Written by Chris Hall
British Athletics League Division 2, Match 2
Yate, 3rd June 2017
After a fantastic win in the opening British Athletics League match at home, Kingston’s attentions turned to Yate, where Bristol & West AC played the hosts in match 2 of the 2017 season.
Away matches are always tougher to organise and garner interest than home fixtures, and with the addition of the June match often being in the middle of exams, it can be a hard experience for Team Managers indeed. Up until Thursday, things weren’t looking too bad, but unfortunately a bout of illness and urgent other commitments for a few of our important team members meant TM Chris Hall went into the match feeling a little pessimistic with no Pole Vaulters or Steeplechasers to speak of, and an otherwise-decent team suddenly having to spread themselves thinly across the 34 individual strings.
Things got underway with Hammer and Long Jump, with birthday boy Kyle Stevens joining Gareth Cook for their second match together, and with Kyle throwing his new golden Hammer to boot. Gareth continued his remarkable consistency this season by getting over 50m again but couldn’t quite replicate his 2nd place at Kingston as Herne Hill’s thrower found his form, but 3rd was a more than decent return (50.15), while Kyle was also a little down on Match 1 but still won the B string by 5m with 45.24m. In the Long Jump, we were missing Humphrey Waddington with a serious ankle injury so Chris Hall was in action, nursing a groin injury himself, and hopeful that other niggles that have plagued his season so far didn’t flare up. That meant Alex Meaklim, enjoying PBs in the horizontal jumps nearly every week, took on the A string for the first time. Alex was disappointed as he didn’t quite hit the board right but he still finished 4th A with 6.38m for a very useful 10 points. Chris, meanwhile, took things perhaps too easily but stayed injury-free with a jump of 6.19m for 4th B.
The High Jump was next, with Alex’s brother Darren Meaklim joining Harry McCulloch for the first of their respective 3 events. While neither found their stride, having both jumped 1.75m this year, Harry’s 1.70m (8th A) and Darren’s 1.60m got us a crucial 8 points, with the added bonus that two teams didn’t field a second jumper which allowed Darren to nick 5th B.
With barely any time to rest, Harry was then called into Vaulting duties after a last minute plea for Chris H with all 4 of our BAL vaulters unavailable. He was joined by Humphrey Waddington, who unbeknownst to the management had entered into a pact with Alex Williams-Baffoe in which Humphrey would clear a height in return for a 400m Hurdle run-out for Alex. Harry’s willingness to get involved in any event is a very welcome one, and in he and Humphrey we had quite a selfless Pole Vault duo! Humphrey cleared 1.30m for joint 5th B, bringing home 3.5 unexpected points, while Harry vaulted 2.60m and also shared the spoils with a rival, scoring 4.5 points in joint 7th A. While all this was going on, we had our more stable partnership of Chris Dack and Andy Wheble in the Discus. Andy’s willingness to travel such a long way to throw having been denied a guest spot in the Hammer and Javelin was very much appreciated, and although his 36.09m throw wasn’t quite his best, his 3rd B position kept our momentum going. Chris, meanwhile, has picked a good time to find his form again and he took full advantage of Kent’s Sean Breathnach’s inconsistency by pipping him to first with 45.55m, 3cm ahead, for a fantastic A-string win.
And so we came to the track events with the 400mH and 800m up first. Alex Williams-Baffoe kept his side of the deal with Humphrey as he made his hurdling debut, while Darren Meaklim took on A string duties with Tom Parry absent again. Darren looked more at home in this race compared to Match 1 and was unfortunate that he couldn’t quite catch Kent’s athlete, but his 6th A with 60.56 was a decent return in another tough race. Alex, meanwhile, showed some surprisingly good hurdling technique and finished a fantastic 5th with 62.27 – a very impressive time for a complete novice! In the 800m, we welcomed new HCA Hugo Fleming from Walton AC and welcomed back Scott Evans after the dogged performances from Jon Darby and Alex Thomas in Match 1. Scott hasn’t raced the 800m since July last year but you wouldn’t have thought it from the way he set out! Leading at the bell, he unfortunately tired too much in the final 150m to hold off 2 rivals but ran a good time of 1:55.65 for a great 3rd A placing. Hugo, meanwhile, ran patiently and stuck in behind the leaders for all but the final 200m, where he opened out and pulled ahead, winning superbly by just under a second with 1:57.25.
