id1725-BAL Division 2, Match 2, Watford June 6th

Written by PJAW   

British Athletics League Division 2, Match 2

Watford, June 6th 2015

After a good result with a somewhat understrength team in the first match, Team Manager - Humphrey Waddington, had high hopes of beefing up the side for Watford. As it transpired that strengthening never quite materialized and we went into Match 2 with a very similar depth of squad. As usual in the BAL, Match 2 proved a bit tougher and more competitive than the season’s opener, but K&P’s Men rose to the challenge and delivered another hard fought 4th place. Remarkably, all the competing clubs finished in exactly the same order that they had in the first match, so mid-table looks a very fair reflection of our abilities relative to our rivals.

The day got off to the worst possible start as Humphrey received a message from our St Mary’s University HCA saying he was dropping out, leaving us without any specialist 5K runners. Humphrey faced the dreadful prospect that he and Bilen might have to run the 5K after all their other events and thus was not in the cheeriest of moods. Despite this dampener, a sunny and trouble-free journey to Watford raised the spirits. When we arrived we found a well-appointed stadium with an empty car park (unlike the congested panic of Crawley), but the warmth of the sun was offset by a strongly gusting wind, which made it rather chilly in the shadier parts of the stadium. The spirits of the horizontal jumpers were further raised when they realized that they would be jumping with the wind behind them and no gauge!

Long Jump and Triple Jump have been excellent events for K&P in recent times, but our star man - Matt Houlden - had injured himself at Bedford the previous weekend and there were no other standout options to back up our other top jumper - Chris Hall. Humphrey decided to come out of retirement and take on the challenge. This wasn’t an easy call to make as he’d badly injured his knee in the LJ during the 2nd BAL match last year, leading to a second operation and the decision to retire. He started the LJ competition with some trepidation after a year out and no jumps training, but quickly got back into the swing, joining Chris in taking advantage of the wind. Chris leapt to a classy season’s best 6.80m (2nd A) and Humphrey hit 6.63m (1st B). It was the ideal start to the match.

We were also missing Gordon Lester, club record holder in the Pole Vault, but here again we were able to call upon a promising replacement in William Gwynne (U20). Will had an excellent BAL debut in the tricky wind conditions, clearing 3.60m (3rd B) and wasn’t far off in his attempts at a pb 3.80m. Ever-reliable Bilen Ahmet did clear 3.80m despite suffering badly from hay fever. He finished 5th A. At the other end of the track the Hammer Throw was being fiercely contested, with Gareth Cook again not quite able to connect to his best form, but still getting out a very decent 47.32m throw (5th A) and Andy Wheble was unlucky to narrowly miss the cut with 41.59m (3rd B).

Like the 5K, High Jump is another event where we are struggling to find fit and willing competitors. In desperation, Humphrey called up another retiree, Alex MacKintosh (U20) and asked him to come back and compete. Luckily for us he kindly agreed and looked excellent clearing 1.85m (5th A) and only just missed 1.90m. Humphrey took the B slot, finishing 3rd in a pb-equaling 1.80m. Meanwhile, in the Discus, our strong man - Chris Dack went even better by smashing his pb with a terrific 46.13m (2nd A) and Andy Wheble backed him up ably with 41.68m (2nd B). The K&P Field team was delivering excellent points, just as the guys have always done since we re-entered the BAL in 2003.

Our Track performances have been a bit less consistent over the years, but we did exceptionally well in several events at Crawley and had high hopes of continuing that form in Watford. The 400H got us away to another very good start. In the A race, Tom Parry ran yet another fighting circuit in Lane 2, finishing 3rd in a speedy 54.10s that certainly showed both quality and consistency. Danny Eckersley also went very well in the B-race, despite the windy conditions, which have sometimes upset his rhythm in the past. He finished 2nd in 57.75s and both hurdlers were justly satisfied with their efforts. The 800m was also a happy hunting ground in the previous match, but the Watford races were much tougher propositions with strengthened fields. Scott Evans ran a good tactical A-race, but after being taken through a speedy first lap he couldn’t quite find the kick needed at the end, finishing 7th (1:56.93). Johnny Duggan also ran cannily in a tight B-race, finishing 4th (1:58.40), and both athletes look very capable of regrouping and getting back to contesting the top positions by the next match in Derby.

In the 100m, Tom Neill and Alex Parkinson (U20) both made their second appearance for the BAL team. Tom found the stacked A-race a tad too hot again, but ran a creditable 11.27s, and Alex ran a fine pb (electronically timed) 11.51s to finish 6th B. An even bigger pb margin was hit by James Robertson in what was probably the performance of the day, over the Steeplechase barriers. James went out very hard and kept it all going to finish an excellent 3rd A in 10:07.96. Behind him, Bilen Ahmet proved his value to the team, straining round stoically for 5th B, and picking up crucial and somewhat unexpected points.

