By Owen Morgan
Cardiff’s Jake Heyward ran a superb tactical race to book his place in Saturday night’s 1500m final at the European Under-23 Championships in Sweden.
Heyward, who came into the championships short on race time due to injury, eased into the final by winning the second of two heats in Gavle.
The 20-year-old dropped back in the field in the early stages of the race to avoid some of the bumping and barging going on at the front.
But the former European Youth and Under-20 1500m champion moved out wide to make his way up the field and settle in on the shoulder of leader Pierrik Jocteur-Monrozier.
With 300 metres to go Hayward eased to the front and held the lead in the closing stages to cross the line in 3:47.08, despite a mass challenge from the pack which saw Spain’s Enrique Herreros finish second and Tom Elmer, of Switzerland finish third.
Winning the slightly quicker second heat means that Heyward goes through to the final as the fastest qualifier.
“Being in heat two I was at an advantage because I got to see what time the first people ran in and I was thinking what’s the most economical way of me getting through,” said Heyward.
“Though 3:47 isn’t fast for me I didn’t mind leading part of it because I know I have got so much in reserve.
“I got on the shoulder, stayed comfortable and kept myself out of trouble because in the heats anything can happen, you can get tripped, and I wanted to get through as smooth as I could.
“I wanted to make sure I got the win so I put my arm out (at the line]) I thought that was probably easier than trying to cut my stride a bit.
“I am just really enjoying being back healthy and running and getting in good quality races. As an athlete you can do all the hard winter sessions but coming here and racing is what it is all about.
“All those hard sessions in the winter, when you are on your back this is what it is for and it feels amazing to get out there.”