id1662-BAL Match 4 Division 2, 9th August 2014, Bath

Written by PJAW   

British Athletics League Division 2, Match 4

Bath, August 9th 2014

Kingston & Poly’s Men finished our outstanding 2014 season in Bath, where strong winds and torrential rain failed to dampen spirits, but our unprecedented promotion push finally ran out of steam. The run-up to the match had already seen our expectations fall, as a late rescore of the PV at Derby saw our 2nd place finish there get revised down to 3rd by only 1 point behind 2nd placed Notts AC. This meant that we now not only needed to beat Basingstoke, but also needed another club to come between us, and them, if we were to win promotion. In the end it all proved academic, as Basingstoke fielded their strongest team to win the match and our lack of depth on the track saw us slip back to 7th place, once again narrowly losing out to Notts, this time apparently by only 0.7 of a point!

The build-up to the match had been like the weather on the day - unsettled, and when it rained it poured… Quite a few of our athletes had become unavailable and several key men were carrying injuries, all of which combined to make selection extremely problematic. In the end, Team Manager - Humphrey Waddington - had to take several gambles, most of which came off, but none of which were able to offset the loss of some of our track stalwarts. Furthermore, Bath was the venue where most of our rivals chose to field their strongest teams of the summer, leaving us even more vulnerable to a fall in performance. At least we weren’t as vulnerable as Derby AC, a disheartened team that barely turned up for this match and look likely to be demoted 2 divisions for not filling the requisite number of events.

Unusually, Hammer Throw was one of our worrisome events this time, with Men’s Field Captain, Gareth Cook, nursing a very sore, injured knee. He seemed to struggle in the early rounds with the knee visibly giving way and affecting his balance, but he bravely fought through it somehow, firstly to make the cut and then to deliver a last big throw (49.76m - 4th, A) to pick off two opponents and raise the spirits of the team. Andy Wheble also threw well, but surprisingly just missed the cut again in an extra-strong field, despite finishing with 42.87m for 2nd, B. Long Jump was also an extra strong competition, but HCA, Matt Houlden, still managed to finish 3rd, A, with 6.84m. That mark was his first jump from well behind the board, which promised more, although sadly he couldn’t quite nail his follow-up attempts. In support, Chris Hall continued his excellent season by winning the B with 6.69m. Despite our fears, the team was on its way again with the usual strong start.

As the field events continued it was evident that Basingstoke were fielding their full hand of top-notch decathletes and we knew we’d struggle to overcome them, but we kept trying nevertheless. In Pole Vault (again a stacked competition!), Club record holder - Gordon Lester - went over 4.00m to finish =4th, A; and steeplechase dabbler, Bilen Ahmet, posted 3.80m for 2nd, B. There was no drop in quality in the High Jump either, where Team Manager Humphrey had dragged Tariq Fadare out of retirement to compete alongside classy U20, Alex MacKintosh. Both cleared 1.85m, with Tariq finishing 6th, A and Alex =2nd, B. It was good to see Tariq in a K&P vest again, even though he filled it with a few more kilos than he was carrying last time he jumped for us!

As usual, the track opened up with the 400H and Danny Eckersley found himself in yet another fast A-race, finishing 6th (57.63) after fighting his way past a Southend runner just before the line. Max Perez-Diaz (U20) filled in again for the B. He still doesn’t quite look like a hurdler, but he ran well and also finished strongly for 4th in 60.50. This was a pb, the first of several for K&P athletes as they gave everything for the cause. Another pb came in the Discus, where Andy Wheble was delighted with his new best of 45.37m to win the A and Chris Dack also threw strongly with 41.27m to win the B, our first double victory of the day. Things also went to plan in the Triple Jump, where Matt Houlden maintained his consistently high quality of performance with 14.25m (2nd, A) and Humphrey Waddington justified selecting himself despite a knee injury (which, like Gareth’s, had also caused a couple of alarming collapses in the first 2 rounds) with a B win. His distance is listed as 13.56m, but he certainly jumped further and he is hoping to be credited with his actual mark if the results are revised. Humphrey’s participation in TJ allowed Chris Hall to focus 100% on the 110H, where he again ran sub-16s (15.90 - 2nd, B), but Matt Houlden found his A-race more of a struggle, leaving the TJ to face a -4.3 headwind that took its toll as he came in 7th (16.30).

