By Owen Morgan
Joe Brier enjoyed a triumphant homecoming at the Welsh Athletics International in Swansea following his medal-winning performance at the World Junior Championships.
Brier, who helped Great Britain to a 4x400m bronze medal in Finland, followed up that performance by winning the individual 400m at Swansea University’s Sport Campus.
The Swansea Harrier broke his own stadium record as he clocked 47.73 in finishing ahead of England Midlands’ Ellis Greatrex, who was also part of the GB bronze medal-winning team.
After picking up maximum points for Wales U20 in the junior international match, a delighted Brier said: “It’s always special running for Wales, but even more so running on my home track.
“Getting the win and the stadium record is massive . I really enjoyed the race.
“It’s been a phenomenal couple of weeks, first of all getting selected to go to the world juniors and then getting the medal out there was amazing.”
Unfortunately Brier’s win wasn’t enough to help Wales U20 to victory against their junior counterparts from around the UK and overall winners England South.
However, there were some outstanding individual performances from the Welsh athletes on the night.
One of the highlights of the international match was a remarkable men’s 800m race which ended in a rare dead heat.
A desperate last gasp lunge by Wales’ Michael Parry saw him catch Thomas Randolph, of England Midlands, on the line.
After a long deliberation over the photo-finish, track officials decided they couldn’t separate the two athletes and announced them as joint winners with an identical time of 1:55.40.
They couldn’t be separated after the race either as they gave a joint interview. Colwyn Bay athlete Parry said of the dead heat: “It’s a bit different. We’ve raced each other before . We’ve both beaten each other once and now the dead heat today.”
Randolph added: “In the last 50 metres he came up onto my shoulder so I had to go again. Then, on the line, I had no idea where he was to be honest.
“I didn’t know whether I had got it, or he got it. We waited around for about half-an-hour to see who won.”
When asked whether there would be a decider between the two, Parry said: “There aren’t many races left this season . . . ” while Randolph interrupted: “Not this year, we’ll give it a go next year!”
The previous evening, Parry had run an 800m personal best of 1:15.12 at the British Milers Club meeting at Stratford.
The evening got off to the perfect start for Wales as Amber Simpson won the women’s hammer, the opening field event, with a stadium record of 55.82m – almost a metre and a half further than her nearest rival.
The Deeside AAC athlete said afterwards: “I was happy with the distance, it was very consistent. I’m obviously looking to go further but it was a tough competition and I was up against a lot of really good girls, so I was just glad to come out on top.
“It’s been a really good season, I’ve PB’d and I’ve got some big competitions under my belt. It’s been great representing Wales tonight.”
Her success was backed up by the Wales-20 4x100m relay team of Emanuella Kone, Caitlyn Mapps, Issie Tustin and Hannah Longden in the first track event of the match.
They were almost half a second ahead of England Midlands when Longden brought them home in a time of 47.90.
There was more sprint success for the home team as Jeremiah Azu won a closely contested men’s 100m – run into a strong headwind – in a time of 10.88 ahead of Scotland’s Michael Olsen.
The Cardiff AAC man said: “I got out fast and I could feel the wind halfway through but I just kept pushing and got the win.
“It’s a slow time but into a headwind I can’t really ask for more. Michael’s a fast guy, so to beat him I’m happy.”
Joe Brier celebrates his win.
There was a spectacular double for Wales in the javelin where Bethan Rees won the women’s event and Tom Hewson triumphed in the men’s competition.
Staffordshire-based athlete Rees, who earlier this month won the English Schools title in Birmingham before going on to win the Welsh Seniors title in Cardiff later on in the same day, was back in Wales to take another win.
The Birchfield Harrier produced an under-20 meeting record throw of 46.79 to finish almost four metres clear of her nearest rival.
Rees said afterwards: “It was nice having a tail wind for once. It’s normally a bit swirly or really strong. It was a good competition.”
Commenting on her eagerness to travel back to Wales for the Welsh Championships in Cardiff and the Welsh international in Swansea, Rees said: “It was nice to get two golds in two different countries on the same day, so that was fun. I’ve always thought of myself as Welsh and my dad’s half Welsh so it means a lot.”
Hewson was another Welsh athlete who had travelled from across the border to win valuable points for his country.
The Andover thrower registered his second longest effort of the season – 66.56m – to take the win in the 800g javelin by almost two-and-a-half metres.
A delighted Hewson said: “That’s my second furthest throw of the year so far, it’s not quite as far as the person who’s got second in the UK at the moment but it bolsters my position at the top and gives me another consistent performance at those kind of distances.”
Hewson, who also bagged a stadium record and an under-20 meeting record, unsurprisingly added: “I really like this track, every time I come here I throw well.
“I threw a PB here in the 700g last year in early April to open my season and to throw well again here was a really nice moment. It’s a nice track and the wind helped again today.”
There were also some guest successes for Welsh athletes with Cardiff AAC’s Brett Morse, fresh from competing at the Athletics World Cup, taking the honours in a high quality discus field, which also included Junior World Championship athlete James Tomlinson, who finished second in the international match, and Aled Sion Davies.
Multiple Paralympic and world champion Davies, won the men’s shot put competition, while another Welsh guest athlete, Adele Nicoll took the honours in the women’s shot.
Lauren Williams, of Swansea Harriers, won the women’s 400m hurdles in a stadium record time of 59.67, while Cardiff AAC’s Joshua Brown won a men’s guest 100m, as did Welsh schools guest Tom Payne.
The final international match score was: England South U-20 – 1810pts; England Midlands U-20 – 1690; Scotland U-20 – 1420; England North U20 – 1150; Wales U-20 – 1140; Welsh Schools – 740; Northern Ireland U-20 – 430.
Full results are available on the Welsh Athletics website.