Written by Chris Hall
British Athletics League Division 2, Match 3
Glasgow, 3rdAugust 2019
The 2019 season drew to a close with a long, long trip across the border to Scotland, and more specifically the Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow, for Kingston and Poly’s British Athletics League team. The last of a truncated 3 match season, we travelled up to Scotland in 2ndplace in the league and knowing that we could get promoted to Division 1 again if we beat both Havering and Crawley.
Come 6pm on Friday, we had 4 athletes in Glasgow, so Team Manager Chris Hall could be satisfied that we would fieldsomethingshould there be any problems with the flight on which most of the team were travelling. And problems there were. An hour-long delay worsened ever more until it got to 3 hours, by which time the flight was due to land in Glasgow at half past 11, which isn’t the most ideal preparation for intense physical activity. Fortunately the flight did land, and those on board did get to their hotel, and we did have a team consisting of more than 4 athletes!
Saturday came round and once again it was a pleasant, warm but windy day. And that wind, yes, was another headwind. One that will be mentioned many times through this report. Scotstoun Stadium nevertheless is a lovely venue, with an impressive sprawling stand containing an indoor track, café, gym and all sorts. It felt almost poetic though that in the BAL’s drive to use more arenas with two throwing areas, they picked this one where throws aren’t allowed in the inner, astroturf-clad field. All the throws were therefore slightly unceremoniously shovelled to an area around the back, throwing onto an outside field.
First up, and utilising this area, was Hammer at 9.45am which is possibly a BAL record for early starts. For this we had our usual pairing of Gareth Cook and Kyle Stevens, the latter possibly not feeling his freshest after making full use of the three hours in the airport bar the previous evening. It is fair to say that we’ve seen better results from our often-unflappable throwers as they struggled to get to grips with the throwing circle, but Gareth’s 4thA with 49.13m and Kyle’s 2ndB throw of 45.78m represented a decent points return for an off-day!
Almost two hours later came our next events, with Pole Vault on the field and 400 Hurdles coming up on track. In the Pole Vault we had the ever-reliable Bilen Ahmet as he lined up with Humphrey Waddington, once again gamely filling in after the failure to find a B vaulter. Bilen’s consistency this season despite being injury-hit early doors has been impressive, and he again jumped 3.80m to finish 5thA on countback. Humphrey, meanwhile, had an easier time than at Chelmsford as we did have bar extenders here, and he duly cleared 1.80m to score 3 useful points as 6thB. In the 400 Hurdles, we had TM Chris Hall and a first BAL 400H appearance for Will Stapleton. Chris was drawn in Lane 8 but ran a steady race and finished strongly enough to nab 5thA in a PB of 58.01. Will’s 400 Hurdles future has been bigged up by his TM for a number of weeks now and he repaid the faith in style as he defied his slightly dodgy hurdling to storm home and win the B race in a 2019 club-leading 57.63. A superb result!
Discus and 800m were the next events up. On the field we had Gareth Cook teaming up with Chris Dack, who like Kyle had had what I will charitably call a ‘heavy night’. Discus has been a close-run thing this year which unfortunately means that drops in form are punished quite heavily and it was the case here as Chris missed the cut, but took 2ndB with his throw of 36.37m. That meant that Gareth took the A numbers, and despite a very good season’s best of 38.01m, it was only enough for 7thA. We have relied on our throwers so often over the years that you forget that they’re only human! Over on track, we had James Coxon and Jonathan Darby lining up to take on the 800m. James is fast becoming one of our most important athletes and his gutsy run in the A race, where he led from the front once more, showed again that we are lucky to have him. It always looked like a couple behind him were waiting to pounce, and he was eventually pipped to 3rdby the Bristol athlete but 4thA with 1:56.49 brought home great points. Jon’s race also involved him racing towards the front, and at one point he was overtaking on the bend in Lane 2 for a big athletics no-no, but his determined run and finish brought with it a superb 2ndB result and breaking the 2 minute barrier for the first time since 2016 – 1:59.21 was the time and 10 points was the haul.
