Written by PW
Peter Waddington's Eye-Witness Report from the Principality. Full results - www.bal.org.uk
British Athletics League National Division 2, Match 1 Cardiff, June 6th 2009
Report by PW
After a brilliant campaign to win promotion in 2008, the K&P Men were left in no doubt about just how difficult it will be to stay up this season. On a miserably chilly and rain-sodden Saturday, our athletes fought doggedly, only to finish 7th out of 8 clubs (but a mere 2pts from dragging ourselves clear of the relegation zone), with two athletes suffering hamstring injuries in the process.
Injuries had already put the team in jeopardy, before we had even travelled. Many important performers were unavailable to team manager, David Barrington, including Felix Hatton, Humphrey Waddington, and James Heptonstall. Then just before we set off for Cardiff, our leading Long Jumper, David Cook, twisted his ankle in a freak accident and had to withdraw. We could be forgiven for wondering if Fate was conspiring against us…
Despite these setbacks, the K&P Men went about their work with determination and a lot of fight. For many of our larger rivals, the BAL is seen as a chance for athletes to maximise their personal performances in their preferred events, but for K&P the joy of this competition is more about delivering maximum points for the team. With the side at full stretch, several athletes gave their all in less favoured disciplines before even having the chance to compete in their own events. Our rise in the BAL has mainly been built upon our strength in the Field, but with our top 3 horizontal jumpers out, as well as our Javelin star, K&P needed the Track to give us something extra on the day.
Our Track Men did everything they could to deliver. Matt Field ran an excellent A-string 110 hurdles to finish 2nd in 15.1, but sadly Maris Kuklis tore his hamstring early in the B-race and was unable to take advantage of a sparse, low-quality field. In the 400H, HCA, Danny Eckersley, finished a very creditable 5th, despite being drawn in lane 1 where he had to contend with standing water that collected there as run-off from the other lanes. U20, Tom Parry, backed him up well with a good 3rd place in the B, which should have warmed him up nicely for the Welsh U20 champs next day.
On the flat, A-sprinter Justin Green showed a lot of class and fight against high-quality fields in both 100m (5th) and 200m (3rd), and BAL debutant U20, Jordan Smith-Bent took 6th place in both his B-races, where the quality was still pretty high. Chris Hall, on a hard-working day for him, managed 6th in the A-400m, but in the B-string, Adam Bellis became our second hamstring casualty of the afternoon, although gamely limping round to finish for a point. The relays were also tough. Baton changeovers were far from smooth, but the 4x400m was closely fought and looks the most promising for future improvement!
Middle Distance has long been the Achilles heel for K&P, but there were a few “green shoots” in evidence at Cardiff. In the 800m, Jamie McCullagh managed a hard-fought 4th place in the A-race despite continuing injury niggles, and James Moroney produced a gutsy run for 5th in the B. As a converted 400m runner, he might pick up a lot more places if he sits behind in a slow tactical race, rather than acting as a pacemaker for the specialists! Another gutsy run came from Craig Price, who produced a pb performance in the 1500m (surely his ideal distance?) to show that his conversion from couch-potato back to elite club athlete is literally gathering pace. 1500m B-string debutant, Michael Hobson (HCA), was much less happy with his run, but his true form will undoubtedly come through in future races. At 5K, Tom Beedell celebrated his conversion from HCA (2008) to 1st claim K&P track athlete (2009) with an excellent 15.37.4 outing, backed up by debuting HCA, Julian Hough (B: 15.55.2), building on his excellent London Marathon run. This is the first time I can remember K&P having two runners going sub-16 minutes for the 5K and bodes well for the future. Worryingly, Mr Barrington had struggled to find takers for the 3K Steeplechase prior to the meet, but eventually his call-to-arms was answered by the contrasting figures of callow U20 Tom Ratcliff who had only ever run one 2K version of the event before, and K&P war-horse Andy Arbour, whose recent form has suffered due to persistent injuries. They both got round safely and Tom’s remarkable sprint-finish felt somehow emblematic of the whole K&P team’s defiant spirit.
In the Field, the competition opened with Discus and Pole Vault in torrential rain. The conditions were so bad that avoiding injury was a primary concern and the PV was almost abandoned. K&P can be glad that it wasn’t, as U20 Gordon Lester made an unexpected and very promising return from serious injury to clear 3.60m (4th – A) and all-rounder Bilen Ahmet went over 3.40m (2nd – B). In the DT, club stalwarts Nick Owen (3rd – A) and Gareth Cook (4th – B) overcame a circle under water to garner their points, prior to their specialist events. Nick produced our one A-string win in Shot Putt (14.92m), where his nearest rival was K&P’s own Kyle Stevens, who won the B with 14.82m. Kyle was less effective in the Hammer though, where his lack of practice through various injury concerns led him to adopt a tentative approach resulting in a 4th place finish in the B. Our Hammer star Gareth Cook, also found the competition and conditions trickier to overcome than in previous years. He took 5th place in the A, which is still a fine achievement for one of just three V40s in the event! In the Javelin, Chris Dack went over 50m (4th – A) and another BAL debutant, Mike Clarke, topped 40m in the B, but found himself just unable to get past a gaggle of throwers who might be within his range next time.
In High Jump (another K&P historical weak-spot), Matt Field delivered to form (1.80m 4th - A) and injury stand-in, Bilen Ahmet, took 5th in the B. In the horizontal jumps (usually such a strength), we really suffered through our absentees. Chris Hall had to fill-in as A-string for Long and Triple and despite a very creditable 6.55m in the former, he faced some stiff competition, so points were hard to come by. Matt Field couldn’t quite reproduce his decathlon LJ form, but managed 4th in the B, and in the B Triple Jump Bilen Ahmet, encouraged to extend and speed-up his run-up, did well to pick off a couple. The team owe a lot to Bilen and Chris and Matt for their readiness to muck-in on events they are less experienced at.
Although the final team position is disappointing, it is of some comfort to know that we out-performed 8th-placed Leeds City AC, the club that was promoted with us. Last year we struggled to match them early in the season, so perhaps we have progressed despite our position. With a little more luck on the day (regarding injuries especially), we would have been out of the relegation places. If that luck changes and we can get a couple more athletes fit and out for future matches, we should have enough spirit and quality to fight our way out of the danger zone!
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