This is the fourth and final article on the 2024 British Trials by Stuart Weir, our senior writer for all things European. Stuart wrote this piece on Phoebe Gill, the seventeen-year-old phenom. 

GB Trials: Women’s Middle distance

Josh Kerr, Jake Wightman, Ben Pattison, Laura Muir, Keely Hodgkinson… Britain is strongest in the middle distance. As I may just have mentioned in a previous post, the quirkiness of our selection process, the automatic selection of individual medal winners at the 2023 World Champs for the Olympics, and the practice of allowing those medalists to run different events at trials add another layer of complication to the day.

The women’s 1500 had a strong field, with five athletes already having the Olympic standard. The smart money was on Laura Muir, who usually wins but who was beaten into second place last year by Katie Snowden.

The 2024 results were:

1 Georgia Bell 4:10.69

2 Laura Muir 4:11.59

3 Revee Walcott Nolan 4:11.70

4 Melissa Courtney-Bryant 4:12.39

5 Katie Snowden 4:12.94

It was surprising to see Bell outsprint Muir over the closing meters, but as Muir pointed out, five qualified athletes chasing two automatic places made for a cagey race.

Laura Muir wins in Stockholm DL, photo by Diamond League AG

Muir commented: “This is the most nervous I have ever been for a UK Champs. It is the most nervous I have been for a race in a long time. I just wanted to come away from today and ultimately book my spot for Paris, so I am thrilled. I didn’t run the race very well. People were getting clipped and tripped a little bit, so I didn’t run it well, but I confirmed my place at the Olympics and am pleased with the result. The other girls are running so competitively now that you can’t make mistakes now”.

Bell, who had run in the European Championships, taking a silver medal—while Muir had skipped the event to train—said: “It is amazing and hard to take in at the moment, but I am sure it will hit me later that I have qualified. I was confident going into today, taking a lot from my silver at the Europeans a few weeks ago. The Europeans were so useful in learning how to navigate a championship.”

All three athletes finishing 3rd to 5th can reach the Olympic final, but only one will get the chance – another selection dilemma.

The women’s 800m was an eagerly awaited race. In early May, Phoebe Gill, less than a month after her 17th birthday,  ran 1:57.86 in Belfast, the world under-18 record. To show it wasn’t a fluke, she ran 1:58.07 two weeks later. She was offered a place at the European Championships but could not take a week off High School. She clearly had talent, but running a fast time in a lower-level meet was different from coming into a tactical, senior race against seasoned racers. Yet again, clause 99 reared its head with Keely Hodgkinson opting to accept her automatic medal-winner Olympic 800m selection place and to run the 400 instead. That made the dynamics of the trials 800 final simple – top 2 to Paris and the rest not.  As stadium announcer Iwan Thomas told Gill afterward, “I have socks older than you.”

Phoebe Gill takes Jemma Reekie, Brit Trials, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics.

But first, Gill had to reach the final. With three semi-finals and the top three in each qualifying for the final, no one exerted themselves. Jemma Reekie was the fastest qualifier in 2:01, and Gill won her semi in 2:05. Could Gill cope with a tactical final against runners with up to 10 years experience in elite running? Phoebe Gill had her tactical plan – take the lead early and run faster than everyone else!  She won in 1:58.66 from Jemma Reekie at 1:59.28 and is on her way to Paris.  Afterward, Gill said, “I am really emotional; I am trying not to cry. I am so happy, as I never thought this would happen. This is crazy to me; it’s like I’m dreaming. I can’t describe it, to be honest. The fact that I am going to Paris and competing against those I have been watching on TV for ages is crazy. It will be so much fun as the stressful part of getting a place is over. Paris wasn’t on my radar at all, but the fact that I am going now means I can go without having any expectations. We will see what happens as I go with the flow, and I am very excited to compete with the other amazing athletes”.

Phoebe Gill, Jemma Reekie, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

Thank goodness the Olympics are during the school holidays!

Phoebe Gill, British champ at 800m at 17, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics