Written by Chris Hall
British Athletics League Division 2, Match 1
Chelmsford, 9thJune 2019
The British Athletics League season finally kicked off for Kingston and Poly’s Senior Men on the weekend normally reserved for Match 2, following the cancelled first match in May. After a season trying out the dizzying heights of Division 1, which turned out to be a fraction too dizzying, in was back to Division 2 for Kingston as they made their way to Essex and the impressive facilities at Chelmsford. The match was to be a double header with Division 2 of the UK Women’s League and with it a different timetable to usual.
The team was relatively small at 18 athletes, with exams as ever causing havoc and preventing many college and university students from competing, but on the whole we were confident of a decent result, even without a recognised B High Jumper or Pole Vaulter.
And it was Pole Vault that started the day. For it we had Bilen Ahmet, nursing an ankle injury, and a game Humphrey Waddington, beginning the first of what was to be six events on the afternoon. A small scare of there being no bar extenders, and thus having to attempt the lowest ‘natural’ height of Pole Vault, was quickly overcome as Humphrey got over 1.94m for a point. Or two, as it turned out with one of the other teams failing to field a B string. Bilen, meanwhile, defied his disrupted winter and ankle injury to vault over 3.60m and pick up 8 points in 5thA.
Starting at the same time was Discus. Our usual A thrower, Chris Dack, was unavailable for this match due to the arrival of his baby – congratulations to you both Chris and Clare! – which meant that usual B string Gareth Cook was joined by stalwart Shot Putter Nick Owen. With a natural knack for the throws, you wouldn’t have thought Nick was the back-up as he threw out to 37.78m for the A placing, and making the cut, in 6thA. Gareth was slightly down on his recent bests but got 35.81m for 3rdB and 8 points.
The track started a bit earlier than usual, at 12 noon, and lining up for the 400 Hurdles we had Team Manager Chris Hall and Humphrey Waddington. Division 2’s 400H standard has often been brutal for those who only dabble and here was no different as it was won in 52.35. Chris was disappointed with the run but broke 60 for the first time in 3 years as he finished 7thA with 59.43. Humphrey ran with his usual tactic of a relaxed start and aiming to pick off others one-by-one, and he did so to great effect to finish 4thB in a pleasing time of 60.39.
At 12.30 the next events were up, with 800m on the track and Long Jump in the field. Lining up on track we had James Coxon, happy to double up with the 3000m late in the day and Jonathan Darby in the B race. The A race was relatively slow on the first lap, too slow for James, and he led going through the bell. It’s often a difficult task to keep that lead but James did admirably well before unfortunately being overtaken by three athletes, though he fought back to finish with an identical time to Chelmsford’s athlete. He was given 4thA in the end for what were a deserved 10 points. Jon’s race was similar and he absolutely blasted out with 300m to go, before the legs gave up in the home straight and he was narrowly pipped to third by Havering’s athlete. 2:00.47 was nevertheless a good time considering the death at the end and hopefully we’ll see another sub-2 minute run soon! In the Long Jump, Chris Hall and Humphrey Waddington lined up with aching legs after the 400H. Humphrey nevertheless jumped out well to 6.46m and placed 5thA, unfortunate to be pipped to 4thin the last round, while Chris was grateful for a relatively weak B string to win and bring in 12 points with 6.28m.
The next two events were the Hammer and 100m. On the field, Gareth Cook was joined by Kyle Stevens to make up our A team. A couple of scares and no-throws put some pressure on Gareth but his experience held out as he threw out to 50.87m to place 2ndA and our best points haul so far, narrowly pipped by Crawley on the last throw. Kyle, meanwhile, was back to B winning ways as his throw of 46.77m took the 12 points. Hammer is usually the first event in a BAL and gets us off to a good start, and Gareth and Kyle definitely didn’t disappoint as they contributed 26 out of a possible 28 points! On the track, Abdou Njie was lining up at the start in the A race, with Alex Parkinson returning to the team for the B string. The windy conditions coupled with the 100m being typically stacked meant that our boys were up against it somewhat, but Abdou held off one to finish 7thA while Alex did likewise to place 7thB and pick up a valuable extra handful of points between them.
The track was well underway by now and next we had the 3000 Steeplechase, followed closely by the 110 Hurdles. In the Steeplechase we had Michael Huntley taking on the A numbers for the first time, and he was joined by a blast from the past in Andy Arbour, lining up for the BAL for the first time since 2015 after answering a plea from Team Manager Chris. The two ran superbly and Michael placed a BAL best of 3rdA for 12 points, while Andy made the most of three teams not having a B string, and beating one other, to finish 4thB. A super result that meant we didn’t miss our usual A team. In the 110H, Alex Parkinson lined up in the A string following a super start to the season which has included a PB (windy but what advantage does a tailwind even give you in the 110H?) of 15.20. His welcome arrival meant Chris Hall wore the B numbers. A headwind meant that conditions were difficult but Alex ran very well to place 4thA in a good time of 15.71 considering. Chris, meanwhile, fought back from 3rd to pip two faltering athletes on the line and win the B string in 16.48.
