British Athletics League Division 2, Match 3
Kingston, July 2nd 2016
After a spirited display in Bedford that brought a 4th place finish with a depleted team, the prospect of a home match in a period with few exams was a welcome one for K&P’s British Athletics League squad, with Kingsmeadow the venue for Match 3 of the season. The build-up was certainly an easier one for Team Manager Chris Hall, with a settled squad being assembled relatively early and only one eleventh-hour dropout spoiling an otherwise stress-free preparation for the match.
The weather on the day itself was, to put it politely, awful. What started as ‘just’ an irritating swirling wind turned into random torrential storms, with the track resembling a pond at times. As such, performances in some events were nowhere representative of our athletes’ full potential, and positions were more than ever the thing to concentrate on.
The first drama of the day came immediately as it turned out Swansea had no bus to bring them to London, replicating Kingston’s scare just before the Bedford match. With the replacement Swansea bus due to arrive just as the first events were starting, the Long Jump ended up taking place 15 minutes later than it should have, with the other events staying at the same time.
The first events of the day were the aforementioned delayed Long Jump, and Hammer. The Long Jump brought maximum points in Bedford, and with Matt Houlden and Humphrey Waddington in good form, hopes were high that the great points return we’ve traditionally got from the event would continue. Though we didn’t get the full 28 points this time we got the next best thing, as Matt jumped 6.93m but was pipped to first by Swansea’s Aled Price in the A, while Humphrey won the B string comfortably with 6.69m to complete the 26 points right off the bat. The Hammer featured BAL mainstays Gareth Cook and Andy Wheble, the latter in his final match of the season as he will be getting married in August. Gareth unfortunately couldn’t replicate the 53m he threw in the SAL a few weeks prior to this match, but he finished 5th A with a solid 48.97m. Andy, meanwhile, hit a big season’s best for the second match in a row, finishing 2nd B with 43.25m.
The High Jump followed, overlapping badly with the Long Jump and causing B-string jumper Humphrey some problems running back and forth between the two events. Although his jump of 1.70m wasn’t quite on the level of his recent form which has included a PB of 1.84m, it was still enough to get 3rd B on countback for a useful 8 points. Our A jumper was Alex Mackintosh, making a welcome return to the team, who defied his lack of training to jump a near-PB of 1.90m and, crucially, score big points with 3rd place.
The field events continued ahead of the track with Discus and Pole Vault. Throwing the disc we had familiar partnership Chris Dack and Andy Wheble, off the back of a 4A/1B result at Bedford. The positions of the top 4 in the A string mirrored Bedford exactly, with Chris finishing 4th (42.54m) while Andy, despite throwing over 40m for the first time this year for an SB, had to settle for 2nd (40.75m) as Cardiff brought in reinforcements. The Pole Vault featured a new partnership, as Thomas Snee returned to join 18 year-old Will Gwynne, who was readying himself for only his 2nd-ever BAL match. The weather at this time really turned sour, but both of our athletes cleared 4m, with countback giving Will 4th in the A-string, and Thomas winning the B-string. Long-time K&P vaulter Gordon Lester came in as a guest but unfortunately injured himself before clearing a height, and we wish him well with his recovery.
The track finally started at 2.30pm, with the 400H and the 800 first up. In the hurdles we welcomed back Tom Parry, carrying on his return from a back injury but unfortunately reeling from a harsh DQ at the British Championships the week before. Nevertheless, his class showed as he finished 3rd A despite a lack of real recent training (55.33), bringing in 12 points. He was joined by TM Chris Hall, able to concentrate on the B string after turning out for the A in Bedford. A relaxed but fast first 200m put Chris well in the lead, but his lack of 400m training showed as he was pipped at the last hurdle by the Crawley man. Despite the disappointment of letting the lead slip, 2nd with a near-PB of 59.33 was a good result and the hurdles continued where the successful field events left off. In the 800m we had Scott Evans, hoping to continue a fantastic season, and Jon Darby, making his return after missing Match 2 through university. Scott found himself in a race with Olympian Gareth Warburton of Cardiff, but stuck in there and kicked to run the Welshman close, finishing a brilliant 2nd with 1:54.06. Jon, meanwhile, ran most of the race well but tired towards the end to finish 6th B in 2:00.66.
The track schedule was well underway now as the 100m and Steeplechase were next, though the weather began to deteriorate again for the latter. In the sprint we had HCA Mutara Sheriff in the A race, with Jordan Smith-Bent returning to contest the B. Mutara has been a superb addition to the BAL squad and he finished in his best place yet with 2nd in the A string after a blistering start (10.87 into a -2.0 wind), while Jordan ran well to come 3rd B, only 0.08 off first (11.09). In the Steeplechase, Danny Eckersley was back in action after his great win in Bedford, and despite saying he found it difficult he won this race by 14 seconds to give Kingston another rare A win (9:29.5). The B string runner was again Bilen Ahmet, gamely agreeing to miss part of a stag do to fill in. As a big bonus, he managed to double his points tally from Bedford simply by finishing, as 3 teams failed to field a second runner. He placed 5th B with 13:01.5.
