Written by Chris Hall
British Athletics League Division 2, Match 3
Bedford, 15th July 2017
Match 3 of the British Athletics League season took Kingston and Poly’s Senior Men’s Team to Bedford for the inaugural ‘Big Saturday’, a topsy-turvy event with a radically changed timetable to accommodate the fact that all 5 divisions were competing at the same time in the same location.
What transpired was a very difficult match, with confusion from even the organisers about what the arrangements actually were, with equipment breaking and scorecards going missing, and with a timetable that overran by over 2 hours by the end of the match (I left at 8pm and some events were still going). The weather didn’t help, as it started off with a sustained downpour that darkened everyone’s mood, but ultimately we got through the day in much better shape than we had feared.
The first track event, unusually, was the 3k. For this we had Danny Eckersley, choosing the flat race rather than the very-demanding Steeplechase, teaming up with Matt Atkins, making a welcome return to the fold. Another patient race from Danny yielded a superb result as he finished 2nd A in a PB of 8:33.43, while Matt ran very well too and picked off a few at the back to place 5th B for some great points, his 9:03.10 just shy of his season’s best. The field opened with Discus, and Chris Dack took to the cage along with Gareth Cook, who had been throwing very well in the previous few weeks. Both Chris and Gareth have performed magnificently so many times throughout the years that you sometimes forget that they can be fallible – unfortunately both were down on their bests and Gareth’s 35.50m for 7th A and Chris’ 33.60m for 4th B didn’t bring much joy for the two of them, but crucially both got points where other teams have sometimes been fallible in posting three no-throws or three no-jumps and thus no points, just as a Bristol & West Long Jumper did that very same day.
It only took until the second round of field events for the timetable to be almost an hour behind, but at some point both the Pole Vault and Triple Jump got started, just as the weather turned awful. In the Pole Vault, Will Gwynne was back in action alongside Bilen Ahmet, who answered TM Chris Hall’s late plea the night before, after Thomas Snee unfortunately had to drop out. Will’s return was very welcome and he jumped 4.40m for 2nd A, while Bilen defied some back pain to place 3rd B with 3.40m. In the Triple, an increasingly annoyed Alex Meaklim and Chris Hall took to the runway. Alex opened with a jump that was raked before the faulty electronic distance measuring device could take a measurement, rendering it void and meaning he’d wasted energy for no reason. He didn’t let that deter him though, as he produced a great jump of 13.51 to take a superb 2nd A. Chris, meanwhile, found his good technique from match 2 deserted him this time round, and his last round jump of 12.77m was too late to mount a challenge to 1st B, but was enough for 3rd B to continue the decent points return.
Next on the track was the 400H and 100m, by this time well behind the timetable also – not helped by a mammoth 100m programme that included nearly a dozen non-scoring races. In the hurdles we had Darren Meaklim, returning from a hamstring injury, and Bilen Ahmet, rushing over from Pole Vault to compete. The 400H has undoubtedly been a high quality event this year and Darren found the going tough in the A race, but came through unscathed for 6th A in a hand-timed 62.2. Bilen, meanwhile, picked off one athlete in a field of 7 and finished 6th B in 67.4. In the 100m, HCA Mutara Sheriff lined up for the A race, with Alex Williams-Baffoe drafted in for the B – a more familiar event after his handy outing in the 400H in Bristol! A great run from Mutara saw him place 3rd A in 10.82 on a day where lots of times were on the slow side due to the wet weather, while Alex wasn’t happy with his start and was only a hundredth of a second off pipping 7th – finishing in a time of 11.58.
The next events were the Javelin and the 800m. In the Javelin we had Will Trimble teaming up with Andy Wheble, answering the call in HCA Harry McCulloch’s absence. Unfortunately, it took place in the field behind the stadium arena which meant that I missed the entire competition, but the two of them were reasonably pleased and kept the points ticking over nicely as Will finished 3rd A (51.88m) and Andy threw 39.70m to take 4th B, just 10cm off 3rd place. In the 800m we had Scott Evans and debutant James Coxon, making his first ever club appearance after a few years competing for Cambridge University. Scott ran a more strategic race this time around, where he had sped into the lead too quickly in Bristol, and came through strongly to just steal 2nd A from Kent (1:56.15). James, meanwhile, ran very well with the frontrunners and also finished 2nd – a bit more comfortably than Scott had! It was a slow, tactical race (2:00.24), but it was an excellent run from our new athlete.
With the day starting to become slightly more tolerable, but still way behind schedule, the next events were the High Jump and 3000m Steeplechase. In the HJ we were happy to see Matt Broderick return to the fold, as he jumped alongside Bilen Ahmet, completing his quick-fire trebling up. Both jumpers took advantage of a slightly weaker field, but Matt’s jump of 1.75m for 5th A equalled both his best and Kingston & Poly’s best of the season, while Bilen jumped a solid 1.60m for 4th B and secured good points from the event where we’ve found it hardest to get a decent return. On the track, Scott Evans showed the impressive stamina that anyone who has watched him train can attest to as he lined up, less than an hour after his 800m, alongside one of the club’s cross-country stalwarts, Michael Huntley – making (what was surprisingly) his BAL debut. After finding himself in no man’s land, Scott dropped back into 3rd where he stuck with the Kent runner for the majority of the race and pushed ahead to finish an excellent 2nd A (9:27.32), while Michael ran doggedly to finish 5th B in a PB time of 10:36.79 for some very useful points.
