Written by DB
The substantial commitment and support displayed throughout this year's campaign - both on and off the arena by team members and supporters alike - was mirrored for the long trek north for the final match of the season - and we were rewarded with a solid 5th place and completed hostilities with 4th overall. This equals our best position over the 4 years back in the elite,but we accumulated more league and match points this year - 21/1189.5 as opposed to 18/1089 in 2003. Progress is measured but we must push on. A match report follows - full results can be found on the BAL website - www.bal.org.uk
At 100/200,Victor Nwagbara and James Heptonstall went well,given their day's heavy schedules - Victor has been carrying sore hamstrings all summer and a lesser man might not have travelled whilst James has competed in more events than any other athlete - and very successfully - scoring a substantial 162 points over the 4 matches.
Over 400/800,Jamie McCullagh confirmed improved speed and tactics,clocking just outside 50secs and winning the A800 in 1.52.78; Adam Bellis returned hearteningly from injury with 2 races at 50 point and Ron Taylor again showed ability and determination in taking 4 secs off his 800 pb(2.02.40).
Two of our M45 Vets - a not-too-fit Ant Budarkiewicz and sprinter Mike May - gallantly ran the 1500 and Ross Shaddick made his trip from Plymouth worthwhile with a season's best over 5000. Andy Arbour worked hard as always but was our sole rep. at 3000 Steeple,with team captain Mike Maranzano sadly sidelined.
The relays garnered reasonable points,with Alex Hatherley making his BAL debut,but the journeys and the day's individual schedules were taking their toll by the finish.
In the hurdles,Mark Roberts epitomised the team spirit,having to work late into Friday evening and then kipping in his carrier - and then to prove that it can be done,ran into 3rd in the A110s in a season's best(16.03) and looking as technically good as anyone;Nic Owen also improved his season's best in the B. At 400s,Adam Bellis generously added to his repertoire to help fill an otherwise blank teamsheet.
Over at the field events,we were again prominent - the HJ was rather a filler but Chris Dack went over 1.80 for a SB;Mark Roberts was again on song equalling his PV PB at 3.80 and not being far off clearing 4m,and again Nic picked up decent B points. The LJ produced some aggro from both jumpers and the watching supporters where James Heptonstall & Chris Hall may have been a trifle unlucky but both made up for it in the TJ - James took 2A and Chris upped his best to 12.58 for 3B.
The throwers excelled - Kyle Stevens led the Shot for a time with a very satisfactory 15.12,eventually taking 2A with Nic easily winning the B at 14.51. In the Discus,Nic Owen & Felix Hatton were very steady. At Hammer,Gareth Cook nearly stole the competition late on but took 2A and Kyle picked up a SB in winning the B at 49.90. And we completed with a double first in the Javelin - Felix beating his main opposition for the first time in a BAL match(saving him a walk home) and Chris Dack,another who worked late into Friday evening, again improved his PB - to 55.57. Tribute,here,too to throws coaches Tony Cook,Les Hatton & Roger Bartlett,who have guided or are guiding those high five… et al!
Next season's opponents will be the other 3 remaining in the division - Notts,Medway&M & Basingstoke - plus City of Stoke & Crawley,who come down from Nat Two to replace promoted Gateshead & Derby;who comes up from the Qualifier(Sep 9th) remains to be seen,but,if Marshall Milton Keynes can get their best team out,they are my tip for Nat Three - good throwers inc Mervyn Luckwell(JT over 70m),AAA U17 400 champion & World Junior Champs 4x400 medalist Chris Clarke(sub 48secs),European LJ silver medalist Greg Rutherford,Andy Whetstone(sub 1.50 for 800) & 10.34 sprinter Craig Pickering(if he's recovered from injury).
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