Written by David Barrington
British Athletics League National One M3 (of4) Bedford 7.7.2018
Promotion to National One, effectively the equivalent of Professional Football’s Championship, put Chris Hall’s Men’s BAL team into a cauldron of Clubs with extravagant personnel resources, but despite our fielding far from full-strength K&P teams in the first two fixtures, there was more than substantial commitment, enthusiasm, spirit, and not a little talent, amongst those available that we punched above our weight right from the off. This 3rdmatch, with the team gathered by Chris, but father Mark Hall in charge on the day, epitomised that sheer determination to keep fighting despite yet more K&P athletes being unavailable. We clawed our way into 6thplace, and with one match to go in Liverpool on August 4th, we need to target keeping ahead of Herne Hill and Windsor SEH to give us the chance of avoiding “the drop” and remaining in Division One. A 10% hike in athlete turnout and points across the board could well be enough!!
Dispassionately, in only 6 of the 17 "B" events was there a full representation from all 8 clubs. Simply put, we took full advantage of that and reaped the points benefits. The fact that our team’s members and team management covered every string on the day, and that gritty determination and willingness called the shots, means we are now up to 6thplace in the League, equal on 9 League Points with WSEH, but a full 44 match points to the good. HHH currently trail in 8thwith 4 League points. Two clubs will go down to National Two for 2019. All 3 clubs have long journeys from the south to Wavertree – if we take the fullest and strongest squad we stand a great chance of survival. This would be a huge achievement for a comparatively small club in exalted company.
Bedford International Stadium was in good nick for this 2ndedition of BAL’s “Big Saturday”, featuring all 5 BAL Divisions at the same venue. Though improved organisation and warm weather, and less than the familiar strong winds, made for some enthralling competition amongst the League’s 38 Clubs, the Officials in the Field events again had a fractious day and it was still approaching 7pm before the earliest final scores began to appear – luckily National One was ready first and our scenario for Liverpool emerged…
The match TT is much changed for this BAL bonanza, with the 400Hurdles opening the match at 10am and the inexhaustible Bilen Ahmet (6A 67.21) and Alex Thomas (5B 69.30) accumulating 9 points between them. The Javelin kicked off at the same time where our No 1,William Trimble was not too happy with his 54.02 (5A), but with Chris Dack chancing his arm carefully again for his best throw in many a while (2B 52.03), they collected 18 pts to boost the tally. The 3000m leaders set a fast pace, with James Coxon (who was to double at 1500 later) in contention and he placed a fine 5A (8.35.64), whilst in-form M40 Matt Atkins added a PB to his 2018 tally (4B 8.53.55) as well as a K&P Club M40 record – 14pts more. Long Jump followed – with our top four absent, occasional jumper Will Stapleton, thankfully now fit again, took 6A 5.79 (PB), catching Alex Williams-Baffoe late on (6B 5.31) – 9 pts.
The Announcer and Results team were well-versed and informative, if a tad loud, and match scores came quite regularly – track was well-covered but the vast number of field events (40 in all over the 5 matches) stretched the Field Referees, who check each card, to the limit, alongside trying to ensure full complements of officials. It was here that delays occurred – a challenge which is very hard to meet once, for instance, a PV or Long Throw gets delayed, as they can and did. K&P were soon on the back foot scores-wise, but so were other teams with far greater resources – on paper!
Along with the Javelins, all Hammer comps were on the outside arena. M45 Gareth Cook’s previous win in M2 was a reward for years of consistency, but the return of 2 x 60m throwers was asking a bit much for a repeat – still, 3A 50.59 was more than acceptable and his renewed partnership over the last 2 summers with Kyle Stevens has proved exceedingly fruitful. The latter was below his best but took the B comfortably with 43.67 – his 7thB string win, with the Shot to come, and his 30thB win in his curtailed BAL career – 24pts from HT. The 100s were exceptionally rapid in all 5 divisions – in ours, Elijah Lyle-Vidal (8A 11.07) and Abdou Njie (5B 11.20) knew they had been in a race for sure! – but 8 more pts. The 800s saw the BAL debut of Hugh Baker, who had run for K&P years ago as a 2ndclaim from Dorking MV in the YAL – now favouring 400s, his first 800 for a few seasons was also a tad fast out front, but his 1.59.42 gave him 7A,whilst Alex Thomas produced a searing last 200 to snatch 5thB(2.01.51) – 9 pts. Shot remains one of our ‘pieces de resistance’ and we took both strings – a morale-boosting 28 pts. Nick Owen produced his best putt (14.88) since 2012 and his first A string win since 2013 (also breaking his own M35 Club record), whilst a slightly wayward Kyle Stevens’ rotational method (1B 13.90) got him full points, despite the constant ‘threat’ to the lady official on spiking duty!
