id1932-BAL Division 1, Match 2, Portsmouth, 2nd June 2018

Written by Chris Hall   

British Athletics League Division 1, Match 2

Portsmouth, 2ndJune 2018

Kingston and Poly’s Division 1 journey in the British Athletics League took them to the south coast for match 2, as Portsmouth played host to a double-header match with Division 4.

Another stunning day awaited the athletes, with temperatures more or less perfect if a little too hot at times, and a wind that unfortunately was too strong to be legal.

For Team Manager Chris Hall, the build-up to this match felt easier with all events filled quickly but there were still some unfortunate absences and a few too many doubling and quintupling-up to be completely comfortable!

Proceedings started with the Long Jump at the earlier time of 10.30am. For this we had Chris Hall and Humphrey Waddington, representing K&P as a duo for the 5thtime already this season. After some early-season promise, Chris has found the going difficult recently in the Long and things were looking bleak after 2 rounds, but he managed to leapfrog a Windsor athlete to place 3rdB with 6.31m – a much better return than at Eton! Humphrey meanwhile has gone from strength to strength after initially being unsure if he would even have a season, and his jumps crept up gradually to an excellent 6.73m which was unfortunate to only place 6thA. 14 points was the result and a decent start.

Next up we had the Hammer, followed – owing to the amended timetable for the double-header – by the 400H on the track. Gareth Cook and not-quite-birthday-boy Kyle Stevens took to the cage, having impressed with 2ndA and 1stB last time out at Eton. And they went one better – Gareth took full advantage of Sale’s Callum Brown’s absence to take a superb A win with a throw of 52.16m, a metre ahead of Herne Hill’s Stuart Thurgood. Kyle backed him up well with a season’s best 48.56m to take the B string win and deliver the final 12 of the 26 points. A welcome surprise! On the track, Chris and Humphrey took to the start line for the second meet in a row. It’s probably fair to say that the 400H hasn’t had the quality we expected (save for the top A string athletes who are among the best in the country), but you can only beat what’s in front of you and we took advantage again. Chris found himself comfortably in 5that 300m and allowed himself a bit of a rest as he eased home and skied a couple of barriers to finish in 64.80 – about 10 seconds in front of and behind the nearest competitors. Humphrey was slightly more unlucky as he had to push to nab an extra place but his 4thB in 60.94 typified the fighting spirit we always like to see!

Next in the timetable were the High Jump and the Pole Vault, both starting at the same time. The High Jump featured returning HCA Harry McCulloch and Bilen Ahmet, both facing the unenviable task of trying to finish ahead of someone in what is a strong event. Both managed to do that though as Harry recorded a PB of 1.78m to finish 7thA, while Bilen placed ahead of Blackheath & Bromley’s B string and finished 6thby virtue of Herne Hill not fielding a second athlete. Every point counts and Harry and Bilen’s snatching of extra places was very welcome! In a sight familiar to SAL and Rosenheim athletes, Bilen was running between the High Jump and the Pole Vault, as he lined up on the runway alongside Thomas Snee. Thomas had an excellent outing at Eton with 4thand carried on his decent form in Portsmouth, though his good vault of 4.33m ‘only’ placed him 5thA this time round. Bilen, meanwhile, shone as he soared over 4m for the first time in competition since 2015 and scored a brilliant B win (4.03m). 20 points was an excellent return from the two.

On track we next had the 800m and 100m. In the 800m we welcomed back another HCA, Hugo Fleming of Walton, as he took the A string numbers. He was joined by James Coxon, who gamely agreed to double up with the 1500m later in the day. In the A race, Hugo led at the bell - the first lap somewhere in the 55s! - but unfortunately couldn’t hold on; his 1:55.26 perhaps unlucky to only get 6th(Match 1 would’ve brought 4th). James meanwhile ran well and was just shy of his PB as he placed an excellent 3rdB with 1:57.14. The 100m had a fraught build-up, as a combination of a delayed train and an impossible-to-find station meant that Abdou Njie only got to the track 10 minutes before the event. Luckily, Alex Parkinson was on hand to fill in having already got an excellent 11.15 in the non-scoring race. Elijah Lyle-Vidal was promoted to the A string having run well in Eton, and he went even better in Portsmouth as he went sub-11 with 10.98 for 6th– annoyingly there was no wind gauge yet it’s been given as an illegal tailwind. Alex, meanwhile, defied his lack of recovery time and curtailed warm-up to run a near-identical time to his non-scoring race – 11.16 for 7thB.

Next up on track was the Steeplechase, with Discus taking place 10 minutes later in the field. Scott Evans unfortunately came down with a bug just before the match and couldn’t recover in time, and the Steeplechase is not an event that’s easy to fill, so we had only Bilen Ahmet taking to the start line fresh from his Vaulting heroics. Ever the multi-tasker, Bilen not only jogged round but offered some coaching tips and held conversations with team mates, coming home in 13:48.43 and finishing 7thA. In the field, Chris Dack and Gareth Cook were our Discus duo again. In a tight contest, both of our throwers edged ahead of some close competitors to maximise their points haul – Chris reaching out to an SB of 39.90m for 5thA and Gareth edging 2ndB by 5cm with 36.49. Only 2 points dropped compared to Eton and our field score was ticking on nicely!

