Written by PJAW
British Athletics League Division 2, Match 1
Basingstoke, May 10th 2014
K&P’s Men have opened a new chapter in 2014. Esteemed Team Manager David Barrington has retired and Joint Men’s Captain, Humphrey Waddington, has stepped into some impossibly big shoes, charged with the daunting task of trying to consolidate last year’s hard-won promotion to Division 2, something we have never quite managed to achieve in the “modern era”, despite two good attempts.
The task became all the more challenging when the team started steadily losing some of its best athletes due to injury, illness and work commitments in the build-up to the first match. Humphrey went to both ends of the age spectrum to plug the gaps, resuscitating the BAL careers of grizzled old stalwarts and introducing callow youth to the intense cauldron of BAL competition.
The team was undaunted and with classic K&P spirit, our athletes fought for every point, delivering a “phenomenal” result. K&P finished the match in 3rd place, ahead of last year’s Division 3 champions Bristol & West, with only home team Basingstoke & Mid Hants (1st) and the other local club: Southampton (2nd) able to head us. This ranks as the best ever result by a K&P team in the BAL since we reclaimed our position in the competition in 2003!
The weather in Basingstoke was atrocious. Some promising periods of sunshine offered only brief respite from unrelenting downpours, driven in by gusting winds that chilled even the hardiest athletes. To make matters worse, the track has no stand, so we were afforded no shelter from the elements. The team had taken a beating at a first match here two years before, when we’d previously been promoted to Division 2, so the omens didn’t look good, but spirits were raised by David Barrington’s appearance, and he was quickly pressed into service as auxiliary TM - charged with notifying team changes and rallying the troops. He did a great job.
The Field events got under way as usual, with Pole Vault, Hammer and Long Jump. In PV, we were without our 3 best vaulters, but were lucky to be able to call upon one of the best all-round athletes K&P has had in recent decades - Mark Roberts. Mark (now a Veteran M40) hasn’t featured for several seasons, but rolled back the years to his heyday (when he and Nick Owen had done so much to secure K&P’s BAL status), as he sailed over 3.40m to secure equal 3rd place (A). Our 400m hurdler, Tom Parry was pressed into emergency service as the ‘B’ vaulter due to Bilen Ahmet having been taken ill overnight (get well soon Bilen!), and he performed magnificently to go over 3.00m for 3rd place and helped to secure an unexpectedly high points haul in an event where we’d looked to be vulnerable.
The Hammer Throw has been a banker for us in recent years, with Gareth Cook imperiously leading the way, but 2014 has proved more of a struggle, as Gareth’s best form has so far eluded him. Cold, blustery weather with driving rain did not help his cause, but all of the throwers suffered and his default throw mark at 44.77m was good enough for 5th place (A), with Andy Wheble also finding the conditions tough as he hit 37.31m (4th - B), but still harvested good points. If both keep believing and get some more time in the practice circle to find their usual flow and rhythm, I’m sure the big distances will soon be back again.
Despite the cold, the Long Jumpers relished the wind at their backs and we witnessed a terrific competition as Felix Maisey-Curtis of Harrow won with an amazing legal 7.72m! Our own in-form HCA, Matt Houlden, also went over 7m (7.11m +2.7) finishing 3rd (A), the same position as the ever reliable Chris Hall in the ‘B’ with 6.60m (+3.4) and all three early events in the Field helped us to get off to a great start.
The worst of the weather hit just as High Jump started. We had two excellent young jumpers representing us, Alex MacKintosh (U20) and Gabriel Finch (U17), but they both struggled in the conditions. In fact most of the jumpers were huddled miserably under the High Jump cover for shelter and emerged only reluctantly to compete. Unusually, they were allowed to jump when still wearing their tops and waterproofs as a concession to the weather, which didn’t help their clearances. Alex cleared 1.75m for 6th (A) and Gabriel, nursing a dodgy leg, hit 1.50m - 7th (B). Both will go a lot higher once the sun comes out!
Discus was also hit by the downpour and the circle was under water, but Chris Dack’s standing technique was unaffected by the conditions. The immense strength and power Chris has developed over the winter reaped dividends as he threw a huge 44.31m pb to win the ‘A’ and Andy Wheble’s more conventional turn held up better than anybody else’s to comfortably win the ‘B’ with 42.83m - a magnificent win double! At the same time the Track started with the 400H, where Danny Eckersley (58.48, 6th - A) and Tom Parry (58.03, 2nd - B) performed marvels in the conditions against some very capable opponents.
