British Athletics League Division 2, Match 2
Bedford, June 4th 2016
Match 2 of the British Athletics League season took K&P to Bedford, at the International Stadium familiar to those who have ever competed at BUCS or National Age Group Championships, in a double-match with Division 4.
Exams, injuries and other commitments left Team Manager Chris Hall with just 18 athletes making the trip up to Bedfordshire, and with 34 slots to be filled (42 counting relays) this meant that athletes doing just a single event were in a minority. Despite the small squad, a fantastic fighting performance full of doubling, tripling and even quadrupling up saw the team finish 4th.
If getting a full team together was a difficult enough challenge, there was more to come as we came to the sudden realisation that nobody had acknowledged or confirmed the minibus booking made in February. A flurry of panicked emails went out late on Friday to form a plan B, and we were very grateful to Gordon Lester, Chris Dack and Scott Evans for their offers to pick up a few athletes each in the morning. As it turned out, there was indeed no minibus so those three, as well as David Barrington, saved the team from a disaster before the match had even begun!
When we finally arrived at the Stadium we were greeted with a grey but not unpleasant day. Bedford is notorious for its windy conditions but, at the start of the day at least, it looked like we were in for the calmest day seen there for quite some time. Though the wind did pick up at times – most notably during the Long Jump – considering it hasn’t been uncommon for races at Bedford to record +7m/s wind readings, it could have been worse!
The first events of the double-fixture day were the Pole Vault and Discus, where BAL stalwarts Gordon Lester, Bilen Ahmet, Chris Dack and Andy Wheble were all in action. Both of these events have got us a lot of points over the years, but the standard this year seems to have taken off, not least with Cardiff’s 60+m thrower in the Discus. Chris Dack didn’t quite hit his best form but threw 42.95m for 4thA (he would’ve needed a PB to come any better), while Andy Wheble picked a good time to hit an SB with 39.75m to record our second B win of the season. In the Pole Vault, Bilen fought through a foot injury to clear 3.80m which put him 5th A, while Gordon Lester finished 4th B with 3.60m, with the three B strings ahead of him jumping 4m to demonstrate the strength of the opposition vaulters.
The first track event was the usual 400m Hurdles, now at the earlier time of 12.10pm. We unfortunately lost Tom Parry to a back injury in midweek, which meant TM Chris Hall stepped in to run the A race, with debutant Darren Meaklim ready to carry on his recent good form in the B string. In a race again featuring Olympian Rhys Williams, Chris was surprised to finish 6th despite some suspect left-leg hurdling, recording a time of 59.44, while Darren ran a very mature race, picking off 3 rivals in the last 150m to finish an excellent 3rd in a big PB of 59.62.
The Long Jump was next in the timetable, and has tended to be one of our highest-scoring events. Today was no exception as Matt Houlden and Humphrey Waddington, having returned from his honeymoon less than 24 hours earlier, coped with the difficult conditions to win their respective strings and get us the only maximum points of the day. Matt used every millimetre of the board to get over 7 metres again (7.01m) while Humphrey pulled a big last jump out of the bag to pip Swansea’s Wyn Roberts with 6.64m.
The Hammer and 800m were next in the timetable, seeing Andy take on his second event and Gareth Cook, Scott Evans and Johnny Duggan (making a welcome return after missing Cardiff), all in action. On the track, Scott led at the bell but couldn’t quite rediscover his spectacular 1:51 form of Match 1, nevertheless finishing 4th in a decent 1:55.17. In the B race, Johnny also found it difficult to hit his best form having just finished a stressful final year at university, but ran 1:57.14 to finish 5th B. Out in the field (literally in this case, as it took place in a separate area to the stadium arena), Gareth finished 6th A in an unforgivingly tough contest (47.55m), while Andy threw another SB to take 2nd B (40.24m).
The 100m was next, and with Jordan Smith-Bent ruled out for this match, Elijah Vidal stepped up to join enthusiastic HCA Mutara Sheriff. Both athletes have been struggling with hamstring strains and while Mutara couldn’t replicate his 10.68 from Cardiff, his time of 10.84 is still among the fastest we’ve ever had in the BAL. He was given the exact same time as Notts’ runner, so equal 5th A was the official result. Elijah meanwhile ran 11.40 to take 6th B and more importantly come through unscathed.
The Steeplechase followed the sprints and for this we had Danny Eckersley, fresh off two consecutive PB runs over the distance at BAL Match 1 and the Loughborough International, and Bilen Ahmet, gamely agreeing to fill in to score a point. Danny and two other runners broke to the front almost immediately, and as the race developed it was clear that Danny was comfortable and almost, from this observer’s perspective, toying with his rivals. As the final lap came he kicked and finished a whole 5 seconds ahead of the Bedford athlete and took a very rare K&P Steeplechase win (9:27.53). Meanwhile, Bilen’s run for one point was in fact a run for two, as Cardiff failed to field anybody, and his efforts and unending willingness to run unfamiliar events to help the team are more than appreciated – he finished 7th B with 13:12.75.