Attentions then turned to the 100m, and normally the Steeplechase – but as we didn’t have anyone in the latter, we will pretend it never happened. In the sprint we had our ‘A’ team of Mutara Sheriff and Elijah Lyle-Vidal, hoping to take advantage of the kind wind – that rare balance of helpful AND mostly legal! In an incredibly fast race, Mutara pulled through the back of the pack to finish a great 4th A with 10.86, while Elijah did well to also pull a few rivals back and place 5th B, presumably a couple of thousandths of a second ahead of Herne Hill having been given the same time but more points, with another quick time of 11.16.
With the Steeplechase running and no-one from Kingston caring, we had the Triple Jump and 110H next. TM Chris Hall was in action in both, joining a Meaklim twin in each – Alex in the jump and Darren in the hurdles. Chris made sure to get a Triple Jump out of the way before taking to the track, and leapt to a decent 12.89m that seemed to promise more to come, but ultimately for reasons that will become clear soon he had to make do with that for 2nd B. Alex, meanwhile, had to take the A string on once more but coped very well again and his jump of 13.32m for 4th kept the points tally ticking over nicely. Over on the track, Chris’ new lease of life lasted about half a second as he pulled a muscle in his groin again and had to 7-stride his way over 9 hurdles. Luckily, Bristol had fielded an athlete to fill a point and Chris was able to stay ahead for 7th A. In the B race, there was a lot better news as Darren absolutely breezed his way through and smashed his PB, taking the win with 15.67 – the joint-quickest BAL time since the days of Matt Field.
With the day reaching its latter stages, Javelin and 400m were up next. In the Javelin, Harry McCulloch’s third and final event was in partnership with Will Trimble, fresh from throwing over 60m in the Surrey Championships a few weeks prior. The windy conditions seemed to affect a lot of throwers but Will and Harry coped well to score a fantastic 26 points out of 28: Will threw 60.28m to take a brilliant A win, while Harry was disappointed with his mark of 44.38m but it was more than enough to place 2nd B for a solid 10 points. In the 400m, Hugo Fleming and Will Stapleton took to the track. Hugo ran well and his time of 50.31 was one of the quickest we have had in the BAL, but was only enough for 6th A in an often high-quality event. Will, meanwhile, seemed to leave it just a touch too late to kick, but his time of 51.47 was solid and allowed him to mirror his Match 1 position of 5th B.
Next on the track was the 1500m, with the Shot Putters getting ready at the circle by the 100m start line. On the track, Scott Evans took to the line for his doubling-up duties alongside Alex Thomas, who has enjoyed a hatful of PBs across the middle and long-distance track events so far this season. Scott ran as doggedly as ever and a very tight finish saw him pick up an excellent 2nd A placing, just shy of 4 minutes (4:00.36), while Alex added a 1500m PB to his collection as he finished ahead of 4 rivals to finish 4th B (4:15.31). In the Shot, it will be no surprise to learn that we had Chris Dack and Nick Owen lining up. Chris was frustrated with his throwing and unfortunately had to settle for 3rd A for the second match in a row with 14.09m, while Nick picked up his 5th successive B string win with a season’s best of 13.84m – the two of them bringing in an almost-expected tally of 24 points once again.
