British Athletics League Premiership Division 2006
Match Four, TVAC Eton, 5 August 2006. Full results
Belgrave back on top
Left: Mark Miles provided added punch to the middle distance line-up in match 4
Experienced Team managers know from past results that the last League match of the season can produce big surprises. With the competition still on for the title and theoretically any of four teams facing relegation alongside the already demoted TVH, the Belgrave team managers were leaving nothing to chance.
And just to remind you that after match 3 the mid table positions were :- 4. Enfield and Haringey 13, 5. Shaftesbury Barnet 12, 6. Newham and Essex Beagles 11, 7. Birchfield 10. On the day with NEB fielding a strong team both the Shaftesbury and Birchfield team managers were predicting disaster for their squads. (Woe and thrice woe – a bit like “Up Pompeii with Geoff Morphitis playing Lurkio or Frankie Howard if you prefer.) But as the match progressed once again we were to be treated to an amazing escape act which left Enfield and Haringey with the second wooden spoon as WGEL spiralled into a most uncharacteristic collapse. Remarkably Shaftesbury and Birchfield avoided the drop. The Belgrave attention initially was on arch rivals Woodford Green with Essex Ladies (WGwEL) who were reported to be spoiling for a fight.
To the match itself
For the first time ever the Monday team held up and amazingly there were no changes to the team sheet as we arrived to a bright, warm, sunny day at Eton. Mind you Justin Chaston was booked to fly in from Denver, USA, Darragh O’Farrell from Dublin and Kris Gauson and Graeme Oudney from Edinburgh. Clearly no expense was being spared as our effort to regain the title started. Again the field started at 11.00 am and the track at 12.00 noon, because this was once again a double fixture with the UK Women’s League Div 1.
It was encouraging to welcome decathlete Kevin Sempers back in to the squad and he was immediately in action with Cameron Johnston to gain solid points in the pole vault, At the same time Leith Marar was striving for points in the A discus while Scot Thompson regained a bit of form to win the B event. Emeka Udechuku won for WGwEL but their B man disappointed and we came out of this scrap a point ahead. And then another win in the 400H by Matt Douglas kept our points on target backed by Chris Minn. Soon thereafter we got the news of two good results in the long jump with Darragh O’Farrell taking the lead in the sixth round. Richard Danso had big fouls and finished second in the B on count back. Again ahead of the WGwEL men. Mick Jones then had a good series in the hammer and was ably supported by event debutant Mark Allen and still we were on our predicted points target as attention switched to the track. The next hour would be critical.
800 lads looking for fast times
James Ellington wanted a stiff test in the A 100 and got it. Only 4/100ths covered the first four and it was James just out of the ‘medal’ positions. In the B race Darren Chin started badly and got up well to finish second. Both were ahead of the WGwEL men. Later they swapped places in the A and B 200 with Darren gaining third spot in a fast race won by Leon Baptiste. James won the B in fine style and but for a 2m/s headwind would have run a season’s best. Our 800 lads had been looking for fast times and had to take out their respective races as the field dawdled from the gun, In the A race Graeme Oudney opened up a ten metre gap with 300 to go and almost made it as a fast finishing Tom Settle of Manchester pipped him on the line. Kris Gauson tried the same tactics and was too strong for the chasing group, winning by a second.
The steeplechase proved the next highlight. How would “old man” Chaston perform after only three weeks training and a nine hour flight from Denver? Many of his fans arrived to watch and included old sparring partners Mark Sinclair and Graham Adams. And they were amazed to see the same elegant style and smooth hurdling which has always characterised Justin’s running. As he and Stuart Stokes swapped the early lead the field hung on only to drop back one after the other, with the exception of Stokes who had a point to prove having failed selection for the European championships. Not quite the fairy tale ending but Justin finished strongly with an 8.50 effort which puts him top of this year’s Welsh rankings. The WGwEL man was last so we waited the points score after 9 events with interest, Sure enough we were 43 points clear of our championship rivals. But what was this? Newham were leading us by 16 points. We were in second spot after all those fine performances. “Don’t worry,” said Bob Smith, “ We’ve had our strong events”. Good.
