Last Sunday saw hundreds of athletes descend upon Loughborough University for the famous Loughborough International Athletics meet. Michaela Knepsl brings you here highlights from a jam-packed day of athletics.

I went to watch the Loughborough International Athletics meet last year, on a breezy and overcast day in May. There weren't a lot of spectators and it wasn't particularly fun having to jump around to keep warm whilst trying to watch the events. This year was much more exciting. The sun was out, it was blissfully warm and the atmosphere was buzzing with copious amounts of enthusiastic sport-lovers, all showing incredible support for the athletes in purple vests.

My highlight of the early afternoon was the women's 400m hurdles, with Scotland's Eilidh Child winning in a time of 56.34s, but closely followed by Loughborough's own Meghan Beesley (coached by Nick Dakin), who finished eighth in the semi-finals of last year's European Championships, running a season's best performance of 57.12s. Loughborough University continued its success in the men's 400m hurdles, with Rhys Williams clocking a personal best of 48.90s, having taken silver at the 2010 European Championships.

The men's 100m dash kicked off shortly afterwards, with Newham and Essex Beagles' James Ellington winning in a time of 10.30s, showing his Olympic Games experience proves he is capable of competing under pressure and in front of a large crowd. Loughborough’s very own Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, a GB athlete, who took bronze at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in the 4x100m relay, here claimed third place with a time of 10.35s. The women's 100m was just as thrilling with GB sprinter Anyika Onuora winning in 11.51s and Loughborough's Sarah Adams placing fourth with a personal best of 11.75s.

As the afternoon wore on, the women's 3000m steeplechase took to the start line. Ireland's Kerry Harty sailed through in a solid time of 10m06.30s, with Scotland's Emily Stewart finishing second. Loughborough's Kate Spilsbury ran strongly to come close to her PB in a time of 11m32.47s, revelling in the experience of the occasion and demonstrating the positive effects of efficient training under the expertise of the university's women's long-distance coach, Bill Foster.

Another inspiring event of the day was the women's 800m, which saw eighteen-year-old Essex-based athlete Jessica Judd seize victory in a breathtaking time of 2m00.71s. Loughborough's Claire Tarplee (coached by George Gandy) finished fourth in an outstanding performance with a time of 2m04.47s; just one second off her PB. Loughborough had an excellent run in the men's 800m with Paul Goodall and Guy Learmonth taking the top two spots and clocking 1m49.10s and 1m49.40s respectively, a PB for Goodall!

The women's 3000m was a race not to be missed with Loughborough-based Olympic athlete Lisa Dobriskey in action, taking the win in 9m03.42s, followed by a streak of Loughborough athletes claiming the top six spots; Bill Foster's athlete Amy Campbell ran well to set a personal best of 9.34.74s. In the men's 3000m, Richard Weir ran to victory in a PB of 8m04.57s, with Loughborough's Frank Baddick finishing in second place in 8m09.74s. It was great to see three Loughborough students, Kelvin Gomez, Tom Traviss-Pollard and Henry Pearce competing in such a high-calibre event, with Gomez (coached by David Howe) even setting a personal best of 8m44.79s.

The day drew to a close with a brilliant finale consisting of the men's and women's 1500m races. The women's 1500m was won by Scotland's Eilish McColgan (coached by her famous mother Liz) who set a PB of 4m09.67s, with Loughborough again proving itself to be on fine form as Claire Tarplee took third place in 4m15.61s, and Jo Hickman-Dunne demonstrated the results of a year's hard training with coach Bill Foster in a time of 4m25.90s; her best performance to date. The men's 1500m was also an event not to be missed, with Tom Marshall of Wales cruising to victory in 3m44.84s, and Loughborough's eighteen-year-old Jake Wightman clinching third place in a nail-biting finish with a time of 3m45.60s.

Loughborough University was left beaming with pride after yet again having the privilege of being host to so many of the UK's best athletes, all battling it out against each other in an enthralling display of guts, skill and talent. Having such a high number of its own athletes, past and present, taking part in this prestigious event was all the more satisfying, and means Loughborough continues its high-profile reputation of sporting excellence, demonstrating the quality of its facilities, coaches and training programmes in producing such gifted sportspeople who will just get better and better.


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