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Silver Lining for Pippa Earley
English School Multi-events Heptathlon
It’s the end of a long season for both coach and athlete and a long drive to the east of England to the flatlands of Lincolnshire. It’s early September but the wind is cold and the clouds are dark and prone to wheeling in and dropping their rainy deposits. It’s not ideal conditions for a two-day heptathlon.
Pippa has broken the UK record for the 80m hurdles this year. She’s in heat 1 and clocks 11.17sec, with the wind slightly over the allowable limit. It’s a sore that grabs her 910 points. Great start. In heat 2 Emily Race clocks 11.23, another great time, and therefore Pippa only gains nine points as a lead at this very early stage.
It’s the high jump next and for all of you following our progress, this is the one event that can create problems. It’s not through ability but just through lack of practise and confidence. At first though we all relax as Pippa makes first time clearances all the way from 1.35m to 1.50m. She clears 1.53m on her second effort. And fingers are crossed for the next height, 1.57m, which would be a Pb. However, it’s not to be, despite a very near second attempt.
Coaching/athlete tip: The wind was blowing very strongly behind the backs of the jumpers and Pippa was blown into the bar on the third attempt at 1.57m, making it virtually impossible to take-off optimally. So, as with the horizontal jumps, it’s necessary to be aware of wind conditions even for the high jump and to make adjustments accordingly. One for the coach’s experience notebook then.
After two events Pippa is in 7th place with Emily Race still leading after a 1.74m high jump.
It’s onto the shot, with the programme over running by about 45 minutes. Pippa looks strong in warm-up with a standing throw over 12m. However, she doesn’t quite connect with her glide and reverse technique in the comp proper, but manages her second best ever put of 12.42m.
Pippa’s throw is good enough to move her up into 5th spot. Olivia Dobson threw a CBP of 14.14m and with a 1.74m high jump this now takes her into the lead.
The final event of the day is the 200m. We have been working on the technicalities of running this event. It’s not flat out and hang on; there needs to be a relaxed phase to allow for less deceleration in the home straight. The recent focus seems to have worked as Pippa wins heat two in 25.68sec, aided by a 0.8 wind. It’s virtually a one-second off Pb, but it was on the cards, given how well she has done this year over the hurdles, both 80m and 100m, and in training.
At the end of day one Pippa is in fifth overall. Emily Race, who clocked 26.35sec, and who threw the shot 11.93m, is back on the top of the leader board with 3236 points. Olivia Dobson is second with 3212 and Jessica Hopkins third with 3167. Pippa has 3088 points.
Day two starts equally cold and windy with the long jump. There are some blue skies but they are still fleeting. It’s a big field in pool A and the winds aid performance with very few sub 5m jumps. Pippa opens with a safe 5.55m from behind the board, but then can’t hit the optimum take-off despite a 5.63m in the second round. Jessica Hopkins does hit the board spot on and leaps to a Pb of 5.74m in round 2, albeit aided by a 2,5 wind. Emily Race also excels with a 5.73m effort.
We’re slightly disappointed as we had hoped to gain a little over the long jump, given that Pippa has a best of 5.88m and has fouled 6m jumps in the past. Still it was not to be.
And it was a similar scenario in the javelin, where a third round 27.92m effort was below what she had been achieving in training. Still that improvement by around two metres over her first two throws would be significant in the long term.
The 800m is an event Pippa approaches like a sprint and she attacks it, even relishes it. She set off at a fast pace and went through the first lap in around 67 seconds. The strong back straight wind makes the going even tougher.
So what was required for a medal? Well, we calculated that she would need to beat those above her by 20-22 seconds, which we thought would be a tall order, given the other contenders’ Pbs. We were therefore shocked when she actually managed this. She clocked 2:17.32 seconds, which I would say was her best 800m time ever, given the wind (even though she has a superior Pb).
It was a very uplifting end to an up and down two days, but what heptathlon isn’t like that? Pippa finished on 5123 points, just 80 behind winner Emily Race, with Olivia Dobson third with 5114 points. That 800m made all the difference.
The results dramatically changed the UK all-time lists for the u17 heptathlon with Pippa now in 6th place and Emily Race in third, behind Jade O’Dowda and Morgan Lake.
Video to follow.