Written by Chris Hall
British Athletics League Division 1, Match 1
Eton, 5thMay 2018
2018 will go down in the record books as Kingston and Poly’s first season in Division 1 of the British Athletics League, and the first match of this new era took place at the Thames Valley Athletics Centre in Eton.
And what a glorious day it was too! Beautiful sunshine and temperatures that if anything veered into ‘too hot for physical activity’ territory resulted in a fair few Personal Bests and impressive performances as Kingston’s athletes tested themselves against some of the UK’s top clubs.
The build-up to the match was a fraught one for Team Manager Chris Hall, who not only had to contend with the bank holiday but also the BUCS Championships starting on the same day. In all there were around 25 athletes unable to participate, but nevertheless the usual minimum target of 19 athletes was met, albeit with a number of those doing 3-5 events.
If that wasn’t enough, bad traffic on the M25 meant that getting to the track in the first place was a tougher task than anticipated, and it was notable how sparse the arena was during the opening events as athletes struggled to get there in time.
The day kicked off at 12.30 with Long Jump and Hammer. Unfortunately the Long Jump was the event most affected by the traffic chaos as prospective debutant Jordan Aki-Sawyerr was unable to get to Eton until 5 minutes before the event, by which time it was decided that Humphrey Waddington would take the B string numbers. With all the commotion TM Chris Hall, wearing the A numbers, struggled with his run up and was disappointed with 6.27m for 6thB, while Humphrey judged his second effort perfectly to leap a superb 6.69m and place 4thA. In the Hammer, our formidable and dependable duo, Gareth Cook and Kyle Stevens, had a calmer time of it and achieved fantastic results as Gareth’s 51.77m and Kyle’s 47.13m placed them 2ndA and 1stB respectively for a brilliant 26 points.
I will now mention that the overall match scores were announced after the Hammer, with Kingston in first, so let it be known that we were top of Division 1 for a few minutes of the 2018 season!
The High Jump was due to feature Will Stapleton to score a token point, but he was also stuck somewhere on the M25, so Jordan Aki-Sawyerr was able to step in and score his first points for the club. Jordan had been allowed to take part in the Long Jump as a guest, where his best jump of 6.21m was just 1cm below his personal best, but he manfully returned again and again to the High Jump where he kept progressing to finally end up clearing 1.65m for an unexpectedly high placing of 6thB. He was joined by Bilen Ahmet who did just about manage to win the race to reach the arena by 1pm, and who leapt a season’s best of 1.70m to place 7thA and pick up 5 A string points.
The field in full swing now, next up we had Discus and Pole Vault. In the throwing circle, Gareth Cook stayed put after the Hammer to immediately get started with the Discus warm-up. He lined up alongside Chris Dack, who we are glad to see back in action after some health problems during the winter. The two produced another great result as Gareth’s longest throw since 2004 - 40.05m (a K&P Master’s M40 record) for 4thA - and Chris’ 38.77m for 2ndB kept the Field points ticking over nicely. In the Pole Vault, Thomas Snee took to the runway alongside Bilen Ahmet. Unfortunately we had another slice of bad luck as a 30 minute delay was exacerbated by the officials allowing an athlete to complete a 400H race and interrupt proceedings even more, which meant Bilen was only able to comfortably clear 3.20m before having to rush further jumps to make the Steeplechase in time. Even so, he finished 4thB for a useful 6 points. Thomas, meanwhile, performed his best-ever BAL result with a superb 4.40m that was perhaps unfortunate to ‘only’ get 4thA.
The track started finally at 2.30pm with the 400H and for it we had the unfamiliar duo of Chris Hall and Humphrey Waddington, in what was to be the second of 4 events with the two as the partnership. In the A race, Chris ran a controlled race and found himself in 6thcoming into the home straight, guiding himself home to finish in that position for a good haul of 6 points and a decent time to boot. In the B race, Humphrey also ran smoothly and overtook a couple of athletes to finish 4th(with 2 teams having been unable to field a B runner) and another important 6 points. Soon after was the 800m with Harry Reynolds and Jonathan Darby lining up, both of whom having had less than ideal preparation, with Harry having been out for over a year and Jon experiencing his own injury issues. We were very grateful to both for throwing themselves into the fray and both performed very well as Harry’s determined run brought home a 6thA finish in 2:03.51, while Jon also fought well and came very close to breaking the 2 minute barrier as he came home 5thB in 2:00.05.
The 100m and Steeplechase were next on track, and in the former we had debutant Abdou Njie, having travelled from Loughborough to compete for us, taking to the blocks with Elijah Lyle-Vidal. The 100m is always a tough race no matter which division and this was no different, as Abdou’s fast run of 11.09 was only enough for 7thA, while Elijah fought well to record a great PB of 11.01 for 5thB, only 0.01 off 4th. In the Steeplechase, Scott Evans was looking forward to his new favourite event as he lined up with Bilen Ahmet. In what is now a familiar sight, a Kingston vest led the way as Scott positioned himself ahead of the pack, and he stayed there to eventually sprint off and record a fantastic win in 9:26.88, 7 seconds ahead. Bilen, meanwhile, finished ahead of two other athletes - unfortunately only one was a B string, but 7thB for an extra point than expected was a good return for an athlete whose willingness to do literally any event is a Team Manager’s dream!