Fabulous pb from Ryan Thomas
With William Sharman in Gothenberg, Dom Girdler seamlessly stepped into the A110H and despite lack of training due to heavy work commitments finished a good second in the A race. In the B race Kevin Sempers waited for the recall after an apparent false start and paid the price. But more good points although Newham had extended their lead. The flat 400 proved no better as Newham gained second and first. In the A race it was clear that Set Osho still has a hamstring injury and we pulled him out of the long relay. But in the B400 what a race. Junior Ryan Thomas, who was injured early season, took nearly a second off his pb and was only caught on the line by Fernandez of Newham. Great jubilation and phone calls to anybody who would listen. His breakthrough, if it had occurred two weeks ago, would have meant selection for the World Juniors in Beijing. And to the 1500 which included our surprise – Neil Speaight – who has been busy on the International circuit for the last few years and was making a welcome return to our team backed by Jon Blackledge who had run a pb in Belgium a few days earlier. Neil duly obliged easing into the lead 20m out (having made all the early running) and Jon finished second in the B in a time which reflected the tactical nature of the race. So a first and second. We were no longer looking at WGwEL we were looking at Newham and they were second in the A and first in the B. So no gains there. And then another points announcement and Newham were 12 points ahead of us still. “Don’t worry,” said Bob Smith, “ We’ve had our strong events.” Oh Yes? Pull the other one!
Max points in the 5k
But so it proved. With Chris Gearing fourth in the A shot and Mark Allen winning the B followed by Mark Miles winning the A5000 and Stephen Sharp the B5000 we were beginning to make inroads. Wes Smith and James Everard outgunned the Newham lads in the javelin and we were away. We welcomed Samson Oni back for the high jump after injury and although he narrowly missed 2.20 his 2.15 clearance was good enough for second in the A competition while the ubiquitous Sempers added more points, finishing fourth in the B event. Meanwhile the triple jump had been delayed by 45 minutes by the women’s competition; this was unfortunate as Farel Mepandy had to catch the 5.00pm local train in order to get to a Scunthorpe for a wedding the next day. His busy social life meant he had just one jump. Fortunately it was good enough for third spot in the A match. If David Wellstead had repeated last week’s winning mark in the cup semi he would of won the B but it was not to be and he had to settle for fifth.
And so to the relays with Dom Girdler leading off the sprint team which gained a creditable third place followed by the long relay where fifth place was just fine. And then to the final scores where our late surge had ensured a clear win by 48 points over Newham. Meanwhile much nail biting in the other camps and eventually it transpired that Enfield were for the drop failing to stay up by a mere 22 match points. By such small margins victories are won and lost.
Thanks once again to Julie and Tony Ganio for keeping the semi injured useable. Much appreciated by all.
I guess we all think policemen are getting younger. Well to the team managers the Belgrave team is looking younger – and that’s because it is. Out of a team of 27 in this last Premiership league match of the season 15 have competed in or are still competing in the Junior League for Belgrave. Home grown talent of which we are very proud. And that includes old man Chaston who was a junior in 1985!
