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Brilliant Byng gives selectors a headache

Stratford AC’s Lewis Byng, centre, on the podium to collect his gold medal.
Stratford AC’s Lewis Byng, centre, on the podium to collect his gold medal.

LEWIS Byng showed his star quality by claiming gold at the England Athletics U20 and U23 Championships last weekend.

Without doubt the Stratford star of the season so far has been the prodigious under-17 athlete Byng.

His improvements in the shot and javelin have already outstripped his pre-season targets by a considerable distance and at the EA Championships he stepped up an age group to win the gold in the U20 shot.

His winning distance of 17.31m puts him top of the rankings for that older age category as well sitting comfortably on top of the U17 rankings.

Byng is vying for place on the plane to Hungary for the European U18 Championships in July.

In a specially-arranged competition to meet the qualifying standard of 18.30m, he did everything that could have been asked of him by peppering the 18.70m mark, throwing 18.77m to finish just behind his older rival, George Hyde from Cheshire AC.

A smiling Femi Akinsanya, the chief UK selector for the championships, said: “With 52 athletes in possession of a qualifying standard but only 33 places available, Lewis has given us another headache. But it’s a nice headache to have.”

The U20 hurdles was one of the most hotly anticipated events, with all but one of the top athletes in the country competing and deservedly was chosen as the final event of the championships.

After running PBs in their heat, Stratford’s Jack Sumners and Ollie Cresswell both reached the final and in a race loaded with the cream of UK hurdling, Sumners broke the 14-second barrier for the first time, finishing fourth in 13.93. Cresswell was sixth in a PB of 14.09. Sumners had another barrier breakthrough in the long jump, finishing fifth with 7.09m.

Rory Dwyer finished fifth in the U23 high jump with 2.04m, and in a fast-run heat Jess Sheppard finished just outside her PB in the U20 400m in 58.53.

Meanwhile, the Midland Counties Under 20 and 23 Championships at the Pingles Stadium in Nuneaton saw some of Stratford AC’s youngsters in a top-class competition just below national level, which for some served as a vital warm up for the England Championships.

Emily Madden Forman has consistently been jumping in the mid-1.60s in the high jump this season. After series of fine jumping, an excited Emily finally broke the 1.70m barrier and took home the silver medal in the U20 competition.

After a couple of years of injuries, Dwyer is gradually easing his way back into competition. The Loughborough student cleared 2.00m to take the gold medal in the U23 high jump.

The U20 long jump had Sumners consistently jumping around the 6.70m mark and he finished with a gold medal and a best jump of 6.72m.

The 110m U20 hurdles is always keenly anticipated and with Tre Thomas of Charnwood in the line-up along with Stratford’s dynamic duo of Cresswell and Sumners, it turned out to be another fast race with Thomas winning and Sumners edging Cresswell to take the silver.

Jess Sheppard has been working hard her on her speed to match her stamina. Her performances are gradually improving and she finished sixth in the 400m in a PB of 58.53.

In her first season as an U20, Georgia Clarke is adapting to the longer distance in the 100m hurdles and is gradually improving with each race, finishing fifth in 17.12.

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