The Triple Jump and 110H were next up, and both of these featured Chris Hall and Humphrey Waddington once again. The Triple was 15 minutes before the 110H, so both Chris and Humphrey made sure to get a jump in before having to run off to hurdle. For Chris, the first jump was the longest as he jumped a season’s best of 12.70m for 4thB. Humphrey recorded a similar 12.71m jump in his first attempt, but went over 13m in the next round and then recorded a season’s best 13.37m getting 5thA in a tough Triple Jump field. Over to the track, Chris’ calf decided to cramp up after hurdle 1 which unfortunately curtailed any build-up of momentum. As the race went on the hurdling got better, but he was just short of the Liverpool athlete as he finished in 6thA with 17.71, but otherwise injury-free! Similarly to the 400H, Humphrey’s goal was to pick off whoever he could and he placed himself 4thB before safely coming home for more good points in 18.28.
The final field events were Javelin and Shot Put, with Humphrey completing his herculean efforts of the day in the former alongside a new partner for once – Will Trimble for his first competition of the season. Will began last season with a 51m throw but went further this time with 54.22m for 5thA, while Humphrey took advantage of a weaker B string than we expected for a great 2ndplace with a throw of 44.91m. In the Shot, Nick Owen was up for his first event of the day as he took to the circle with Kyle Stevens, returning to the Shot in the BAL for the first time since 2009. Nick recorded his best opening BAL distance for a few years with 13.89m, which brought home 10 points as 4thA, while Kyle can’t stop winning B strings no matter what division he’s in – his 13.44m effort bringing home the maximum 12 points.
On the track, the 400m and 1500m were next up as the day began to draw to a close. In the 400m we had Max Perez-Diaz and Will Stapleton, both in good shape in training though with Will feeling a bit of a hamstring niggle. Max found himself in a very high-quality A race where 4 athletes went under 48 seconds, but despite coming 8thA he smashed his PB to go under 50 seconds in 49.89 in a fantastically controlled race – more to come definitely! Will meanwhile also ran well, if a little gingerly, and was unlucky not to catch 6thas he finished strongly in 7thB, running 51.28. In the 1500m, Scott Evans took to the start line alongside Jon Darby, who hadn’t been sure he was going to compete at all and now found himself doing his second event. On such a hot day it was a tough ask and both our runners looked tired, though Scott’s 4:06.72 for 7thA is still the second fastest run by a Kingston athlete this year. Jon meanwhile delivered 7thB for double the points that we expected from the event, which was always going to be one that some poor soul was going to be roped into – thank you Jon!
The final individual events were the 200m and 3k flat. In the sprints Abjou Njie and Elijah Lyle-Vidal were doubling up after their great personal runs in the 100m. Abdou was again in a tough field with 5 athletes ducking under 22 seconds into a -1.7 wind, but his 22.56 was enough for 7thA and a decent time. Elijah again fought well in the B race and was just short of his PB as he ran 22.31 for 4thand a useful 6 points. In the 3k we had the Matts - Atkins and Hyett - for their first and only event, with Matt Hyett having kindly been on standby to fill in for any other track event throughout the day. Having never run 3k I can imagine it’s a horrible race at the best of times and coupled with Saturday’s weather, it was a tough ask for our two runners but although they both finished 8thin their respective strings they both smashed their PBs (Matt Atkins ran 8:57.20, breaking another K&P M40 record, and Matt Hyett 10:15.43) – we can’t ask for much more than that!
Onto the relays and our 4x100m squad featured Chris Hall for his 5thevent along with Max Perez-Diaz, Elijah Lyle-Vidal and Abdou Njie. Each of the team ran their legs very well, even if the changeovers were understandably a bit iffy having never run as a quartet before, and the baton got round safely. Getting it round first and foremost has almost always been our philosophy and it paid off as Herne Hill got disqualified to bump us up to 5thin 44.03. Max and Elijah then teamed up with Will Stapleton and Scott Evans for the 4x400, where tired legs nevertheless delivered a determined performance and a good time of 3:23.82 - last year that would’ve easily got us 3rdbut unfortunately this year we were only rewarded with 6th!
And so as the scores came in it was clear that we were going to be in the bottom two, but as it happens we were only 25 points off Liverpool in 6thand a comfortable 99 points ahead of Herne Hill in last. With the fraught build-up we probably would’ve taken that at the start of the day, but there is a nagging feeling of disappointment that just a couple more athletes could’ve spread the workload enough to allow us to nick another place in the table. Maybe we’re just spoiled now after finishing no lower than 4thand winning two matches last year!
A massive well done to everyone who took part on the day – I don’t at all feel that I have overstated our athletes’ performances in this report, as although we came 7thwe had a few athletes performing at their best ever level, and every single person left everything on the track (and field!). All we were missing were a few extra bodies as we were spread too thin at times, and that will come as we get to the other matches with no BUCS Championships in the way!
A big ‘thank you’ to everyone who came down to support as well and to Brenda Ford, who was a stalwart official for the Track events. We are always well-supported, no matter how far away we compete and you guys help us perform at the level we do!
So onto Portsmouth on June 2nd– we have given ourselves a chance by avoiding last place, so let’s try and get a mid-table finish and push on from there!
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