Ben Reynolds 1

Ben Reynolds celebrates after his 3,000m win. Pic: Owen Morgan

Ben and Jenny’s Ice Cool Indoor Welsh Titles

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By Owen Morgan

Ben Reynolds and Jenny Nesbitt had particular reason to celebrate their Welsh indoor 3,000m titles in Cardiff on Sunday.

Injury and illness meant both had experienced recent setbacks, but each bounced back to claim gold in their respective races at the Cardiff Metropolitan University Christmas Classic.

The meeting, which incorporates the Welsh 3,000m title races, had an extra bit of festive sparkle this year with Great Britain star Laura Muir guesting in the women’s race.

But the men’s event also proved to be a Christmas cracker with Reynolds claiming a number of notable scalps in a high-quality field to claim the Welsh title.

Jenny Nesbitt 3,000m Jenny Nesbitt (left) on her way to the Welsh 3,000m title on Sunday. Pic: Owen Morgan

Timing his winning effort to perfection, Reynolds crossed the line in 8:04.50 ahead of Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow AC’s Blake Moore in 8:06.13 and Hercules Wimbledon AC’s Andrew Penney in 8:07.55.

European Under-23 1500m silver medallist Piers Copeland was the second Welsh athlete home behind Reynolds in 8:11.62, finishing in fourth overall just ahead of fellow Great Britain international Jake Smith, of Pontypridd Roadents, who himself is returning to competition after illness.

Dion Griffiths, of Menai Track and Field was the third fastest Welsh qualified athlete on the day in 8:48.29.

Reynolds, who celebrated in style with arms spread wide as he crossed the line before punching the air in delight, said afterwards: “A Welsh title to go with the 800 title I won in the summer. I’m beyond pleased, I’m ecstatic with that, I really am.

“When I won the 800 title in the summer, it was just a week after coming back from America where I’d had a really tough past year to 18 months, so that meant a lot.

“I’ve picked up a little bit of form since then. But this today, I think, was my first real test so that’s why it meant so much. I just hope I didn’t make myself look too silly at the end! It just means a lot.”

Piers Copeland Piers Copeland on his way to silver in the Welsh 3,000m indoor championships race on Sunday. Pic: Owen Morgan

Back in Wales after a spell in America at the University of Oregon, Reynolds feels he is now doing himself justice on the track.

“Injury and homesickness meant I was performing way below my best,” he said. “Until today, I hadn’t broken four minutes for 1500m.

“So, there were a lot of issues going on. But to get two titles back-to-back, hopefully I’m getting back to where I want to be and how I know I can perform.

“I’m back in the UK for the foreseeable future with the view to go back maybe later next year. I’m just happy where things are at the moment and taking things step by step.

“We’ve been training well, training with a lot of good guys, done some good sessions, but you never know how things are going go on a race day.

“My plan was to go out hard and sit on the pace set by Ben Claridge who is my teammate. I started to feel it a bit in the middle, but towards the end, I could see there were people starting to tie up.

“I felt like I had a little bit left, that it was time to go. And it was enough for the win today.”

On coming out on top in such a high-quality field, Reynolds said: “Something I’ve struggled with in the past is running against people who are at a higher level than me. Today, I just tried to switch off from that and just focus on executing.

“I’d be lying if I said it went exactly how I wanted it to. I would have liked to be at the front for longer, but coming in and placing high was the goal today, to win was amazing.”

Asked what his goals for the coming year were, Reynolds said: “I would have really liked sub-eight minutes today, that was the primary goal. So, I think I’ll go back and sit down after this and take a look.

“My original plan was to do the 1500m at the British Indoor Championships, which doubles up as the trial for the World Indoor Championships. But after today, maybe I’ll take a look at going to Birmingham with a view to do the 3k. I think it all just depends on where things go from here and how my shape develops.”

“Ben Reynolds Ben Reynolds celebrates his Welsh 3,000m title as he approaches the finishing line. Pic: Owen Morgan

Nesbitt was another athlete in positive mood having picked up a Welsh title following a difficult 16 months.

The Pontypridd Roadents athlete is no stranger to adversity having been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease as a teenager.

Despite the condition, Nesbitt has become one of Wales’ top endurance athletes over the past decade, representing her country at the 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth Games.

But after winning the Welsh 3,000m title on Sunday, in a time of 9:07.64, she revealed her form has been blighted by illness since finishing 12th in the Commonwealth 5,000m final in Birmingham last August.

Nesbitt said: “I’ve had a rough year. So, it was a positive step in the right direction today. I’ve had loads of health issues going on. It’s the first time in a while I’ve actually started a race and been healthy, so that’s really good.

“There’s been a bit of troubleshooting and stuff, but we’ve got to the bottom of it and this is the first step towards next year really.

“It’s definitely encouraging, there’s a lot of things that I can go away and work on now. I’m going to race another 3k in three weeks. So hopefully, there will be a bit of progression there.

“I’ve definitely had to readjust my goals, but looking towards next year, I want to just run a good 5k and 10k in the summer. The European Championships standards would be nice.

“For now, it’s nice to come away with the Welsh title, you can’t take those sorts of things for granted, especially with the year I’ve had.

“I said to my coach after the race that I think the last race where I thought I ran really well was probably the Commonwealth Games.

“It’s been like a long 16 months. I feel like this is the first step to hopefully some good racing. It all started to go downhill after August 2022.

“And then the whole of this year really been pretty much of a mishmash. I just keep showing up and keep putting myself out there. But doing it when you’re in good health is a lot easier!

“I lost a lot of confidence. So, it’s nice to walk away thinking positively then building that confidence rather than like it just diminishing.”

Nesbitt was delighted to share the track with former Great Britain team-mate Muir, who won the race in 8:34.39, ahead of Georgia Bell of Shaftsbury Barnet Harriers and Innes FitzGerald, of Exeter Harriers.

Nesbitt said of Muir: “It’s so inspiring to have her come to Cardiff and be in the race. Laura and I have known each other for years, we were on a cross country team back in 2015.

“It’s great to see what she’s gone on to do and having her in the race, it can only make you run faster.”

Spain-based Angharad Davies, of Carmarthen Harriers took silver in the Welsh title race behind Nesbitt in 9:28.06, while Katrina Entwistle, of Bristol and West claimed bronze in 10:19.23.

The 3,000m title races were just part of a full programme of track and field events at the Christmas Classic, which saw a number of personal best performances across an excellent day of athletics.

Angharad Davies Angharad Davies on her way to second place in the Welsh indoor 3,000m championship. Pic: Owen Morgan
Full results can be found on the Open Track website here Cardiff Met Christmas Classic — Start Lists / Results (opentrack.run)

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