Muir, Burgin and Wightman impress at the Muller UK Athletics Championships

Laura Muir track wave

The Müller UK Athletics Championships at the Manchester Regional Arena welcomed a cluster of superb performances and a host of World Championship qualifiers, with mixed weather conditions and considerable winds.

Olympic silver medallist, Laura Muir (handicap -1.7) provided a masterclass in tactical running as she bided her time for the first half of the 1500m final, before unleashing her trademark killer kick to comfortably take the metric mile crown she also won in 2015 and 2016 – this time in 4:12.91.

Melissa Courtney-Bryant (handicap -1.6) continued her return from injury with silver in 4:17.72 to make the Eugene squad, with Sabrina Sinha  (handicap -0.9) in third in 4:19.76.

Now with her World Championship selection sealed, a delighted Muir explained: “I am really happy with that today and to become British Champion at 1500m again. I cannot afford to ease up and am trying to get something out of every time I run. I was feeling a bit race rusty a couple of weeks ago, so it is nice to get some good races under my belt. Now the training is translating into the races.

“I am training hard and now I am racing well so feel good and with three championships I am training even harder than usual because of the three events.  I am very excited for Oregon now and am really determined to get a medal.”

The pressure was on Max Burgin (handicap -3.6) to emerge victorious following his swift 1:43.52 in Ostrava last month and 20-year-old duly delivered with a fine 800m performance, winning in a 1:44.64 Stadium Record, en-route to booking his spot on the British Team for the World Athletics Championships in Eugene next month.

In a loaded field in arguably one of the most highly anticipated races of the weekend, 2020 champion, Daniel Rowden (handicap -5.6) claimed the silver medal in a 1:45.58 season’s best, whilst 2015 champion Kyle Langford (handicap -6.3) took the bronze with 1:46.34.

An elated Burgin revealed afterwards: “I am delighted with that race. Going into today, I was the fastest so there was a little bit more of expectation on me to qualify. So, I am delighted to have come out and secured the win.

“The conditions were tough so running from the front isn’t necessarily the best as you feel the wind more. It is quite normal for me to feel sick straight afterwards – it is a side effect of the effort but nothing to worry about.

“I have never run in a senior major championships so it will be a new experience. I have the world lead at the moment, so I am in a good place. With the Commonwealths and the Europeans, I have plenty of opportunities to get used to championship running with the three rounds and so on.”

Jake Wightman (handicap -6.4) captured the 1500m crown on his tenth appearance in the championships in 3:40.26. The Olympic finalist and world fifth placer finished like a train to hold off 2018 and 2019 champion, Neil Gourley (handicap -6.7) who clocked 3:40.38 to snatch the silver medal in front of Olympic bronze medallist, Josh Kerr (handicap -6.4), with 3:40.63.

With a spot on the plane to Eugene with Gourley confirmed, the victor said: “I’m very relieved because there have been a few occasions where I have been so close to winning this title, but the main aim was to come top two, however – to be a champ going into Worlds is a real confidence booster so it’s a massive relief.

“It’s tough to be in the 1500m because it’s such a strong event, but I’m confident and currently in the best shape I have ever been, so hopefully I can go out there and try to get myself a medal. The main aim is to get a medal at the worlds, as well as getting another medal at the Commonwealth Games would be an amazing achievement.”

European indoor 3,000m champion, Amy-Eloise Markovc (handicap -2.3) upgraded her 2021 silver with gold in the 5,000m in a 15:37.23 season’s best. With the Eugene qualifying time already under her belt, she will be joined there by runner-up here, Jess Judd (handicap -3.2), who ran 15:38.39 for silver, whilst  Sarah Inglis (handicap -2.0) claimed the bronze medal with 15:39.55.

World indoor 3000m bronze medallist, Marc Scott (handicap -6.6) – claimed his third 5,000m title – after wins in 2018 and 2020, respectively – in 13:42.82. In silver, James West (handicap -6.4) continued his move up from the 1500m event with a 13:44.47 personal best, whilst 2020 runner-up Jack Rowe (handicap -6.5) took the bronze medal in 13:45.30.

Scott commented: “I am delighted with that result today, securing my place for the Worlds. I would have liked a quicker race, but conditions weren’t really conducive and championship racing is different.

“I am going back to the States now to prepare and get the best preparation possible. Training at altitude is definitely what suits me best.”

Olympic finalist Jemma Reekie (handicap -2.2) continued her return to health after suffering from glandular fever with a commanding 2:06.03 800m win following two silver medals in the event. Ellie Baker (handicap -2.1) was close behind in 2:06.26, narrowly ahead of 2020 outdoor runner-up, Isabelle Boffey (handicap -1.8), who recorded 2:06.59 for the bronze.

Now on the plane to Eugene, Reekie said: “Today means a lot to me. This season has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me, but I know I can be ready for the Worlds and I have booked my spot. Some of the British girls are the best in the world so I really couldn’t take anything for granted. I knew it would be slow because of the wind and I knew some could sprint, but I really wanted it out there today.

“Last year, I was so nervous at the Olympic trials whereas today I decided I just needed to do my best and I had prepared myself the best I can.”

British record holder, Lizzie Bird (handicap -0.5) retained her 3000m Steeplechase title with ease, as the  Olympic ninth placer sped home in 9:46.16 to book her place on the British team for Eugene.

Joining her in the World Championships will be runner-up here, Aimee Pratt (handicap -1.2), who replicated her 2021 silver medal with a 9:49.32 run ahead of Elise Thorner (handicap -0.3), who crossed the line in 9:57.06.

Bird said: “I’m very excited, today was all about getting the job done, you never know you’re going to go until you have finished top two so I’m delighted.

“Luckily, some of the other girls took on the pace, my plan wasn’t to lead early on, so I was happy sitting in behind and focused on getting over the barriers until I decided to make a move with about 600m to go.

“I was feeling pretty confident coming into the Championships this weekend, I think this winter has been my best year of training yet which I think I showed here and last week in Paris.”

Improving on fourth place last year, Jamaine Coleman (handicap -5.8) registered a fine 8:27.01 lifetime best to eclipse 2020 winner, Phil Norman (handicap -4.0), who clocked 8:28.86. Zak Seddon (handicap -4.4) – the winner in 2018 and 2019 – registered 8:34.47 for the bronze medal.

In the men’s Paralympic 1500m, Scotland’s T20 athlete, Steven Bryce unleashed an impressive sprint finish to take the win in 4:11.57 ahead of  Kieran O'Hara.