THIS weekend’s Aviva UK Trials and Championships marks the start of a defining year in the careers of Milton Keynes’ top seven athletes as they do battle with the best of Britain to make the squad for the showpiece event of 2011.
Greg Rutherford, Craig Pickering, Chris Clarke, Mervyn Luckwell, Joey Duck, Kadi-Ann Thomas and Chloe Whalley will compete at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham knowing that their performance could have a major impact on the rest of their lives.
Not only will the best of British book their seats on the plane to South Korea for the World Championships at the end of August, but with just 12 months to go before the London Olympics, this year’s competition gives them the last big stage to put forward their case for representing their country in 2012.
Of the seven Milton Keynes stars, only long-jumper Greg Rutherford can be sure of a place in the British squad for Daegu next month – the rest will have to finish in the top two of their events to make it.
Only injury will prevent Rutherford from making the squad, but the man from Bletchley has another mission on his mind – regaining his British record, taken from him by rival Chris Tomlinson earlier this month.
The distance to beat is now 8.35m, but Rutherford will go to Birmingham in good form having jumped 8.09m at his latest meeting in Switzerland last week.
Joey Duck and Kadi-Ann Thomas will go head-to-head in both the 100m and 200m at the trials as they both look to cement themselves among the elite in their respective events.
Thomas seems to have the edge at 100m, but hardly anything separates them at 200m. Two years ago Thomas took the silver medal in the 100m, with Duck taking silver at 200m – incredibly just 1/100th of a second ahead of her Marshall Milton Keynes AC team-mate.
Both ladies go into the trials in great form having been in action at the same warm-up meeting in Birmingham last weekend. Thomas (11.76s) took 2nd in the 100m with Duck (11.85s) in 4th. And in the 200m, Thomas won the B race in 24.35s – which would have placed her just ahead of 4th placed Duck (24.41s) in the A race.
Pickering seems to be coming into some good form over 100m and takes on Harry Aikines-Aryeety and Dwain Chambers for a sprint place in Daegu, with the 4x100 relay the consolation prize for the man from Shenley Lodge.
Mervyn Luckwell has the potential to repeat his triumph of two years ago when he won the national javelin title to make the World Championship team for Berlin.
However, he’s just returned from a long injury break and has only thrown 75.35m this year – about 6m below his best – and will face strong competition from James Campbell, who has thrown 80m this year.
Clarke is returning after four months out through injury, meaning he goes in to the competition having only raced a couple of times, but he should still be a contender for a place in the 4x400m relay team.
Whalley goes into the 100m hurdles as an outsider to qualify, but could pull off a surprise result if she can deliver a new personal best time.
>> Milton Keynes AC will be hosting a match in the Southern Athletics League at Stantonbury on Saturday, starting at 12 noon.
MK currently sit second in Division 1 and take on leaders Southampton, 4th placed Herts Phoenix, plus Middlesex, Ealing and Southall in what promises to be the match of the season.