Shot Putt and the 110m Hurdles were next on the agenda. Shot featured K&P dream team Chris Dack and Nick Owen in an event that both were disappointed with in Cardiff, where 4A and 2B were the positions. They both went one better and both produced welcome SBs, Chris with 14.88m to come 3rd (missing out on 2nd by 7cm), and Nick with 13.63m to continue the relative spate of B-string wins! On the track, Chris was again surprised as he finished 3rd A, a personal BAL best, with 15.71. In the B race, Matt Houlden was called into action, dusting off his track spikes for an event not touched since August 2014. Despite having, in his words, “not had to react to a gun for two years”, he discovered that he could still hurdle and in fact nearly won the race, taking second in 15.89 and finishing only 0.11 seconds behind the winner.
As announcements came in that we were somehow in the lead, attentions turned to High Jump and the 400m. Due to an emergency for Michael Cole, our premier High Jumper, Darren Meaklim agreed to fill in having come off the back of a 1.75m PB at a recent YDL. He was joined by Humphrey Waddington, preparing himself for the unenviable task of doing 3 events at the more or less the same time. Humphrey jumped 1.80m, an equal PB, for 6th A while Darren picked off a couple for 6th B, the 400H having taken some spring out of his legs, with 1.65m. A great debut nonetheless! In the 400m, Max Perez-Diaz was very unfortunate to find himself in a race where all but three athletes broke 50 seconds, but he was pleased to smash his PB with a run of 50.58 for 7th A. He was joined by Johnny Duggan, who was disappointed with his time of 51.12 but should remember that final years and 800m are two things that don’t really go well with good 400m times. He finished 4th B for some good points regardless.
The 1500m and Triple Jump followed the High and 400m. On the track, Scott Evans turned out for his second event of the day, as did Danny Eckersley, the latter agreeing to fill in after last-minute dropouts. Scott ran in typically dogged style and finished 5th A with a good time of 3:56.79, while Danny made sure to place himself ahead of last position and even tried to catch the man ahead of him in the closing stages. His time of 4:17.31 for 6th B was actually not bad at all for what was supposed to be a relaxed jog for a point! In the Triple, Humphrey Waddington was joined by second debutant Alex Meaklim, twin brother of Darren who has been impressing in the Triple Jump in the lower age groups for a couple of years. Humphrey was unfortunately pipped to 2nd place by the Cardiff jumper, finishing 3rd A with 13.90m – still a very good distance while trying to concentrate on two other events at the same time – while Alex jumped solidly to place an impressive 2nd B with 13.10m.
The 200m and Javelin were next up, with sprinting duo Mutara and Elijah in the former and Humphrey joining Will Trimble on the field. Despite feeling that his start wasn’t the best, Mutara again went under 22 seconds to take 5th A (21.83), while Elijah ran 22.83 for 8th B in another high-quality race. At the Javelin, Will Trimble couldn’t quite reach 60m but still earned a very useful 12 points for 3rd A (57.38m), and Humphrey threw his furthest distance for 7 years to place 6th B (44.93m).
The final individual event was the 5k – an event that had given Chris the most grief with so many long distance runners absent. Luckily for the team, Scott Evans and Johnny Duggan volunteered to score points (with Bilen also willing if necessary), and the 5 points they earned helped us see off Kent to 4th place. Scott both surprised and worried everybody by keeping pace with the rest of the A string runners for several laps, but eased off to cross the line 8th A (15:51.99) and, thankfully, injury-free, while Johnny treated it as an extended warm-down and crossed the line for the point in 18:45.51. Many thanks to both of you!
The relays ended the day, and while Bristol and Cardiff appeared to ready themselves for a battle at the front, the patched-up K&P squads were simply planning the best way to ensure the baton gets round. The 4x100m squad of Matt Houlden, Chris Hall, Humphrey Waddington and Mutara Sheriff finished 5th in a safe but decent time of 44.02, while Darren Meaklim and Max Perez-Diaz joined Chris and Humphrey for the 4x400m. While we were in the mix for 6th for a while, it was ultimately a bridge too far for the exhausted troops, and 7th with 3:37.84 was gratefully accepted.
So, 4th was the result, with the two Welsh clubs just pipping us and Bristol’s win showing that their 7th place in Cardiff may not happen as often as we’d hoped. We had a small squad and many congratulations and thanks should go to every single athlete who competed and made the most of circumstances that were far from ideal. Thanks too should go to newlywed Maxine Waddington (congratulations!), Peter and Mary Waddington, Geoff Owen, Tony Cook, Brenda Ford, Emily Coulter, Claire Wadley and of course David Barrington for their support.
The next match sees us at home and we really need everyone to pull together once again, but more importantly to bulk up the numbers. We can’t expect the same faces to continue bailing us out by selflessly spreading their efforts over several events. It was a monumental effort at Bedford but more athletes will be needed if we want to guarantee our status in Division 2 for another year and push for the promotion spots! Bring on July 2nd!
Full amended results: B+W 328 === Cardiff 285 === Swansea 280 === K&P 277 === Kent 272 === Bedford 249 === Crawley 246 === Notts 244
We remain 3rd in Division 2 behind Cardiff and Swansea.