ALICE Hopkins could not have dreamt of a better return to the heptathlon after being crowned South of England champion.

The Oxford City AC athlete had not competed in the gruelling multi-event contest since 2016 due to a stress fracture in a toe on her left foot.

But she dominated the South of England AA Combined Events Championships at Horspath to win senior gold with a personal best 5,336 points.

The performance, which saw her set new marks in six of the seven events, moved the teenager up to tenth in the national rankings.

Hopkins returned from injury in 2017, competing in only a handful of events, and she has been concentrating on the hurdles and long jump this year.

The 19-year-old could not hide her delight at the immediate success on her return.

She said: “I’m so happy.

“I just can’t believe I got six personal bests and every event I was just getting happier and happier.”

Hopkins’ most recent heptathlon was at the same championships in 2016, but she was unable to finish due to the injury.

The last time she had been able to complete all seven events was September 2015.

Hopkins added: “To come back was scary, because I didn’t know how my body was going to react, but it played out nicely.

“I forgot how achy it was.”

Hopkins, from Thame, set pbs in the 100m hurdles (14.15secs), high jump (1.70m), shot (11.18), 200m (25.06) and javelin (31.42).

She then smashed her 800m time – her least favourite event – by more than nine seconds (2.30.58) and it came after a brief chat with two-time decathlon Olympic gold medallist Daley Thompson.

“I was walking out to warm up and he said ‘how are you doing?’, said Hopkins.

“I told him about my pbs and he said ‘that’s really good, you’ve got the 800m left’ and the look on my face was a bit like I didn’t want to do it.

“He asked ‘what is your pb?’ and I didn’t want to tell him because I was too embarrassed, but I said 2.39.

“He told me to go out there and commit myself to the race.

“That stuck in my mind and helped me mentally when I was running.”

Banbury Harriers’ Seb Hartwell also competed, finishing sixth in the decathlon, while City’s Annie Sutcliffe was ninth in the under 15 girls pentathlon.