Written by David Barrington
BRITISH ATHLETICS LEAGUE REPORT 2004
It says volumes for the spirit,loyalty and ability of the BAL squad that,despite relatively serious injuries to three of our throwing group,our strongest element during the summer,we survived another season of intense Division Four rivalry and emerged unscathed - and still a BAL team!
Felix Hatton came into the spring with shoulder problems and was unable to compete in the first 2 fixtures and there was a double blow early on with both Gareth Cook & Kyle Stevens breaking bones. That all three made it back and contributed substantially in the later matches was testament to their enthusiasm and support.
There are,of course,20 or so other blokes in the frame and when the crunch came were not found wanting. Nic Owen(175pts),Mark Roberts(92), Jamie McCullagh(91),Victor Nwagbara(84) & James Heptonstall(78)were major contributors but this can be an invidious matter since singular efforts can make just as much difference. Gareth(64),Humphrey Waddington(42),Mike Maranzano(45),Adam Page(54) & Felix(48) all scored highly , it was pleasing to have newcomer Nick Surtees and Craig Price in contention and we were again able to blood 2 U17s Matthew Field & Luke Wheeler.
Match One at Norwich tested our resolve for travelling,though having completed the 2003 campaign there,there was a certain familiarity with the distance and venue. A 4th place there,with only a 16-man team, boded well with the usual late surge again apparent - Gareth & Nick were our only A string winners in what was to turn out to be a tight division with those prime placings at a premium.
Match Two took us to Derby but without Gareth,Kyle & Felix, we were mightily indebted to the Famous Two - Nic & Mark - for massive effort all over the ?park? with Jamie McCullagh,Matt Field & Mike Maranzano excelling by posting pbs at the right time for us.The result was,nevertheless,a bit dismal with a joint last place,though we still held onto 5th place overall.
Match Three heralded our first home BAL promotion at Kingsmeadow. Some walking wounded returned and we came away with another 4th place which consolidated our league position. Precious points were garnered here and indeed throughout the summer by our distance runners,who,on the face of it,were off the pace but ,whilst it is a hoary old cliche,EVERY point DOES count.
We journeyed to Abingdon for Match Four requiring to beat either Derby or Swindon,Bolton having no chance of avoiding having to requalify. Though 3 regular team members were abroad,the side was otherwise at full strength. Both our close rivals started off like express trains and the regular score updates which seemed always to be missing at most of our earlier BAL matches suddenly became all too apparent and nerve-wracking. However,the sprinters chose the day to prove the value of Chuck?s coaching with Victor taking the 200 in a close finish in a pb after a 5-man blanket finish in the 100 had denied him;and Draco Mkpa stormed around 400 in another lifetime best of 50.9. There were still some nervous moments,though Humphrey claimed another 110H pb and Andy Arbour lowered his 3000 Steeple best,too. Closing on the end of the meeting,Swindon began to run out of steam,and we began to make headway - and with a double win in the Javelin,a B string victory in the Triple and a barnstorming 4 x 400 with Jamie McCullagh taking us into a lead which Craig,Draco & Victor(48.7 split) never relinquished,we clawed to within 4 points of 3rd place in the match and,eventually,a reasonably comfortable 5th place in the Division.
We live to fight again - and,thankfully,will avoid having to go to Edinburgh in 2005 since they escaped relegation from Div Three. Our opponents will be Norwich,Derby,Team Solent;Medway &M and Swansea from Div Three ;and,probably,Southend and Swindon from the Qualifier. For those who may rightly be thinking about the costs which ARE high,we do have a kind benefactor who has provisionally agreed to underwrite some of the expenses of a BAL place. As the person involved says,it will give us the respite of preparing for a 3rd BAL season within the worry of whether it can be afforded. It should also be known that a good many of the team pay their own way to matches.
From the Management/Coaches - well done again gentlemen and thanks for an exciting and ultimately enjoyable summer!
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