id1497-BAL Nat 3 M1 Cardiff May 11th 2013 Report

Written by PJAW   

Peter Waddington reports from Cardiff's International Sports Stadium on a welcome start to the 2013 BAL season

Full Results - www.bal.org.uk

British Athletics League Division 3, Match 1

Cardiff, May 11th 2013

Our gladiatorial K&P Men, shorn of several regulars, fought their way to an excellent 2nd place behind a rampant Bristol & West team in cold and windy conditions on the other side of Offa’s dyke. This was our first return to Cardiff since our ill-omened trip in 2009, when injury and bad luck dogged us, but this time Fortune smiled and we were even kept dry, or at least relatively dry!

On paper, our field eventers and sprinters looked to hold the core strength of the team. They certainly delivered, but by no means had things all their own way. The opening event - Hammer Throw - has often got us off to a great start and hopes were high as Gareth Cook and Andy Wheble had each shown good early season form. Worryingly, both strings were very closely contested behind Swansea’s Richie Wells, with Gareth (51.44m A) and Andy (39.45m B) both pushed into 3rd place by narrow margins, but still reaping good points returns.

The Long Jump was much lower on quality, but sadly neither Chris Hall (4th A) nor Loic Malroux (5th B) could take advantage in gusting conditions. Later in the day they more than made up for it in pillaging an even more lacklustre Triple Jump, where Loic quickly overcame his lack of experience to win the A (13.37m), and Chris finished 2nd in the B. By then it was blowing so hard that the judges had given up trying to measure the wind as the gauges were constantly being toppled.

The Discus proved a mirror image of the HT, with Andy Wheble (43.41m A) and Nick Owen (36.22m B) both finishing 3rd in a tight dogfight at the top. It was amazing to see how the wind can catch a 2K discus, with some good throws unlucky to catch a side-on gust that tipped them off course, when others floated extra metres on a headwind. High Jump was even more of a struggle as Loic’s impressive high point never quite coincided with the bar and he finished 4th B, leaving Bilen Ahmet (dogged by injuries all winter) to scramble to 1.70m as our A, in 7th place.

The track was also hotly contested. In the 400H, Danny Eckersley again had bad luck with Cardiff conditions. In 2009 he found his inside lane under water and this time the gusting winds were far from ideal for his light build, but he scrapped bravely for 6th A (58.44). Our B, Toby Harris, had travelled down from Scotland where he is obviously used to such extremes of climate. He triumphed over both weather and opposition, despite being another who’d been plagued by injury over the winter, claiming our first win of the day with an inspirational pb of 55.27.

It was in the middle distances that the team was shortest of its usual competitors and we needed some big-hearted performances from our athletes for every point they could get. As a result 800m specialist, Jonathan Darby, had to add the 1500m to his workload. He finished 4th A, in the 800m, and might do even better next time if he sits behind the leader a bit longer before hitting the front! His 1500m, in a decent field, was always going to be a tough ask, but he kept going gamely for 7th A. The MD manpower shortage led to the unlikeliest of call-ups for Men’s track captain, Humphrey Waddington to take on the B 800/1500m double. Being a specialist jumper and having only just started running again after his troublesome knee-operation of last year, his sights were set rather lower than Jonathan’s, but he was overjoyed to be hitting the tartan again after 12 months out and ran cannily enough to pick off a rival athlete in each race, doubling his expected points score.

Our sprinters undoubtedly had loftier ambitions, with both Jordan Smith-Bent and Tom Butcher coming to the meet in fine sub-11 second form. A strong headwind put paid to any hopes of pbs, but Jordan’s 3rd A (11.02) and Tom’s 2nd B (11.07) in the 100m reaped an excellent points return. The same pairing delivered two 3rd places in the 200m for further high scoring and they then combined with Chris Hall and Justin Green in the 4x100m relay, coming home 2nd in a classy 42.61 seconds. That was the fastest time by a relay squad in the modern era, since Kingston AC merged with Polytechnic Harriers some 27 years ago. Chris had earlier run a pb B 110H, showing great flat speed and finishing 2nd in 16.70 – no mean feat into the wind. In the A string, the technically smoother Toby Harris had also run very strongly for 4th (16.23).

Another impressive sight over the barriers was Andy Arbour employing his highly individual style to take 5th in the B string steeplechase. James Robertson also took 5th in the A and seemed a little more fluent over the water-jump than in previous years, but he has yet to unleash his fine cross country form on the track. In the 5K, Harry Johnston set off a touch overenthusiastically, paying for it in the latter stages, but hanging on gamely for 6th A in 16:28.77. Peter Wilkins did all that was asked of him in his BAL debut as the B runner, finishing 7th in a pb 18:03.57. All four runners did a great job for the team, ensuring that middle distance brought in enough points to keep us in the hunt for the top two promotion places.

Gordon Lester and Bilen Ahmet haven’t quite hit the high standards they can in the Pole Vault yet this season, so a cold and windy Cardiff wasn’t ideal for them, but they worked hard at it. Gordon went over 3.60m for 5th A, and Bilen hit 3.40m for 4th B and there’s certainly more to come from them next time. Back on the track, in the 400m, Linus Field ran a very well judged A race. To most K&P spectators he’d appeared to take 2nd in a blanket finish, but the judges gave him 4th in 50.20. Justin Green also finished strongly for 2nd in the B (50.85), with the two of them teaming up with Danny Eckersley and Jon Darby in the (rather physical) relay, where we finished 7th after a storming anchor leg by Linus had brought us back from the brink of filling last place.

The final two field events of the day have traditionally been really strong ones for K&P and Cardiff was no exception. Chris Dack played a big part in both, finishing 3rd A in Javelin (53.21) and 2nd B in Shot (12.45). In the A-string Shot, our record BAL points scorer, Nick Owen, had the novel experience of being bested, finishing 2nd with 13.52m, but still scoring heavily as he always has over the years. In the B Javelin, William Trimble took a break from revising for finals up the road at Swansea University, to finish 2nd with 52.79m and it is a mark of his quality and ambition that he still felt disappointed.

We finished some 45.5 points short of Bristol & West, but 18 points clear of Nene Valley Harriers in 3rd and 32 points ahead of Reading in 4th. It was a great team performance, as usual very capably managed by David Barrington, who insists that this will be his last season in charge. His incredibly long tenure and consistent ability to get the best from his team makes Sir Alex Ferguson appear a bit of a lightweight…

Let’s keep it going and get promoted to give David the best possible send-off!

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