In the Field, Chris Hall produced another excellent season’s best in the Triple Jump winning the B-string with 13.35m. He achieved this despite having to leave mid-competition to run the A-string 110H, where he looked to struggle for a moment as the wind pushed him onto the second hurdle, but finished strongly in 5th (15.85s). Tom Parry seemed to enjoy the wind more in the B-race, where he finished 2nd in a pb 16.01s and obviously has the appetite to break the 16s barrier soon. Meanwhile back in the TJ, Humphrey Waddington started raggedly, but groped his way back towards his old form until he was looking quite good by his final jump. He found himself in a ding-dong battle exchanging the lead with a TVH athlete, who just pipped him with the last jump. Humphrey finished 2nd A (13.83m).

The team was glad to welcome back Tim Kuria for the 400m - his first race of the season. Tim looked to be lacking a bit of his usual strength and race sharpness, but that’s sure to return as the season progresses. He was 5th A (51.29s). Max Perez-Diaz (U20) was the B-string and he also wasn’t quite at his best, but fought hard up the finishing straight for 5th B (52.59s). The 1500m saw a debut for new HCA - Tom Heslop - who knocked over a second off his pb to finish 4th A in an excellent 3:55.00. Scott Evans bravely doubled-up to 1500m as well and also finished really creditably for 4th (B) in 3:59.55. That’s the first time since K&P returned to the BAL in 2003 that we’ve had two men go sub-4 minutes in the 1500m, so a great effort from both athletes. Tom then generously ran the 5K, straight after with minimal recovery, finishing 7th A (16:55.50). Jon Darby was also kind enough to step in for the B-race, despite a hamstring problem, and although he found it a struggle he did well to finish in 7th place and the team is indebted to both of them.

Another man with a troublesome hamstring was Elijah Vidal, who still managed a windy pb 22.34s (+3.0), backing up his legal pb from the previous match to finish 6th A, and looking at home in a very swift race. Tom Neill also ran much faster in his B-race than at Crawley, finishing 5th in 22.80s (+2.7). Both then went into the relays. Tom joined Alex Parkinson, Chris Hall and Tom Parry in the 4x100m, where the strategy of safety-first changeovers reaped rich dividends. Not only did we finish well in the points with 4th (44.80s), but also as a bonus the “winners” Bristol & West were disqualified for a dodgy changeover which was to prove very telling in the match result. Elijah then joined Max Perez-Diaz, Johnny Duggan and Tim Kuria in the 4x400m, where we had hopes of a good performance. The squad ran well, with Johnny looking particularly strong on 3rd leg, but sadly once again we couldn’t quite hold off a couple of rivals on the anchor leg, finishing 6th (3:24.95).

The last two events in the Field have traditionally seen a strong finish for the team, with several K&P star performers featuring in both Shot Putt and Javelin, and although the latter event had a couple of athletes filling-in this time, the JT still saw both make the cut for top eight, with the ever-reliable Andy Wheble 5th A (43.10m) and Humphrey Waddington 3rd B (42.20m). Meanwhile, the SP delivered a thrilling K&P finale, with Chris Dack winning the A-string against a classy field (15.24m) and evergreen Nick Owen also winning the B-string with 13.32m.

We’d done all that we could and now faced another anxious wait to learn how we’d fared in the final team scores. Throughout the day we’d lurched up and down the table from 3rd to 6th place in the running totals, so it was difficult to guess where we’d end up. When it was announced that we were 4th again, it seemed a huge relief. The scores were: Harrow 333, TVH 320, Crawley 310, K&P 302, Bristol & West 290.5, Notts 285, Nene Valley Harriers 226, Gateshead 97.5. This meant that Bristol’s loss of 16 points for their 4x100m DQ was a big bonus for us. It squeezed them down into 5th place and gave us an extra league point, adding to our cushion above the relegation places. We are currently 6 points ahead of the bottom two and 4 points off the promotion slots, so things could still change and it is essential that we keep competitive, especially at Derby where many of our rivals’ athletes don’t like to travel, but where we enjoyed a great result last year. We need another one in a month, with everybody at K&P really going for it.

Thanks to Brenda Ford who officiated at the match and to David Barrington for his continued support and for handling the team duties on the day. Thanks also to all our travelling supporters, especially to athletes Matt Houlden & Jon Darby who came to support despite their injuries (Jon ended up running anyway!). Finally, thanks to the team as a whole for yet another great performance! Let’s focus on Derby now and look to climb up the table!

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