The 3000 Steeplechase was the day’s biggest K&P highlight – indeed, it must be about Danny Eckersley’s best day of his long athletics career. After switching to ‘chasing in recent years and quickly showing a real distance-racing talent to match his sublime hurdling technique, a sub 9 minute 3k and John Barnard’s 38 year old Club Record of 9.06.43 was at last surpassed. A testing pace was set by Alex Tueten (Southampton) and, at one stage, it looked as if Danny would wear him down; it was not to be, but a 2ndplace in 8.59.23 was the just reward. Michael Huntley had also returned to the fray and his 4B 10.34.09 ensured 20 points in the bag. The Vault also produced very handy points with the ultra-consistent Thomas Snee clearing 4.40 again (4A) and Bilen Ahmet grabbed a comfortable successive B string win at 4.00 – 22 more pts. The 400m was akin to the 100 – and 200m later – in that there were multiple runners sub-50 secs across the board. Debutant HCA Jamal Clarke, whose recent sub 49 PB was run at this same venue in the EA U23 Champs, ran almost as well with his 49.94 taking 5A,with Max Perez-Diaz,still working hard to get back to his sub-50 form, in 7B(51.29) – 10 pts.
High Jump, with respect to our pair, is best forgotten – Bilen was in the midst of 4 events within the hour and Will Stapleton was game for any points going and they both cleared heights – 6pts only, but 6 pts is 6pts at the end of the day – and not Nul Points! The 1500 featured the ever-willing James Coxon, fresh from reaching his Cambridge Blue target recently over the distance, and Jon Darby, again stepping in to fill a breach. James’s 4.04.29 (5A) and Jon’ s 4.27.62 (7B) garnered us 10 valuable pts. Our Triple Jumpers were Alex Williams-Baffoe and a Bilen Ahmet encore une fois – Alex found a raft of 14m-plus opponents, with the winner at 16.13, but hit the board well in R3 for an excellent PB at 13.33. Sadly he was 9thlongest and just missed the cut, finishing 6A, with Bilen 6B (11.79) for 9pts all told. Whilst that was in progress, Bilen thrashed past the triple jump runway to take 6A in the 110Hurdles, with Will Stapleton placed 5thin the B – yet more valuable joint contributions – 9 pts. Bilen’s tally overall was 28pts and Will’s 14 from their 5 events each and they played a huge part in our climb to 6thplace.
The 200s were speedy, too – Elijah Lyle-Vidal’s excellent 22.31 was personally unrewarding, perhaps, in 8th – but it was 4pts to the cause, whilst Abdou ran 23.02 for 5B – 8 pts overall. Both then contributed to the 4 x 100, alongside Max Perez-Diaz and Will Stapleton, which took 7th (44.11), and the 4 x 400 squad of Hugh Baker, Max, Will and Jamal Clarke concluded the Track events with 6thin 3.27.78. Those relays gave us 11 more points. Last event in the Field was the Discus where Gareth Cook threw 38.92,close to his 2018 best, for 5A and Chris Dack was 4B with his 35.16 – 14 pts.
It was a tiring, long and very hot day but, as they say, if we had been offered 6thplace in the match, and 6thin the League Table to give us some impetus to travel to Liverpool, then we’d have taken it! And aren’t we consistent – 241pts in M1; 240 in M2 and 239 at Bedford.
Very well done everyone both in the team and in support, particularly Team Manager on the Day, Mark Hall, and Chris, for some canny selections, before and on the day.
Chris and Mark have already started assembling the Liverpool team; there are probably one or two on holiday BUT, as you may well have scented from the above, and have been regaled for always on how important it is that we cover every event, the more team members who can make themselves available the better.
Let’s show the other teams how to travel. Please contact Chris soonest.
Full Match scores – 1 B&B 329===2 Harrow 322===3 Southampton 318===4 Sale 308===5 Liverpool 257===6 K&P 239===7 HHH 192===8 WSEH 180.
Overall after 3 of 4 rounds – 1 Harrow 23/1057===2 B&B 22/931===3 Southampton 18/906===4 Liverpool 12/819===5 Sale 11/801===6 K&P 9/720===7 WSEH 9/676===8 HHH 4/548.
Full Results – www.bal.org.uk - in due course.
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