Next up we had the Triple Jump and 110 Hurdles. The Triple featured Humphrey for his 3rd event of the day, and Alex Meaklim, who had recovered from a back niggle that had affected his jumping in Bedford. Humphrey found his feet to leap back over 14m again (14.10m) and finish an excellent 2nd A, while Alex jumped modestly early on before unleashing a PB of 13.53m to win the B by almost a metre, and record the 4th biggest jump overall – no mean feat at all for Div 2! In the hurdles, Chris Hall was joined by Matt Houlden, and the two of them had to contend with conditions akin to having a bucket of water thrown at them after each hurdle. A tired Chris fought past the Kent athlete to finish 4th A in a modest 16.07, while Matt almost slipped towards the end of the race and made sure to ease himself home unscathed for a useful 3rd B (16.94).
The Javelin and 400m began in quick succession next. In the Javelin, we had Will Trimble joined by Humphrey. A fair few rivals were distracted by having to do Shot at the same time, and Humphrey in particular took advantage of this to make the cut and finish 2nd B with 44.88m, while Will struggled a bit and pulled out with a niggle having thrown 52.39m for 5th A. The 400m featured Max Perez-Diaz and Tom Parry, the latter having agreed to fill in after Johnny Duggan’s late withdrawal. Max ran an excellent first half of the race before admitting himself that he tightened up, finishing 7th A in difficult conditions in 51.62, while Tom ran doggedly but was understandably tired after his 400H race, crossing the line in 53.75 for 8th B.
Next we had the Shot Put and 1500m. At the Shot circle we once again had intrepid duo Chris Dack and Nick Owen, hoping to score big points again in one of our strongest events over the years. Chris found his form, despite nearly crippling himself in the British Champs the week before, to throw a great 15.37m for 2nd A. Nick, meanwhile, won the B again and passed 14m for the first time since the Kingston match last year (14.01m). The 1500m was contested by Scott Evans, now well-versed in the rigours of middle distance doubling up, and we welcomed Harry Reynolds back to the 1500m for his first BAL match over the distance since his debut back in 2014. Scott understandably found the going tough after a taxing season so far, but wasn’t far off breaking 4 minutes again as he finished 5th A (4:01.97). Harry, meanwhile, looked close to his best after a bout of glandular fever that kept his training inconsistent for the best part of a year, and although his final lap looked and by all accounts felt painful, his run of 4:13.22 for 5th B was only a second or so off his personal best and was the 2nd fastest 1500m run in K&P this year.
The final individual matches of the day were the 200m and 5000m. In the former we again had sprint duo Mutara and Jordan. Mutara ran very well again and was actually given the same time as 1st, but was recorded as finishing 2nd A (22.00), while Jordan by his own admission struggled around the bend but fought back to finish a good 3rd B in 22.76, into a -1.2 wind, to complete an impressive return of points over the sprints. The 5k featured Neil Wellard for his first BAL of the season, and veteran Matt Atkins, making his debut after impressing in Vets’ League matches recently. Neil was disappointed with his run but 7th A (15:42.19 for his second-fastest run over the distance ever) was still the best return in this event this year, while Matt ran determinedly, finishing ahead of the Bedford athlete and, with Cardiff failing to field a second runner, his 6th B for 3 points was gratefully accepted!
Ending the day as usual were the relays. Recent 4x100s for K&P have understandably sacrificed speed for safe changeovers, which has resulted in a few surprise results as other teams have been disqualified for pushing the limits too hard. This time, we went for speed with Elijah Vidal, who had non-scored in both the 100 and 200 and recorded solid times, and Matt Houlden joining Mutara and Jordan for the 4x100. What resulted was an excellent 2nd place, slightly fortunate as Swansea’s final leg runner injured himself while ahead of us but impressive nonetheless, with 43.02 – the fastest for two years and the best ever placing in Division 2. The 4x400m featured Tom Parry, Jonathan Darby, Scott Evans and Max Perez-Diaz, and the four of them defied their tiredness to run excellent legs and finish 4th – another Division 2 best – in a time of 3:32.0.
With the timetable finished, we waited for the overall results and discovered that before the relays we were level with Crawley on just over 300 points. With nobody having paid attention to where Crawley finished in each relay, we faced a nervous wait to see if we had won a Division 2 fixture for the first time since the club’s merger. And the final scores revealed that…we had! A win that nobody could have imagined at the start of the season was just reward for a magnificent performance full of spirit.
So, this result leaves the promotion race wide open, with Cardiff on 20 points, Swansea on 19 points and Kingston also on 19 points with only 4.5 fewer match points collected. Ultimately, this means that we have to finish above Swansea, and above 7th, in the final match to achieve the unthinkable – promotion to Division 1! The match in Nottingham takes place on August 6th and we will need as strong a team as possible to push ourselves over the line – please get that date in your diaries and make sure that you make yourself available if at all possible!
All that is left is to thank everybody who competed for contributing to a truly memorable and significant day, and to all of the officials and David Barrington for organising a very impressive league match - the five screens showing the start lists and live results went down enormously well with the other teams and it’ll be very hard for Nottingham to top it! Lastly, thank you to everyone who came down to support for giving us that extra boost to finish ahead of our rivals. Now let’s bring on August 6th and finish the job!