In the field we now had Shot and High Jump kicking off at similar times. In the Shot we had Nick Owen as usual, but this time his partner was Kyle Stevens in Chris Dack’s absence, though his recent form would’ve given management a headache choosing between them anyway! Nick has always placed well in the Shot and a cursory look at previous BALs shows that he’s never failed to place in the top 4 when required to take on the A string numbers. Today was no different as his 14.18m throw got him 3rdA – any further points would’ve required a superhuman effort! Kyle, meanwhile, had some choice words for himself as he scraped through the cut, but his throw of 12.36m was still enough for 2ndB and 10 points. In the High Jump, Bilen had been down for it but had to pull out due to his ankle, so it was Will Stapleton who volunteered to partner Humphrey Waddington. With the 400m only 10 minutes after the start of the High, Will had to take the lowest height possible – 1.00m – along with two other athletes to share 4thB. Humphrey has stopped High Jumping in recent years due to the damage it has dealt on his foot, but he defied that and his lack of recent practice by clearing 1.70m for 6thA.
Next on track was the aforementioned 400m, following soon after by the 1500m. Will Stapleton has recently joined the sub-50 club with the fastest 400m time for a first claim for some years, and his reward was the notoriously brutal A string, with Max Perez-Diaz taking the B spot after winning the Surrey Championships earlier in the year. A draw in Lane 8 put Will up against it from the off, and despite looking like he may have got the pacing wrong, his time was impressive as he clocked 50.24. Max, meanwhile, looked very relaxed in the first 200m before producing a barnstorming finish, picking off 3 athletes in the final stretch to take 4thB in a super time of 50.06. More to come from these two, definitely! In the 1500m we welcomed Matt Atkins and Alex Thomas into the fray, in an event that turned out to be almost as brutal as the 400m. Both our athletes got stuck in and Matt managed to keep pace with the leading pack for the first few phases of the race. Unfortunately the lead runners turned up the pace, but Matt produced a PB (certainly a best since returning to the sport anyway!) of 4:13.14 in 8thA. Alex placed himself in the middle of the B string rankings and had an almighty last lap battle with the Notts’ athlete, in which Alex unfortunately had to cede 5thplace. His 6thB and run of 4:22.47 nevertheless picked up a handful of points and ensure that we didn’t give up too much ground to our rivals.
Coming towards the end of the day now, we had Triple Jump and 200m next up. In the Triple the weary figures of Chris Hall and Humphrey Waddington got ready for their 4thand 5thevents of the day respectively. Humphrey had been cautious about the Triple after suffering from foot problems ever since the end of the BAL last year, but you wouldn’t know it as he leapt to 13.17m for a superb 3rdA. Chris has found the impact of Triple a bit of a struggle in recent years and his 12.23m (for the only wind-legal jump of the competition!) is somewhat down on his best but still picked up 2ndB for a good helping of points. In the 200m, Abdou Njie lined up with Max Perez-Diaz for a race featuring what was described by many athletes, from all teams, as “the worst wind I’ve ever run against”. With that in mind, the times were never going to be great and everyone was anywhere up to a second slower than their PBs, but Abdou picked one off and took advantage of a DQ to place 6thA in 23.40, while Max was understandably a bit leggy after doing the 400 but finished 7thB in a time of 23.37.
The final individual events were the Javelin in the field, and the 3000m on track. In the field Humphrey rounded off a typically busy day with the B string numbers, with Will Trimble overcoming some niggles to take on the A string. A great throw of 58.71m for a BAL best since 2017 gave Will an excellent 2ndA placing, while Humphrey’s final contribution was 10 points as he threw 41.84m for a super return as 2ndB. In the 3k we had James Coxon lining up for his second event of the day alongside Scott Evans, who had spent the morning helping his students with exam preparation before making the journey across the South East. What followed was an exciting race with James and Scott towards the front all the way. Though Bristol took both strings, a rambunctious K&P contingent of the crowd cheered our boys on to superb 2ndplace finishes for 24 points. James’ time was 8:35.54 while Scott ran 8:46.48.
The 48 points from our last two events saw us jump from 5thto 3rdon the day, so there was all to play for in the relays. The 4x100 quartet was made up of Abdou Njie, Alex Parkinson, Will Stapleton and Max Perez-Diaz. We adopted our usual philosophy of ‘play it safe’ but the changeovers were smooth, and it looked like we were good for 4thbefore Max was unfortunately – perhaps carelessly – pipped on the line and we shared =5th. The 4x400m saw Abdou, Will and Max join Jon Darby to take on the last event of the day. The time of 3:25.37 for 5th was one of our better ones of recent years, but the top 4 had brought a few sub-50 runners between them and we were in no man’s land for the last two legs. The time though was just reward for some determined running to put ourselves as ‘best of the rest’ and faster times will follow I’m sure!
The scores were read out a few minutes after the 4x400m and it transpired that Crawley’s win actually put them above us, which meant it was a 4thplace finish for Kingston in Match 1. A slightly deflating end, but we had actually been in 5thand below for a significant proportion of the day so it certainly could have been worse. The match results show that we had the smallest team there – our 18 athletes were dwarfed by the 26 that winners Havering AC put out, and that luxury was the difference in the end. Our next match is a home one, and we have won our last 2 BAL matches there, so with more bodies in July there is no reason why we couldn’t make it three in a row. I don’t at all want to take anything away from those at Chelmsford – we had some spirited performances, some excellent season’s bests and everyone there got stuck in and couldn’t have given more for the club.
All that’s left to say is a massive thank you to Mark Hall for helping me run the team, offering advice, geeing me up and offering lifts, to Brenda Ford for volunteering to Track Judge as our sole K&P travelling official, to the Waddingtons for once again being a massive help and source of unwavering support, to the Perez-Diaz, Owen, Cook families for cheering us on at the stadium, and to everyone else who came to support our athletes. Lastly, a word to David Barrington, who unfortunately had to miss this BAL - his first absence for many a year – due to illness. Thank you for your continued support from afar and we hope to see you once again on July 6th!
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