Moving swiftly on, next up we had the Long Jump on the field, with the 100m sprint getting ready on track. In the Long Jump it was no surprise to see Chris and Humphrey line up for K&P. The baffling decision was made to hold the Long Jump going into the gale-force winds, so to say that it was a weird competition is an understatement, with poor distances and no jumps galore. Adding to the difficulty for Humphrey was a last-minute Steeplechase call, but he got a safe jump in before other demands took over and his 6.18m took 5thB. Chris, meanwhile, took the A place for the first time this season and was frustrated that his best of 6.29m was into a -2.0 wind. 5thA was the result for him – not as many points in Long Jump as we may be used to, but still an okay haul! In the 100m, Abdou enjoyed a positively calm wind of -1.2 as he fought to stay ahead of Notts’ athlete in finishing 7thA with 11.32. Elijah wasn’t so ‘lucky’, and had -3.1 to contend with as his 11.55 brought home 5thB. Always a tough event, we take any extra points we can in the 100m and Abdou and Elijah provided us with 9.
On track after the 100m, but embedded firmly within the Long Jump schedule, was the 3000 Steeplechase, with the 110 Hurdles being set up in preparation to go ahead straight afterwards. We had hoped that U20 Eric Williams would be making his BAL debut in this alongside Alex Thomas trying a new event, but an unfortunate mix-up meant that he wasn’t available; Humphrey Waddington duly stepped in and Alex took on the A numbers. Both our boys did what they could to hang on to stragglers from other teams, and full marks to both of them for filling in in an event that we should really be winning easily when our best athletes are available. Alex’s 11:25.22 is a time he should be pleased with all things considered, and likewise Humphrey’s 12:58.61 in the middle of an already-busy day is one to be proud of. 6thA and 5thB, each one picking off a rival, brought 10 useful points. In the 110H we did have our current first choice duo of Alex Parkinson and Chris Hall in two races where the wind readings must have been broken or obstructed as they make absolutely no sense (-0.2 and +0.2 were the readings for the unmistakable headwind). Alex has shown remarkable consistency with his times in all manner of silly conditions and he once again ran 15.62, as at the Kingston match, to take a valuable 4thA. Chris, meanwhile, was probably the favourite in the B race and didn’t disappoint as he stormed to a win in 16.20, his quickest time since 2016.
Next on the timetable were two field events – the Shot Put and the High Jump. Taking to the Shot were Chris Dack and Kyle Stevens, both hoping for some better results than in their previous throwing events. And better them they did, with Chris narrowly missing out to the Chelmsford athlete as he threw out to 13.79m to take 3rdA. Kyle would’ve needed a big season’s best to win the B, but he did the next best thing in comfortably taking 10 points in 2nd. Excellent points for our two! In the High Jump we had Humphrey for yet another event, joined by Bilen Ahmet who has had a relatively quiet season this time round! High Jump is another event where we can make big gains if our strongest team turn out, but Humphrey and Bilen maximised the realistic points on offer with two equal season’s-bests of 1.75m for 7thA and 1.65m for 6thB respectively. Crucially, they equalled Havering’s result in the event, too.
Into the latter stages of the day and next on the track were the 400m and 1500m. In the one-lap sprint we had new recruit Will Oyowe, formerly a Belgian international with an extraordinary PB of 45.88, in the A string, with Max Perez-Diaz as our ever-able back-up in the B race. Will by his own admission has not been firing on all cylinders this year but he ran sub-50 and our best A string result of the year as he finished 6thA in 49.78. Max didn’t quite reach the heights of his 2ndplace in Kingston but he ran a decent race to place 5thB in a time of 51.38. In the 1500m we had James Coxon in his preferred event, with Jon Darby again joining him following their 800m earlier in the day. I won’t be able to do the race justice, but James ran extremely well towards the front of the pack for the whole race, and in the inverse of what usually happens to him in the 800m, he shot past all of his rivals in the final 200m to take an absolutely superb A win in 3:56.69. He was ably backed up by Jon who fought well and took a narrow 5thB in 4:15.44 – never easy to double up but our guys picked up an excellent 20 points.