Last on the track were the 200m and 5000m, with Mutara and Elijah taking to the sprint and Danny Eckersley, having a break from the Steeplechase, and Alex Thomas, taking on the unenviable task of doubling up in two of the three longest BAL events. The conditions were ideal for the 200m and all of our sprinters took advantage, including Max Perez-Diaz and Alex Williams-Baffoe in the non-scoring race. Mutara finished 4th A in an electronic SB of 21.83, while Elijah’s blistering start saw him bag a PB of 22.26 for 5th B. In the non-scoring, Max, who had also run 11.70m in the 100m guest event, and Alex both dipped under 23 seconds for the first time for PBs of 22.86 and 22.85 respectively – annoyingly slightly windy, but it bodes well all the same! In the 5k, Danny stuck in with the leading pack of 4 athletes and looked at home, only losing out to the Bristol athlete who broke away (and whose PB is 14:38) but breaking 15 minutes in an excellent time of 14:59.02 for 2nd A. Alex, meanwhile, claimed to have enjoyed the race and felt good in the first few laps, before deciding that taking it easy was a more sensible option – he still finished ahead of a rival and took 6th B by virtue of Enfield not finding a B string runner.
So, we finally came to the relays. Chris Hall’s injury meant that Alex Williams-Baffoe joined the rest of Match 1’s team – Max Perez-Diaz, Elijah Lyle-Vidal and Mutara Sheriff – for the 4x100m. I will be kind and say that one changeover in particular was ‘dodgy’, but the guys otherwise ran well and the time of 43.81 and position of 5th were gratefully received. In the 4x400m, a surprisingly keen Mutara joined Elijah, Will Stapleton and Hugo Fleming. Unfortunately, a devastating injury to Elijah halfway through his leg put paid to a good time, but all the credit to Elijah who hobbled and limped the rest of the lap to ensure that we picked up the 4 points instead of forfeiting. It was such a shame to end on that note and we sincerely hope Elijah recovers quickly to continue his excellent season.
The scores were painfully slow to come out, and all but 2 of the team had left by the time they were announced roughly 90 minutes after the 4x400 (this is no exaggeration). They also took the form of a piece of paper given to one person rather than an announcement, but ultimately it was revealed that Kingston finished 4th. The initial relief that our relatively threadbare team had snatched 4th soon turned to reflection on what might have been as it was revealed that we were only 10 points off first. In addition to that, getting two Steeplechasers out would have given us 7 points and joint 2nd (and that’s if they both finished last – one overtake and we would’ve been 2nd outright). However, the good news is that we are still top of the division after two matches – joint on league points with Kent, but with more match points. We are also, crucially, 2 league points clear of 3rd.
Our next match is on Saturday 15th July in the inaugural ‘Big Day’, which puts every team in the BAL in the same venue to run all 5 Divisions’ matches concurrently. I would argue the Yate match proved that the Kingston match was no fluke and that we are definitely capable of winning this division; yes, other teams had their own problems but if Elijah and I hadn’t pushed ourselves to injury, we would’ve won the match. We need as many of you as possible to travel to Bedford and make sure we put ourselves in a great position to get promoted to Division 1, as our 2 wins in our last 4 fixtures prove that we are more than capable of winning matches in this division now. Looking back to those who were at Yate, I would like to say a massive heartfelt thank you to everyone for running, jumping and throwing their hearts out, and to everyone who came to support for boosting our athletes even more. Thanks, too, to Mark Hall, Peter and Humphrey Waddington and David Barrington for calming my shot nerves and sorting the team out while I was trying not to break myself on the Long Jump runway.
So, we go again on July 15th. The team spirit we want to see is one where we clear a height in Pole Vault despite being injured to score a couple of points; it’s running 200m in absolute agony to help the team score 4; it’s coming along to non-score but also cheering on our teammates and being ready to come in if needed; it’s doing an unfamiliar event and surprising ourselves with how well we did. We can do this but we need the numbers to spread the workload, and as a senior member of the team I can safely say that turning up to compete will be met with nothing but admiration from everyone at Kingston and Poly, so if the call comes please answer with a resounding ‘yes’. See you there everyone!
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