British Athletics League Division 2, Match 4
Nottingham, August 6th 2016
Match 4 of the British Athletics League season took Kingston to a hot day at the Harvey Hadden Stadium in Nottingham, whose owners recently purchased an eighth lane to make it suitable as a BAL venue.
Match 3 had brought a maiden Division 2 win for K&P in the modern era, and hopes had been high that promotion could be achieved. For the first time we were in a position of being able to decide our own destiny - we ‘only’ had to beat Swansea to see ourselves promoted, as opposed to previous years where promotion had been possible but relied on several teams having nightmare days.
So it was both surprising and disappointing that, for the biggest match in the Club’s recent history, we only managed to take 18 athletes again. Bad luck with injuries can never be helped, and we had a lot, as well as missing Scott Evans, Andy Wheble and Jordan Smith-Bent for unavoidable outside commitments (congratulations to Andy on his marriage!), but a few very late dropouts meant that much of the enthusiasm from Match 3 evaporated, and we were left hoping that Swansea and Cardiff had even bigger problems.
Trying to put the disappointment of the build-up behind us, we started the single fixture as always with Long Jump and Hammer, with TM Chris Hall joining Humphrey Waddington in the former after an unfortunate injury to A-jumper Matt Houlden, and Chris Dack providing backup to Gareth Cook in the throwing cage. In the Long Jump Humphrey was once again in the 6.70s as he jumped 6.75m despite the distraction of High Jump to place 3rd A, while Chris struggled with cramp from the off and was maybe unfortunate that his jump of 6.52m, usually enough to challenge the top B distance, only brought him 4th B this time. Still, the two of them finished ahead of Swansea and Cardiff which tempered the disappointment somewhat. In a typically unforgiving Hammer contest, Gareth’s throw of 48.61m gave him 5th A, with Chris throwing an SB of 38.01m to finish 2nd B, a big bonus in the absence of Andy Wheble.
High Jump, Pole Vault and Discus continued the field schedule, with Humphrey and Darren Meaklim representing us in the High, the ever-reliable Gordon Lester and Bilen Ahmet joining forces again in the vault and Gareth this time joining Chris Dack in covering for Andy W in the Discus. While Humphrey and Darren’s jumps of 1.75 and 1.65m respectively were only good enough for 6th= A and 7th B, the two of them have been ever-willing to take part in an event that has often been an Achilles heel for K&P over the years. In the Pole Vault, Bilen unfortunately injured his already-strained hamstring but crucially made sure he got a mark on board – 2.60m for 7th B – while Gordon had overcome a nasty shoulder injury to travel up to Notts and cleared 3.40m for 7th A. The Discus, meanwhile, was one of the least stressful for K&P’s observers as Chris Dack finished 2nd A with a throw of 44.32, while Gareth pulled out a big throw when it mattered and won the B string with 38.25m.
The track began at 2.30 with the 400m Hurdles and the 800m. Our hurdling team was thrown into confusion in the half an hour leading up to the race as it transpired that A runner Tom Parry had travelled to neighbouring Derby, to the track that until this year had served as Notts’ BAL home ground. With traffic a nightmare everywhere, it looked increasingly likely that Tom wouldn’t make it. As such, Darren Meaklim was asked to step into the A race at the last minute and, with Chris Hall’s calf a worry, Humphrey Waddington agreed to cover the B race. Darren ran as well as he could after his problems with illness and picked off one runner to finish 7th A, while Humphrey ran very well and finished a fantastic 3rd in a time of 60.79. In the 800m, with Scott Evans absent, Jonathan Darby and Harry Reynolds were our runners. Jon was up with the leading pack at the bell in his race, but tired in the second lap and came home in 1:59.5 for 7th A. Harry, meanwhile, ran superbly and only his relative lack of strength after serious illness over the Winter prevented a surprise win. He made the others in his race work incredibly hard to overtake, and he finished 4th B in a massive PB of 1:58.3 after leading from 400m-650m. Seeing Harry make the proper step up to BAL after a slightly torrid debut in 2014 has been one of the season’s highlights and he will be an important athlete for K&P in the years to come.
Next up were the 100m and 3000 Steeplechase. With most of our sprinters injured or absent, William Trimble agreed to fill in after a good run over the distance in the SAL a couple of months ago, and we were incredibly grateful to Adam Bellis who went “above and beyond” and arranged to bring his family down and represent K&P for the final time before he completes a move to Trafford AC. Both Will and Adam ran strong times that rank amongst the best electronic marks for K&P this year, but the 100m is always a very high standard so Will’s 11.51 and Adam’s 11.68 saw them finish 7th A and 6th B respectively. The Steeplechase featured Danny Eckersley, hoping to make it a hat-trick of wins in the event this year. The plan was for Harry Reynolds to jog round for a point, but he was understandably exhausted after his PB in the 800m so he sat out to avoid fainting (a real risk in the heat), and with usual deputy Bilen injured we didn’t manage to get a second runner. Danny made sure it didn’t matter though, as he ran a typically controlled race and won in 9:28.3, 3.3 seconds ahead of 2nd; a gap that hardly did justice to how dominant he was.
