GATESHEAD, England – In the final Diamond League meeting prior to the Tokyo Olympics, Arkansas alum Sandi Morris cleared 15 feet, 7 ¼ inches (4.76) to win the pole vault competition at the British Grand Prix on Tuesday. Another pair of Razorback alums finished second in hurdle races with Omar McLeod posting a time of 13.42 in the 110m hurdles while Payton Chadwick clocked 12.75 in the 100m hurdles.
Also placing second in the 400m hurdles in a time of 54.53 was Shamier Little, who trains in Fayetteville with Arkansas associate head coach Chris Johnson. Taliyah Brooks finished sixth in the long jump with a mark of 21-1 ½ (6.44).
“I jumped on my own poles today!,” noted Morris, who had to borrow poles in her previous competition. “It’s the struggle of every international pole vaulter. It’s just so hard to get around the world with poles and it’s getting significantly more difficult each year but I’m very fortunate that they finally made it today and the weather held out, the sun came out and it ended up being a beautiful day.
“I’ve had a really tough time this last month. I’ve had a couple of bad meets and my confidence was lacking a bit, so I really needed today. I decided that I’d have no expectations and just have fun and anytime I jump for fun I always jump high.”
A strong start had Morris clearing 14-9 ½ (4.51) and 15-1 ½ (4.61) on first attempts. Two attempts were needed to navigate over 15-5 ½ (4.71) and only two vaulters remained from the field of eight at that stage.
When Morris cleared 15-7 ¼ on her first try, Great Britain’s Holly Bradshaw opted to pass to the next height of 15-9 ¼ (4.81) since she needed three attempts at 15-1 ½ and two at 15-5 ½. Neither made that bar, so Morris secured the victory with her second best height of the outdoor season.
“It’s amazing how you can have five bad meets and one good meet, and your world flips back to normal,” said Morris.
After placing seventh in the Olympic Trials final, Chadwick produced a pair of victories in her first two races in Europe with times of 12.93 and 12.96. Then she finished runner-up in 12.85 on the weekend in Sotteville, France.
Her 12.75 (1.5 wind) in Gateshead left Chadwick only trailing a 12.69 from Great Britain’s Cindy Sember. Finishing in a tight finish behind Chadwick were Nadine Visser of the Netherlands (12.78) along with a pair of Jamaicans in Danielle Williams (12.78) and Brittany Anderson (12.81).
“After trials it’s been a little bit rough getting my feet back under me from all the emotion of running two personal bests,” said Chadwick, who clocked career best times of 12.66 and 12.64 during the Olympic Trials. “So, I’m happy with that and I’m getting more comfortable with races overseas.
“This is definitely building my confidence, because at the beginning of the year I was injured. I’m finally running fast times and I’m excited.”
Chadwick also ran the second leg of an All-Star 4×100 relay that finished third in 43.45 seconds behind national teams from the Netherlands (42.84) and Great Britain (42.92), while finishing ahead of Switzerland (43.46).
Challenging for a victory in his first 110m hurdles race since the Jamaican Trials, McLeod lost his stride off the ninth hurdle and slowed going over the final hurdle. Fellow Jamaican Ronald Levy won the race in 13.22 (0.8 wind) ahead of the 13.42 for McLeod with British hurdler Andrew Pozzi third in 13.45.
“It was a good race seeing as I haven’t trained very hard since my Jamaican trials,” said McLeod. “I’m a bit out of it, but happy to finish healthy.
“Now, I’m just going to try and finish the season well and keep putting in the performances. I’ve got to get some quality work in and then we can see where we go from there.”
Little’s 54.53 effort placed her second to Netherland’s Femke Bol’s winning time of 53.24. It marked the third consecutive race for the pair to record the same result.
The first of the two previous encounters placed the pair among the all-time top five performers. In Stockholm, Bol won in 52.37 while Little challenged with a 52.39, as they moved to No. 4 and No. 5 on the all-time world list with the No. 6 and No. 7 performances. Then in Hungary, Bol held off Little 52.81 to 52.85.
“I’m excited by the battle between me and Femke Bol and she’s a very good competitor,” noted Little, who finished fourth in the Olympic Trials. “I wish the best of luck to these ladies in Tokyo and they’re all great competitors.
“I’m just excited that 400m hurdles is in such a healthy state. It’s good for the sport that it’s now a premiere event and it’s an amazing thing.”
Brooks opened her series in the long jump with a pair of marks below 20 feet, then improved to 20-11 ¾ (6.39) in round three. Another improvement in round four reached a distance of 21-1 ½ (6.44) and was her best effort on the day.