous best to score 6036, the 10th best mark in the world in 2022. Iosivas – who also plays American football – had a series of 6.80-7.55m-15.55m-1.97m-8.32-4.90m-2:51.37.
FRENCH, ITALIAN, SPANISH CHAMPIONSHIPS
At the French Championships in Miramas, Leonie Cambours was one of the remaining athletes who could stage a last-minute upset to the 2022 world lists, following her performance of 4457 in Clermont Ferrand in January. That turned out not to be the case, but she was close to her PB with 4435 to win the French title. Valentin Charles won the men’s event in a PB of 5694, a close match with guest Benjamin Hougardy (5669) and Jeremy Lelièvre (5623). It was also extremely heartening to see Basile Rolnin finish the competition in one piece in 4th place, albeit well down on his 6000+ point form of 2019.
In Ancona, Dario Dester came within 40 points of his 2021 national record to win the 2022 national title with 6038 points; and Sveva Gerevini improved her national record from Clermont Ferrand in January by 17 points to score 4451 points for gold.
At the Spanish Championships in Ourense, two big hitters were in play in the heptathlon – the 2019 European Indoor champion and 2021 silver medallist Jorge Ureña, and the current World Indoor bronze and World outdoor silver medallist Maicel Uibo. Neither had had a brilliant season so far, and Uibo’s earlier heptathlon in Tallinn – where he jumped an outstanding 2.19m in the high jump – ended with a no-height on borrowed poles.
The writing was on the wall for Ureña after the long jump, where he only reached 6.80. Despite his usual blistering performance on the flat and in the hurdles and a strong pole vault, he could only reach 5955, well out of contention in the 2021-22 indoor world lists. Uibo did better, scoring over 6000 points with 6005 but he had a different problem – two Estonians were already qualified for Belgrade, and he needed to exceed Hans Christian Hausenberg’s mark of 6143. As things stand, neither Ureña nor Uibo will be going to Serbia.
It was a different story in the pentathlon, however. Maria Vicente was already qualified via her 4495 from Clermont-Ferrand, sitting 3rd on the 2021-22 world lists (until Anna Hall’s performance moved her to 4th). Vicente improved on that score with a national record of 4582 to win the Spanish title. She appeared to suffer a slight injury when competing at the long jump at the World Indoor Tour meeting in Madrid on 2 March, but hopefully it is not significant.
Away from the combined events championships, there was a host of individual national titles and medals by combined eventers. In Switzerland, Simon Ehammer and Finley Gaio ran 7.70s and 7.71s respectively for the 60m hurdles to dip under the entry standard for the World Indoors. Ehammer now has the entry standard/requirements for 3 events: the heptathlon, the long jump – in which he jumped 8.22 to win the national title – and the hurdles.
Holly Mills won silver in the 60m hurdles at the British championships and Murray Fotheringham won silver in the long jump. Jente Hauttekeete and Hanne Maudens won the Belgian long jump titles; Anouk Vetter won gold in the long jump and silver in the hurdles at the Dutch champs and Sofie Dokter silver in the high jump. Abdel Larrinaga and Edgar Campre won the gold and bronze respectively in the 60mh at the Portuguese champs.
In Estonia, Hans Christian Hausenberg and Taavi Tšernjavski won gold and silver in the pole vault, Karel Tilga silver in the shot, Risto Lillemets and Tšernjavski silver and bronze in the hurdles, Hausenberg long jump gold and Karl Robert Saluri was persuaded out of retirement to run a leg for the winning mixed 4×400 team.