On track we now had the 110 Hurdles, with the 400m soon after. Over the barriers we had, you guessed it, Chris Hall and Humphrey Waddington, lining up in an event where a couple of national finalists rocked up to the start line wearing B string numbers. With the field being that strong, a much-improved hurdling performance from Chris only brought home 7th, 16.28 nonetheless showing promise that a sub-16 run will return soon. In the B race, Humphrey was frustrated at being pipped to 5th by the Liverpool athlete by 0.01 seconds, but his run of 17.07 for 6th was an electronic PB and, all things considered, far beyond expectations! The 400m is always a strong event and Max Perez-Diaz and Harry Reynolds were always up against it, especially with Max having suffered a horrible stomach bug in the build up to the competition. In the A race, Max nonetheless ran 7thplace close and his time of 51.05 was a pleasant surprise. Harry, meanwhile, also couldn’t quite reel in 7thin the B race but his determined run of 53.31 after a year-long lay-off brought home a vital point.  Harry’s willingness to try unfamiliar events and pride at wearing the K&P vest has been infectious and the stuff of dreams for TMs!

Entering the final 2 hours of the day, the timetable brought us the Javelin and Triple Jump in quick succession. Humphrey Waddington was in action in both, partnering Will Trimble in the Javelin, with Alex Williams-Baffoe making a welcome return to the team after impressing in the Triple Jump in the recent SAL match. On the in-field, Will carried on his recent good form with a throw of 58.13m to take a brilliant 2ndA and 14 points, while Humphrey was pleasantly bemused by the B standard as he also finished 2ndwith an SB of 45.14m. Over at the sand pits, Humphrey rounded off his day with another SB as he leapt to 13.44m – his 5thplace mirroring that of Eton. Alex, meanwhile, missed the board on practically every jump but pulled out a big 13m+ jump when it mattered in round 3 to make the cut. He extended out to 13.15m for a brilliant placing of 2ndB and a PB of 10 points.

Out on track, we had the 1500m and 200m next. In the middle distance event we had James Coxon lining up with Alex Thomas, having fought off dozens of teammates to win the right to do the 1500-5000 double. The 1500m standard has jumped up noticeably in Division 1 but James plugged away and came home 6thA with a time of 4:00.04 (which would have got 2ndat Yate last year), while Alex was just a couple of seconds shy of his PB as he got a couple of points with 7thB. In the 200m, Elijah Lyle-Vidal lined up in the A race, with Abdou Njie finally in action in the B. With six athletes going sub-22 it was always going to be a tough ask but Elijah’s determined run brought a PB and 7thA as he nipped ahead of Herne Hill’s athlete (22.20), while Abdou also found himself fighting for an extra place and he finished 6thwith 22.51 – 0.02 ahead of 7th.

Rounding off the individual events, we had Shot Put and the 5000m. At the throwing circle we had our two stalwarts, Nick Owen and Kyle Stevens. Ever-dependable, our strong showing in the field continued as both our throwers matched their positions in Eton, with Nick throwing out to 13.89m for an SB and 4thA, while Kyle did his thing and got yet another B string win with 12.47m. Another 22 points in the bag! On track, we had Matt Atkins take to the start line with Alex Thomas. The race turned out to be a perfect pace for Matt as he defied his age to stay with the leading pack for a significant part of the race, and it was no surprise when we learned that he had smashed his PB with 15:29.82 for 7thA. Alex, meanwhile, manfully tried to stay with a rival or two but with the 1500m having taken place barely an hour before it was always going to be a tough ask. He came home 7thB in 17:24.94 and greeted by a grateful TM!

Onto the relays now, and it was fast becoming clear that tiredness, exams and illness had decimated potential runners, so it was clear that this was a ‘just get the thing round’ job. In the 4x100m, Elijah, Abdou, Alex Parkinson and Chris Hall had a couple of dodgy changeovers but most importantly finished and ducked just under 44 seconds as they placed 7thwith 43.97. Chris and Elijah then joined Alex Williams-Baffoe and Hugo for the 4x400m. A very tired first two legs from Chris and Alex – no longer 400 runners by any means – meant that unfortunately neither Elijah nor Hugo had anyone to race against, but our safety-first approach turned out to pay dividends as two teams got disqualified! 6thplace with a not-quite-Earth-shattering 3:36.12 was a pleasant and welcome surprise.

I should point out that this meet was very well-run, with scores being announced very frequently and times being put up very quickly, so we were never in the dark about the match scores for very long. The first announcement of the day had us in 4th, but subsequent readings had us nosediving to last and then yo-yoing between 7thand 8th. As the day drew to a close though, it appeared that we had a chance of finishing 5th. After 18 out of 19 events had been confirmed, we saw that we were well over 25 points ahead of Windsor in 6th, and the final announcement confirmed it – Kingston and Poly had finished 5th! A superb result, our best ever (by virtue of being better than match 1) and just rewards for everyone who came down to Portsmouth. We actually scored 1 point less than at the previous match in Eton, but we had the luck that evaded us in match 1, with more teams being weaker in more events this time out.

We were still without some of our big guns, so 5thin this match was both a huge achievement and a reason to be optimistic that we can stay up. Next up on July 7this the Big Weekend in Bedford, the nightmarish match with every division competing at the same time. We need as many of you there as possible – both of our matches so far have had several athletes doing far more than they should, and as much as we genuinely enjoy doubling, tripling (and more!) up, if we can get enough reinforcements that every athlete can concentrate on a maximum of two events then that would benefit the team hugely.

All that’s left to say is a massive thank you to everyone who made the journey – Mark Hall for co-managing, Brenda Ford and Mary Waddington for officiating in the blazing sun, David Barrington and Peter Waddington for advising and providing an ear for me to shout into, families Cook, Owen, Reynolds, Parkinson, Claire Wadey and anyone else I may have missed for their unwavering support. It’s been a fun year so far and I quite like this division so let’s do our all to turn up to Bedford and Liverpool and get the points to stay up.

For results/table go to:


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