Our hosts were having problems operating the scoring computer programme, so news of the team standings was not that forthcoming, but it was around this point that an announcement came naming K&P as event leaders, which was both surprising and hugely cheering for the team. No doubt inspired by the news, in the 800m, Jon Darby hit the front early in customary fashion, but may have been better advised not to let a classy field shelter behind him in the wind! His second lap proved more of a struggle, but he fought on gamely to finish 6th (1:59.98). In the ‘B’ race, we saw a solid debut from Swindon HCA, Simon Dill, who ran a more conservative race, but still found it difficult to keep in touch once they kicked. He also finished 6th in 1:59.1.
The Triple Jump had it’s ups and downs, but finished entirely on ups. Matt Houlden jumped superbly to hit a legal pb 15.03m (+1.1), but was unlucky to still only find himself in 2nd place (A). In the ‘B’ TM Humphrey collapsed on his hop and had to bail on the first attempt, then narrowly fouled his second, leaving the K&P onlookers very nervous for his clutch 3rd jump. However he nailed it, made the cut and then went out to 13.94m to win the ‘B’, with the TJ delivering another big points return for the team. He then went on to the Javelin alongside Mark Roberts, where the scratch K&P pairing managed a very creditable 6th (A) and 3rd (B) respectively.
Conditions were very unfavourable for the sprinters, but the 100m yielded really good returns for Jordan Smith-Bent, 11.16 (-2.1) 4th (A) and Justin Green, 11. 24 (-2.7) 2nd (B); both with gutsy runs into the wind. The same combination went again later in the 200m, with both finishing 5th - Jordan 23.38 (A) and Justin 23.77 (B). The 110 Hurdles races were also tough due to the headwind, with Matt Houlden finishing 6th (A) and Chris Hall 3rd (B) in 16.23 (-2.0), both of which indicate much faster times ahead in more favourable conditions and Chris looks well capable of ducking under 16 seconds.
Like PV/JT, the 3K Steeplechase was another event that saw the welcome return of a “golden oldie”, as Dr. Mark Reed took a quick break from his rounds in Reading to represent the team in their hour of need after an absence of several years. Both he and James Robertson finished 6th in the ‘B’ and ‘A’ respectively, and kept the team on course for a decent score. Mark was sporting a fetching “Grizzly Adams” hair and beard combination that gave him the look of a mountain man and James was fresh from a bona fide mountain man experience in the 3 Peak Challenge, which left him a little too drained to lower his pb on this occasion, although his coach is sure that he is in shape to do so very soon!
In the 400m, classy HCA Tim Kuria couldn’t quite replicate the amazing form of last season, but delivered a welcome 5th place (A) in an event where we’ve often struggled for points, with evergreen Victor Nwagbara pressed into service in the ‘B’ for a good 6th place, despite a dodgy hamstring and a preference for shorter, faster outings. The 1500m saw another BAL debut, with first-year U17 starlet, Harry Reynolds, hitting the track alongside Jon Darby, the latter already tired after his 800m. Both found the early pace a little too hot and finished in 8th place, but ran bravely for their points, which were vital, given that we only finished 3pts ahead of Bristol. It was a pleasure to see Harry running in the BAL and I’m sure he will soon be a top performer for the Senior Men.
Talking of top performers (and mountain-men), the Shot Putt was another triumph for man-mountain Chris Dack, who won the ‘A’ string with 14.66m, beating the Harrow BUCS Silver medalist into 2nd in the process, with Gareth Cook taking 4th (B). Two A-string wins was a fantastic return from Chris. We also had a BUCS Silver medalist of our own in the 3K, where HCA Chris Bannon (only outkicked for Gold at the very end of his 10K race at Bedford) found the pace of the shorter distance just a little too sharp for him in the early stages, but hung-in to take an invaluable 4th (A), whilst ably backed up by the very welcome return of our own prodigal son, George Corcoran in 5th (B).
Finally, we had the drama of the relays, where our 4x100m squad (Jordan Smith-Bent, Victor Nwagbara, and Justin Green, joined by Andre Nembhard on 1st leg) somehow avoided disqualification to finish 5th, despite some scary baton changes and the sight of a red flag we feared was for us, and our 4x400m squad (Chris Hall, Simon Dill, Danny Eckersley, and Tim Kuria) finished a creditable 6th against some very strong teams. Now our work was done and all we could do was wait anxiously for the results.
We had gone without any score updates for most of the match, so anticipated the final announcement with some trepidation. As the announcer started reading the list from last place upwards to first, we were firstly relieved not to be in the bottom two and then increasingly elated to realize how many teams the Club had actually beaten. It was a wonderful result and an immense effort by the K&P Men. Now we must kick-on and consolidate with an equally good, or better, second match!
On behalf of K&P I offer congratulations to Humphrey and all his athletes, and also thanks to David Barrington for his support, Brenda Ford for her Track Judging, Clare Nelson for driving the RaKat bus and to all the family, friends and fellow athletes who supported the team on a cold and wet, but also great and historic day for Kingston AC & Polytechnic Harriers.
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