id1719-BAL Division 2, Match 1, Crawley May 9th

Written by Peter Waddington   

British Athletics League Division 2, Match 1

Crawley, May 9th 2015

Early-season matches often seem to give team managers nightmares and this one was no exception. Once again Humphrey faced a creeping plague of injuries and unavailability affecting key athletes, leaving his track options looking particularly threadbare. For the first time in years we were bereft of any HCA support and entirely reliant on our own in-house resources and the omens looked ominous, but we were bolstered by the introduction of a string of debutants, several still very inexperienced, who fought commendably alongside the seasoned old guard.

That fight continued through every event of the match and resulted in a fine 4th place, only 3 points shy of our hosts Crawley in 3rd. This is a very tough division packed with quality athletes, so mid-table here is a mark of excellence rather than mediocrity!

Apart from a few bursts of light rain as new fronts blew across the arena, the weather was reasonably warm and sunny, but the wind made conditions less easy than they might have been. A good number of officials supported the event (a double header with the UK Women’s League) and we were particularly heartened to have K&P’s own Brenda Ford as Track Referee. The K2 track at Crawley is blessed with a decent stand, which made spectating easy and comfortable, but we were still cursed by the annoyance of the Crawley drum. The constant beating of this intrusive instrument by various Crawley would-be cheerleaders over the years has led to many of us harbouring homicidal thoughts… still, at least we were spared the spectacle of them all parading with it and singing “we are Crawley” in feeble chorus this time around!

The champagne moment of the day came at the very start of the track programme. Tom Parry overcame being wrongly made to run in the tricky inside lane (in contravention of the published lane draw) to storm past his opponents and win the A 400H, smashing his pb in the process with a 53.83s clocking. It was an inspirational start for the watching team and set the tone for the rest of the match. Danny Eckersley ran the B, also in lane one, and also in his own gutsy style, to finish 4th (57.66) and this opening combination delivered a great points return to set us on our way. That successful pairing was then even bettered in the next event: the 800m. Scott Evans ran in the A race, leading the field from early on and only just being passed by one competitor after a desperate fight up the home straight (2nd - 1:56.40). Our first BAL debutant of the day, Johnny Duggan, went in the B race and showed great tactical acumen, sitting just behind the leaders before taking over on the second lap and winding it up from the front for the win (1:57.78). So - our first two track events yielded an incredible 48 points out of a possible 56 and helped to set us up for a most exciting afternoon.

As usual, the field programme was already underway before the track commenced. In the Hammer Throw, Men’s Captain Gareth Cook (4th A, 47.62m) and Andy Wheble (2nd B, 41.18m) continued their usual strong form, although a little down on their excellent early season marks. In the Pole Vault, for the first time ever we had both vaulters clearing the 4.00m barrier at the same meet. Gordon Lester just headed Bilen Ahmet on count-back, with them taking 4th A and 1st B respectively. It was a great start and when an early points total was announced on the tannoy, K&P unexpectedly held the lead with a very comfortable cushion!

Next on the track, the 100m saw a reality check and two of our debutants receiving a baptism of fire. New K&P member, Tom Neill, found himself in an incredibly high quality A race, where the 6th place runner still clocked 10.80s into a 1.7 headwind. This was his very first appearance in any Club athletics match and his 11.22s run showed real fight and promise, but saw him narrowly pushed into 8th place. The B race was much less scary, but again was a big step up in class for first year U20, Alex Parkinson. Alex also fought hard for his 7th place (11.90s) running into another 1.7 wind. Both sprinters will get faster and will encounter much easier races if they stick at it, and we all hope they’ll have a great future as BAL regulars, as with all our debutants.

After the short sprints it was time for our steeplechasers to strut their stuff and strut it they did. James Robertson ran his fastest time for a couple of years (10:26.51) in 5th place A, and Danny Eckersley - scarcely recovered from his recent 400H efforts - ran courageously for 3rd B (10:28.41). Back in the field, the Long Jumpers encountered gusty, swirling wind conditions, which made their lives difficult. Matt Houlden (now a full 1st Claim K&P member after a two year spell as an HCA) found himself in a tight dogfight at the top end of the competition, finishing 3rd A, with a last ditch season’s best 6.89m into a -1.3 wind. The two jumpers narrowly ahead of him had a tailwind contributing to their best efforts. Alongside Matt, Chris Hall also posted a season’s best, comfortably winning the B with 6.69m (+1.1). We are lucky to have two such classy horizontal jumpers. Chris then went into the 110H, where he ran a storming mid-section after finding himself a bit down at the first hurdle, and finished 4th A, with 15.67s into yet another 1.7 headwind. Following up, Tom Parry ran his second pb of the meet with 16.35 (-1.7) for 4th B, giving us another excellent points return and keeping us right in the hunt.