The 800m saw another gutsy K&P pb, when Simon Dill stepped up to the A-string and took advantage of the absence of more exalted team mates to post 1:56.39 for 5th place. The B race was probably even tougher than the A, with a very fast first lap, and stand-in Alex Thomas (another whom Humphrey roped back in after a long absence) found it a bit too hot to handle, finishing 7th, but he then regrouped to post his own pb in the 3K, where he won his intriguing personal duel with a Harrow athlete to finish 6th, B (9:41.60). A-string, George Corcoran, also ran strongly on his return from injury to finish 6th (8:53.30). They faced truly unpleasant conditions, as by then it was pelting with rain and blowing hard, making it seem less of a race and more of an ordeal by water.

In the 100m both our athletes were struggling with injuries. Jordan Smith-Bent was still contending with a problem that kept him out of the Derby match and found the competition too sharp in the A race (11.20, 8th), and Justin Green had broken his hand in plyometric training (don’t ask!), so starting from blocks was problematic as he ran 11.40 (5th, B). As Jordan’s injury prevented him from running bends, Justin then assumed the A-string mantle for the 200m, where he fought hard for his 7th place (22.99) supported by promising debutant, Elijah Vidal, in the B race, who started well, but struggled in the home straight headwind, finishing 7th (24.21). Whilst Elijah’s BAL career is just beginning, Justin is retiring at the end of this season. He has been a great servant for the Club and we wish him well as he swaps his sprinting sessions for nappy changing duties…

The Steeplechase saw another regular 1st team athlete returning from injury, but still not looking quite 100%, as James Robertson took 6th, A (10:33.60). His B runner was Pole Vaulter, Bilen Ahmet, gamely helping the team out once again and rewarded with a 5th place finish in the B. With his 5K/Steeplechase double last match, it’s interesting to note that Bilen’s distance running appearances in the BAL have matched his PV ones numerically this season! The 1500m saw us fielding yet another injured athlete, as Jon Darby gamely tried to shake off a painful back injury, but to no avail. He finished 7th, B, with a tired post-800m pb, Simon Dill, filling the same position in the A-string.

The 400m witnessed the usually fluent Tim Kuria struggle both to come to terms with his draw in lane one and the inclement weather, finishing 5th, A (51.29), but Linus Field - another returning from injury with a hamstring that still troubled him - made light of the conditions to run yet another K&P pb, finishing 2nd (49.55) in a B race that was faster and more fiercely contested than the A. In the final track action our 4x100m relay squad (Justin Green/Matt Houlden/Chris Hall/Jordan Smith-Bent) were far from smooth with their baton changes, finishing 6th (44.26), and the 4x400m squad (Chris Hall/Max Perez-Diaz/Elijah Vidal/Tim Kuria) came a weary 7th (3:26.83).

Finally, in the field, Javelin and Shot were contested during the very worst of the rain. In JT, Linus Field was perhaps exhausted by his recent 400m efforts and thus unable to find his best form (42.96m - 6th, A). Most of the soaking competitors deserted the competition early, but Humphrey seemed to relish the amphibious throws lifestyle and kept going to the last round. He has been credited with 3rd place in the B and 41.56m, but once again he knows he threw further and should have been awarded 2nd place. To part-paraphrase Oscar Wilde, being short-changed in one event may be accounted a misfortune, but when it happens twice it goes beyond carelessness and could be construed as a conspiracy! Fortunately, the Shot Putt results were not in any way contentious as the hugely impressive pairing of Chris Dack (15.05m) and Nick Owen (14.05m) produced magnificent throws in the horrific conditions and allowed us to finish both the match and a wonderful season with a fitting double victory.

The atmosphere at Bath seemed very relaxed and friendly, but sadly the results, appear to have been rather questionable for their accuracy, littered with strange anomalies and unlikely coincidences. There are several unresolved questions about both the results for the day and the final league positions. As I write, it appears that K&P finished 7th in the match and 4th in the league, with Southampton and Basingstoke promoted, and Harrow just pipping us for 3rd place. This could yet change as various team managers are querying the results. Whatever happens, it has been a groundbreaking season for the team. After being outclassed in our two previous adventures in this division, we finally look like we belong at this level and have secured Division 2 status for another season.

Congratulations to everybody who has represented K&P for their excellent efforts and to Humphrey for a successful first year in charge. Also, many thanks go to David Barrington and all the Club supporters and officers who have done so much to encourage our athletes throughout the year. Finally we wish all the best to our two retiring senior sprinters, Justin Green and Victor Nwagbara, with thanks to them and all the athletes who have worked so hard to make this a great year for K&P in the BAL.

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