400m was next up on track, with the Shot Putters getting ready at the circle near the 200m mark. In the 400m, we welcomed back Max Perez-Diaz, who had come to Bristol to non-score, do a relay leg and give his support as always, along with Elijah Lyle-Vidal, who opted to go for the longer, more painful but ultimately slower 400 after his hamstring injury in June. The 400m is often a tough event in Division 2 and today was no exception as all top 7 in the A string ran sub-50, but Max picked up the A points with one of his better times this season (51.04). Elijah was drawn in lane 8 but ran a controlled race and finished in welcome 4th place in the B race with a time of 50.77. In the Shot, Chris Dack took to the circle looking to put things right after his Discus struggles, with Nick Owen once again taking on the B string. And Chris certainly did make amends as he took 2nd A with a throw of 14.35, while Nick took yet another consecutive B string victory as he threw 14.12m to place first by over a metre, and continue his tradition of throwing over 14m towards the end of the season.
The 1500m was next up, while on the field the Hammer was finally getting underway, usually the first event of the day of course. On the track we had James Coxon taking on his preferred distance, while Jon Darby answered an 11th-hour call to fill in for Alex Thomas, who had dropped out through illness, to return to the team after missing Bristol with his own bug. Another spirited run from James saw him finish in a useful 4th place with a time of 4:01.05, while Jon got round to finish in 4:31.98 for 7th B. In the Hammer, we had Gareth Cook teaming up with Kyle Stevens, now finally with his very own vest, in the circle by the 300m mark. The bad news is that Gareth injured his foot badly, breaking a metatarsal, which curtailed his efforts, but in better news he still produced a great throw of 49.08m to finish 3rd A, only 6cm off second, in the process of breaking it. Even better still, Kyle continued his 100% record in the B string by claiming 1st with 44.91m.
With the end finally in sight, attentions turned to the 110m Hurdles and Long Jump. In the hurdles we had Darren Meaklim making the step up to the A string, with Alex Parkinson coming in for his first appearance of the season, having set great times over the under 20 height over the last few years but still relatively inexperienced over the Senior barriers. Darren was extremely unfortunate to come up against a stronger field in the A race, and his position of 6th didn’t do justice to his time of 15.98, but it was another great sub-16 run and another indication that he has a bright future in the event. Alex, meanwhile, hurdled brilliantly too and snatched 2nd B for an excellent 10 points and a massive PB of 16.12. In the Long Jump, Alex Meaklim and Chris Hall teamed up again in much drier conditions than the Triple. More EDM problems meant an athlete revolt was brewing, with the cruder but more reliable measuring tape the athletes’ preferred choice, but the officials persevered. Alex couldn’t quite reach his PB of 6.77m, but his jump of 6.44m comfortably made the cut and was enough for 6th A (in another stronger field), while Chris rediscovered some form and jumped 6.43m to finish 2nd B.
The individual events were rounded off by the 200, for which we had Mutara Sheriff and Alex Williams-Baffoe. The long delays for every event meant athletes were never really sure what time they were supposed to warm up for, and Mutara unfortunately suffered a twinge in his back which caused him to stumble the final 20m but still finish in a fast time of 22.15 (6th A). Alex came through unscathed but found himself in another high-quality B race. He did manage to pick off an athlete though to finish 7th B and double his points return.
And so we came, finally, to the relays. An injury-ravaged team, where even the ‘fit’ athletes had tight muscles and aches, meant that the 4x100m line-up was Max Perez-Diaz, Elijah Lyle-Vidal, Darren Meaklim and Chris Hall. A very unspectacular but very safe showing saw them finish 7th, but crucially in front of league rivals Kent AC, in a time of 44.95. In the 4x400m, Max joined Alex Williams-Baffoe, Jon Darby, and the tireless Scott Evans, forming a squad looking to finish in the middle positions. A spirited run by all resulted in Max biding his time and overtaking the Bournemouth anchor leg to finish 5th, and again in front of Kent and Herne Hill, for a decent points return.
The day was therefore finally over, but the wait for results commenced. And what a wait it was! At 8pm we finally had some indication of where we had come, but without any Shot Put results. As we knew that 2nd A and 1st B meant no team could’ve got more points than us, we were confident that our position on the day wouldn’t change. It has since been confirmed, undoubtedly, that we finished SECOND. Even better, Kent AC– our main rivals sharing the top of the league with us at the start of the day – finished 6th. So that means we go into the last match top of the league, 2 points ahead of Herne Hill in 2nd, and even more crucially 4 points ahead of Kent in 3rd.
That means a finish of 4th in Match 4 will guarantee promotion to Division 1 for the first time in the modern BAL era. Of course, we will be aiming to win the match, but this is now our contest to lose and we have a chance that we may never get again. Our rivals were stronger at Bedford but we coped magnificently. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to everybody who competed on the day, having to combat a very trying schedule and an officials team who were just as in the dark as the athletes, for their fantastic performances and contribution to another fantastic BAL result. Thank you, too, to everyone who came to support in the rain and for giving up their entire Saturday to be there. A special thank you, too, to Mary Waddington who was roped in to lead the increasingly stressed out athletes to their events.
And so we look forward to Lee Valley on August 20th. Last year we had to finish ahead of Swansea to get promotion; this year we lead the pack going into the final match. We cannot let this opportunity slip so please do your best to make yourselves available and get us well over the line. Division 1 has never been so near!
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