By Owen Morgan
Rising Welsh middle distance star Jake Heyward launches his European Under-23 1500m title challenge on Thursday evening.
The Cardiff AC athlete will take to the track at 7pm local time in the Swedish city of Gavle in the first round of the 1500m.
Heyward is a European champion at Youth and under-20 age grades and goes into this year’s Under-23 Championships as the fastest man in the field on paper with a personal best of 3:36.90 – just ahead of nearest rival, Frenchman Baptiste Mischler, who has a PB of 3:37.17.
However, the 20-year-old’s racing opportunities have been few and far between this season due to injury.
After enjoying a fine cross country campaign, his only outdoor track races this year have been at the European trials in Bedford where he finished second in the final clocking a time of 3:51.21.
His season’s best is 3:42.84, recorded indoors at the Muller Grand Prix in Birmingham back in February, before sustaining his injury.
Although he has the fastest career time in the field, his season’s best is considerably slower than a number of his rivals.
The fastest man on this season’s form is Serbian Elzan Bibic, who has clocked 3:38.65. The 1500m final is scheduled for Saturday evening.
Heyward is joined in Sweden by a quartet of Welsh sprinters who will be taking part in the 4×100 and 4x400m relays.
Swansea Valley Harriers brother and sister Hannah and Joe Brier will be taking part in the women’s 4x100m and men’s 4x400m respectively.
Joe Brier competed at last year’s World Under-20 Championships where he came away with a 4×400 metre relay bronze medal.
He has enjoyed a spectacular start to this season, lowering his personal best three times, slashing the mark from 47.31 to 46.66.
Big sister Hannah has an even greater depth of experience on the international stage having represented Wales in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow at the tender age of 16.
The reigning Welsh 100m champion also competed at the 2015 World Youth Championships in Colombia and the 2016 World Junior Championships in Poland.
Joining Brier in the women’s 4×100 metre team will be Deeside AC sprinter Shannon Malone who started 2019 in fine fashion by winning the Welsh indoor 60m title in January thanks to a new PB of 7.45. In May she won the British Universities 100m title in another PB of 11.62.
The Welsh contingent is completed by Birchfield Harrier Melissa Roberts, who will be contesting both the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
Like Malone, Roberts enjoyed a successful Welsh Indoor Championships in January where she won the 200m in a PB of 24.37 which also broke her own championship record.
At the British Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Roberts smashed her PB again when she clocked 24.28 on her way to a bronze medal.
Both the men’s and women’s 4x400m qualifying starts on Saturday morning, while the 4x100m qualifiers take place the following morning. All the relay finals take place on Sunday evening.