Jemma Simpson and Stuart Stokes shrugged off largely curtailed summer campaigns to lay out encouraging runs to a return to form on the track of the Brum during the BMC Grand Prix Final on Saturday.

Simpson, missing a major championships for the first time since 2006, embarked on a tough venture over the longer 1500m from the front as a means of strength/endurance work to set up a late charge for Olympic qualifying standards in her specialty in September and her enterprise was rewarded with a substantial SB of 4:07.53, although she may have been slightly disappointed to get caught in the dying stages by Irish U20 rising star Ciara Mageean who snatched a narrow win by just 0.08 secs for a PB. But that run represented her second fastest ever over the distance and the signs are there for a swift return into the sub 2 mins region over 800m.

Stokes, for his part, not only showed over a hernia operation a few months ago but also came to effect a convincing defeat on arguably the top domestic duo over the barriers currently, Luke Gunn and U23 James Wilkinson, and regain his footing at the hub of affairs in only his second track race this term. A feat that becomes even more noteworthy due to the manner of his win as he rather surprisingly showed the sharper to pull away from his rivals round the last lap to a big SB of 8:36.87, moving a close third in the UK lists, despite an apparent lack of races and a proper run-up through the summer.

A time that, in turn, may stir thoughts in his mind that he could even take a crack at a sub 8:30 time before the season is out at this rate and assume the driving seat in the battle for a place, or places at a more remote prospect, for London next summer. Gunn was second in 8:38.64 and ‘Wilko’ third in 8:40.52, making his seven fastest races ever packed into a single season.

The genuine golden material of the barriers, however, was not on show therein but that hardly affected Zac Seddon‘s chances of shining bright once again as he took his game underdistance for a fine piece of speedwork. The 17-year-old, who ran a sensational 8:54.96 at the UK Trials (fastest ever by a non-last season U20 Briton), drove to a classy big PB of 3:46.61 to top the B race of the men’s 1500m, slashing over a second off his previous marker from last June. On the strength of that display, a time around 8:50 at least looks well on the cards and what a blessing it is to possess such awesome flat speed for a ‘chaser.

Also U20 David Clutterback was close behind him in a PB of 3:46.79 whilst in the main race Chris Warburton came home leading Brit in a SB of 3:42.01 for runner-up behind convincing winner Finn Niclas Sandells, who took off round the last lap. Tony Whiteman, a few months short of his 40, ran a commendable 3:42.40 for third, his fastest since his international days back in 2004, and James Brewer followed closely behind in 3:42.58 as he is still endeavouring to rekindle the form that almost saw him make a finalist at the World Championships in Berlin two summers ago.

Gareth Warburton was a comfortable winner of the 800m main heat in 1:47.44 but it has to be said that he needs to start falling in at the deep end more often and getting involved in faster races regularly to progress further. Former UK indoor champion Ed Aston was runner-up in 1:48.36 followed by Steve Evison in third in 1:48.58 but perhaps even more attention was drawn over fifth place where 17-year-old hot prospect Charlie Grice grabbed a second big PB on the trot in 1:48.83, having entered the sub 1:50 terrotory only the previous weekend.

Tara Bird‘s perseverance through the summer has finally paid off as she ground out a narrow win over Karen Harewood in a PB of 2:02.77, the latter showing her best form since that freak accident at the 2007 European Indoor Championships in a SB of 2:02.88. U23 Laura Weightman was well behind in third in a SB of 2:05.60.

Tom Humphries returned a big PB of 13:47.22 to edge out James Walsh, second in 13:48.24, over the men’s 5000m where Gemma Turtle dipped inside 16 mins to a PB of 15:59.16 in the women’s equivalent.