Triple Jump and 110H were next in the timetable, as Humphrey began his 4th event of the day alongside Alex Meaklim in the Triple, with TM Chris and a repentant Tom Parry on the track. In a raucous contest that saw some impressive jumps all round, Humphrey was unfortunate that his fatigue-defying jump of 13.87m was only enough for 4th A, while Alex won the B string with 13.17m, despite hurting his foot in the process, to round off a superb debut BAL season. In the hurdles, Chris managed to get through unscathed after his calf troubles in the Long Jump, and fought to 3rd A in a race where 2nd-5th were indistinguishable to the naked eye (15.8 – the hand times are slightly odd and come nowhere near to revealing how close it was). Tom, meanwhile, redeemed himself with a fantastic run that brought a 110H B win that has looked likely for some time (16.5).
Onto the Javelin and 400m, Will Trimble was back in more familiar surroundings on the field as he and Humphrey, on his 5th individual event, took to the throws, while Max Perez-Diaz and Adam Bellis prepared to set up their blocks for the 400m. Will hasn’t quite reached the brilliant heights he did last season, but his throw of 52.70m was enough for 4th A, while Humphrey pulled out his second-biggest throw of the season to take 3rd B and complete his tiring day (well, before the relays anyway…). On the track, Max found himself in a race where every single one of his rivals ran sub-50, but he was disappointed with his time of 52.01 for 8th A. Adam, meanwhile, found himself in amongst the pack despite being the oldest man in the race by almost 10 years, and finished a very decent 5th B with a time of 51.53
With the day drawing to a close, the Shot Put and 1500m were next up. Chris Dack was in action for his 3rd event of the day alongside his partner in crime Nick Owen in the Shot, while Jon Darby and Danny Eckersley formed the 1500m partnership, both on tired legs. Chris’ success of 2015 in the Shot, where he won 3 of the 4 matches, has been spoiled somewhat by Kent’s relentless Sean Breathnach this year, but he threw out to 14.36m to take 2nd A for the second match in a row. Nick, meanwhile, threw an SB of 14.05m to win the B for the third match running. On the track, Danny ran a season’s best of 4:13.98, not far off his PB, to take 8th A (the BAL website says 5th B but this will surely be changed as he was our first finisher), while Jon gave his all despite looking exhausted and finished 8th B in 4:38.03 to round off his individual events for the season.
The final individual track events were the 200 and the 3k. In the 200m, we had Max Perez-Diaz and Tom Parry both taking part in their second events of the day and deputising for Mutara and Jordan, while in the 3k we had Peter Wilkins, who was asked to compete around 8pm on Thursday and graciously agreed to help out despite having suffered from bad injuries, and we were pleased that George Corcoran made himself available to hopefully show his good form that has brought PBs in the 1500 and the 3k. In the 200m, both Max and Tom ran doggedly but, similarly to the 100m, good positions were hard to come by as Max finished 7th A (23.71) and Tom came 6th B (23.59). In the longer distance, Peter gamely stuck to it despite his recent lack of training and came home as the A runner, bringing a welcome 4 points, while George had been running well in 5th (with one B runner ahead), but had started to struggle, then stopped and withdrew himself from the race around two-thirds through.
By the time the relays came round it was clear that it would take two wins to have any hope of achieving what we needed to gain promotion and, with the task very difficult even with a full-strength squad considering the strength of the opposition, no-one really expected much of the exhausted relay squads. Chris H, Humphrey, Max and Tom formed the 4x100 team that finished 6th in 44.79, while Harry R, Jon Darby and Adam B joined Tom for the 4x400 where their time of 3:30.44 was actually a season’s best but was only enough for 7th.
As the announcements updated the crowd on the scores, which took some time as the results seemed to come in over an hour after each event ended, K&P’s deficit to Swansea got bigger and bigger, and we finished a very disappointing 7th on the day and 3rd in the league overall. Everybody who scored points for the team on the day gave their all, even though at least 2 hadn’t quite got over injuries, but we simply didn’t have enough bodies for the second time this season.
And with that the BAL season is over. For the third year in a row we have made big strides and surpassed the previous year - although the gap to Swansea in the league was ultimately 4 points and our final league position was 3rd again, we went into the last match being able to get promotion without relying on anyone else which wasn’t the case in 2014 or 2015. We should also remember that Cardiff and Swansea can cherry pick anyone from the entirety of Wales whereas we are based in a relatively small London suburb and have to share the city with a few dozen rival clubs. That said, there was an overriding feeling amongst those who were there in Nottingham that we threw it away by having such a small team, and the amazing result we achieved in Kingston ultimately meant less than it might have done.
In any case, I want to thank everyone who scored points in Nottingham for doing yourselves proud, and to those who produced fantastic performances and plugged gaps in the other 3 matches to give us a serious chance of reaching Division 1. A big thank you must go to those who have supported the team throughout the season - families Cook, Waddington, Hall, Meaklim, Parry, Owen, Perez-Diaz among others and to Camilla Thrush for volunteering to drive several team members up to Notts and support the team, and thank you to Brenda Ford who supported the team throughout the season as a Track Judge. Lastly, a massive thank you to Mark Hall, Peter and Humphrey Waddington and David Barrington for all the advice and help they’ve given me this year. Division 1 has never looked closer and I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before we scale its heights!