On the field next was Triple Jump, while the 200m was being prepared on the track close by. Chris and Humphrey once again took to the runway, both with weary legs but having already contributed well. Better was to come though as the Triple Jump was a world away from the strength of the Long Jump, and Humphrey’s first jump was actually enough to win the entire thing and pick up a superb 16 points and a 4th-ever A string victory with 13.16m! Chris equalled his season’s best but had to settle for 2ndB with 12.43m. 26 points for this and 46 out of 56 from our last two events. Were our fortunes truly turning now? In the 200m we once again had Abdou and Elijah lining up on the blocks. Both of our sprinters seem a lot more at home in the 200m compared to the 100m and they again placed decently here. More terrible headwinds were the order of the day though and times weren’t ever going to be important. Nevertheless, Abdou ran 22.57 into a -1.5 to place 6thA while Elijah clocked 22.86 into a nonsense -2.2 wind to finish 4thB.
The final individual events were now upon us, and they were the 5000m and Javelin. Some excellent persuasive techniques from management meant that James Coxon was coerced into riding the wave of adrenaline from the 1500m to give the 5k a go. He was joined by Alex Thomas, who was always doing it! Our philosophy always has been to put someone in every event, as you never know which other teams won’t show or will just fill the gaps too. This again worked to our advantage as James was able to take it easy (well, as much as one can in a 12.5 lap race!) and still place a useful 5thA in 16:00.68, and Alex finished ahead of a rival and got an extra bonus point in Crawley’s absence as he finished 6thB in a season’s best time of 16:57.06. Over at the Javelin, we had a busy Humphrey partnering Chris Dack, who was drafted in following Will Trimble suffering an injury. Chris has given up the Javelin approximately 15 times now, but here he was giving it another go! In a game of tight margins, 47.01m was the distance, which got him 5thA but he was less than 40cm off third. Humphrey meanwhile didn’t quite get over 40m, but his position of 4thB with 39.59m was decent in an event that was much stronger than previous meets. Another excellent haul of points and 6 events done for an invaluable contribution.
Throughout the day, it must be said that we were never in the Top 2, always behind the absolutely dominant Glasgow and hovering around Havering and Chelmsford. As we moved onto the relays, optimism was fading but the news that Herne Hill and Crawley weren’t staying for the 4x400m meant there were some extra points up for grabs. In the 4x100m we had Abdou, Alex Parkinson, Max and Elijah. After 2 faulty starts, we were finally on the way on the third attempt but our race lasted around 8 seconds as Abdou accidentally dropped the baton midway through his leg. A big disappointment but these things happen! Abdou did redeem himself with a terrific leg in the 4x400m alongside Will Oyowe, Will Stapleton and Max, as they ran K&P’s second fastest time since 2013 – 3:22.29 – to place 4thand bring home a final 10 points.
By now we had accepted that promotion was unlikely, and the final results confirmed that Havering had indeed finished 2ndand therefore leapfrogged up in the table, while Chelmsford took 3rdon the day. Still, only 25 points separated us in 4thand Havering in 2nd, so there is a bit of frustration at what might have been had we had another couple of athletes. Having said that, the team were in very good spirits and already seem raring to go for next year, which is all that any team manager could ask for!
The fact we came so close with two matches having had some of our smallest squads ever, and with some big names missing all season, is testament to how far we’ve come in the BAL. Our squad of 15 in Glasgow was probably the smallest we’ve ever had, and the one match that we could call on over 20 athletes we won by miles. For comparison, Havering had 23 athletes in Glasgow, and it does make a difference to not have to rely on two people to fill 10 strings between them! Our BAL commitments only extend to 4 weekends a year, and hopefully these reports give an insight into how fun the days are, how good a challenge it is and how much unconditional support there is for everyone who wears K&P colours. I hope to see many new debutants and returns to the squad next year!
A huge thank you to everyone who travelled with us this year, whether competing or supporting. I can’t fault anyone who represented us this season, and all 3 matches showed what a great club this is and what a great group of athletes we have. As always, a massive thank you to Peter Waddington, Humphrey Waddington, Gareth Cook and David Barrington for helping me manage the team and giving me advice, and a huge thank you to my dad Mark who as well as co-managing the team, took on the organisation of the Glasgow trip (hotels, travel, taxis, as well as all the logistics associated with those is not an easy task to get right) and made it a big success.
So, we move onto 2020. We’ve consolidated our position in Division 2 so let’s get promotion sorted next year!
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