Discus was probably our most disappointing event of the day. It’s a discipline where our top pairing of Andy Wheble and Chris Dack enjoyed considerable success last season with some double victories and a tit for tat exchange of bragging rights for leading marks in the Club rankings, but it is technically demanding and can easily go wrong. At Crawley the competition was incredibly close, with nobody looking to be on a superior level to our pairing, but neither of our guys could quite connect with their very best form. Andy Wheble was solid with a season’s best 41.06m, but in an ultra-tight finish he ended up 5th A. Chris Dack struggled much more, sending his biggest effort narrowly outside the sector and finishing 6th B in consequence. I’m sure that Chris will get back to his best by next match and luckily for us he took his frustrations out shortly afterwards on the Shot Putt, winning the A with 15.55m in a field where he faced some big throwers and two other athletes going well over 15m. Club stalwart, Nick Owen, overcame a knee injury to take 2nd B (13.56m) ensuring that we only dropped 2 points on the event and keeping us on course for a very decent finish.

High Jump seemed potentially to be our weakest event in the field. K&P have never been strong here at senior level. We were also missing a couple of our best young practitioners, and the promising Matt Broderick (U20), our sole remaining specialist, is coming back from a lay-off and was limited to a 3-stride run-up. Team Manager, Humphrey Waddington, stood in as a makeshift backup in only his second competition back after his latest knee surgery. Luckily, the event was a bit weaker than last year. Both cleared 1.75m, with Humphrey ahead on count-back (5th A) and Matt (3rd B). Matt looks like he will go a lot higher when he gets back to fuller fitness and a fuller run-up.

On the track, the 400m saw a grizzled “Vet 35” - Adam Bellis - paired with an up-and-coming U20 - Max Perez-Diaz. Adam found himself in a very tough race headed by international Luke Lennon-Ford (TVH), but ran close to his season’s best for 7th A (51.26s). Max was very disappointed to get lane eight yet again in the BAL, but still ran close to his best for 6th B (51.72s). The 1500m then saw a far from fit Jon Darby and a tired James Robertson (post-steeplechase) doing the team a big favour and getting round as best they could for the points. Both finished 7th in the A and B strings respectively. We hope that Jon will get back into his best shape as the season progresses, because we need him. In the 200m, Tom Neill’s fitness and speed endurance were tested by yet another super-quick line-up as he finished 8th A in 23.36 (-1.3). In the B string Elijah Vidal overcame a tight hamstring to produce a laudable pb, finishing 5th in 22.71 (-1.3). Both sprinters look like there’s a lot more to come from them if they work hard and stay healthy.

In the 3K we had another debutant - Neil Wellard (U20) running with Bilen Ahmet. As with some of our other debutants, the race was a big step up in class for Neil, but he fought hard all the way round and finished close to his pb in a time of 9:20.85 (7th A), which bodes well for the future. The race looked more of a struggle for the labouring Bilen, but he also picked up a 7th place (B) and it’s all the more remarkable that he got round given that he’d dislocated his toe earlier in the Pole Vault! Our approach to the unpracticed relays was all about getting the baton around safely, rather than risking too much in a push for the higher places. It proved a wise strategy as our 4x100m runners Alex Parkinson, Tom Neill, Chris Hall and Matt Houlden, benefited from the disqualification of a speedier TVH squad to finish 6th (44.49s). In the 4x400m, Adam Bellis, Elijah Vidal, Max Perez-Diaz and Tom Parry also finished 6th (3:25.22), almost holding off some of the more powerful squads with a really spirited effort.

Back in the field we did exceptionally well in the Triple Jump, where Matt Houlden won the A, although I’m sure he will go a lot further than his 14.37m (+2.8) later this season when he gets it right and perhaps cuts back a bit on his hop phase. The Club record should be his for the taking. In the B, Chris Hall was mostly searching for his step phase (!), but still managed 12.92m (-0.3) for an excellent 2nd B. The last event, finishing a great day was the Javelin, where stand-in throwers Andy Wheble and Humphrey Waddington both excelled themselves and exceeded expectations. Andy hit a pb 45.54m for 4th A and Humphrey hit 42.50m for 3rd B, ensuring that we ended strongly, with a late surge in our effort to push past Bristol and West.

It took a tortuously lengthy time for the final team scores to be processed and announced. A few hardy K&P souls hung around to hear them in a largely deserted stadium, and we shared a huge sense of satisfaction when we realized that we’d scrapped our way up to 4th place. The result was as follows: 1st Harrow 321; 2nd TVH 310; 3rd Crawley 294; 4th Kingston & Poly 291; 5th Bristol & West 281.5; 6th Notts 266; 7th Nene Valley 232.5; 8th Gateshead 157. Congratulations to the whole team, who worked so hard for this result and to Humphrey Waddington (Team Manager) and David Barrington (a very active and invaluable assistant TM!), and to all the coaches and family and friends who have helped and supported the athletes.

We have now given ourselves a really good platform for the rest of the season. We have proved that the results of last year were no fluke. We belong at this level and we are very capable of pushing for promotion. We just have to keep training, keep believing, and above all - keep fighting for every point! Roll on Watford, 6th June!

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