Results: 100m: 4 J Ellington 10.48/-0.1; 2 D Chin 10.64/1.8. 200m: 3 D Chin 21.29/1.6; 1 J Ellington 21.55/-2.0. 400m: 5 S Osho 48.23; 2 R Thomas U20 47.22. 800m: 2 G Oudney 1:50.50; 1 K Gauson U20 1:52.46. 1500m: 1 N Speaight 3:48.23; 2 J Blackledge 3:51.01. 5000m: 1 M Miles 14:15.15; 1 S Sharp 14:39.13. 110mH: 2 D Girdler 14.27/nwi; 5 K Sempers/nwi. 400mH: 1 M Douglas 50.88; 6 C Minn 56.26. 3000mSC: 2 J Chaston 8:50.80; 8 B Barton 11:26.20. HJ: 2 S Oni 2.15; 4 K Sempers 1.90. LJ: 1 D O'Farrell 7.34; 2 R Danso 7.12. TJ: 3 F Mepandy 14.70; 5 D Wellstead 13.69. PV: 6 C Johnston 4.20; 5 K Sempers 4.20. SP: 4 C Gearing 16.85; 1 M Allen 16.14. DT: 5 L Marar 51.02; 1 S Thompson 49.90. JT: 7 W Smith 58.15; 2 J Everard 57.33. HT: 4 M Jones 64.63; 6 M Allen 41.98. 4x100m: 3 Belgrave 41.20 (D Girdler, J Hussain, D Chin, J Ellington). 4x400m: 4 Belgrave 3:17.67 (R Thomas 48.5, K Gauson U20 50.1, J Hussain 50.9, G Oudney 48.2).
Teams: 1 Belgrave H 358; 2 Newham & Essex Beagles 309; 3 Birchfield H 292; 4 City of Manchester 281; 5 Woodford Green w EL 267; 6 Shaftesbury Barnet H 262; 7 Enfield & Haringey AC 238; 8 Thames Valley H 170.
Match Three, Alexander Stadium, Birmingham, 1 July 2006. Full results
Bels top the league - but it's far from over
Just as Match 1 presented problems with getting athletes back from warm weather training so Match 3 presented the joint team managers with the usual problems of finding out which athletes were popping over to central Europe in answer to the siren calls emanating from our new governing body – England Athletics Ltd., Nothing new in this. On the recognised fixtures calendar there were no England representative matches this weekend. But we knew from past experience that AAAoE would suddenly announce small teams to attend European fixtures at the last minute much to the displeasure of clubs trying to take BAL competition seriously. This we thought had changed especially as UKA Ltd were using BAL matches to mount their Challenge series.
But with the last of the AAAoE staff being moved over to England Athletics Ltd on June 1st we should have known better. Old habits died hard and sure enough two weeks before this fixture the phones started ringing and clubs began to lose athletes to yet another late and unscheduled England Athletics initiative. So much for the bright new world of joined up planning by the sport’s Governing Bodies.
A number of Belgrave athletes turned down their invitations. Dominic Girdler accepted one match, competing in Hungary on Friday evening but then got up at 3am to catch the red eye back to Luton, then train to Loughborough and car to Birmingham. His Herculean efforts, despite illness, typified the Belgrave approach to this match.
Left: Ryan Thomas (19) makes his BAL debut in the B 400m.
To the match itself
Another hot day and another early start for the field events in a tight and action packed programme designed to accommodate another combined fixture with the UKWAL Div 1. Just like match 2 the discus men got relegated to the outside area. Whereas Manchester had a serious downhill slope this one had an equally bad uphill lie. If you got a record on this it would count and be a minor miracle at the same time. Nonetheless Scot Thompson and Mark Allen acquitted themselves well with Mark winning the B comp. Good points followed with our best pole vault result this year. Joe Ive once again cleared 5m while Cameron Johnson fresh from his final law exams squeezed over in his first competition of the year to gain valuable points in the B. And then to the track with Matt Douglas winning the A400H in a season’s best and gaining man of the match award to boot. Chris Minn looked out of sorts in the B but struggled gamely to keep the points score moving along. Then to the 800 where Graeme Oudney tried new front running tactics and just got reeled in down the home straight. But his third spot and Joe van der Toorn’s fourth placing again meant above average points.
City of Manchester pull a flanker
So after a good start we awaited the first match points update with interest. “And in reverse order….. second Belgrave with City of Manchester leading by nine points”. What? We had been counting WGwEL points and here was CoM pulling a flanker. We knew they were serious when we saw Darren Campbell warming up for the sprints and Darren Ritchie for the long jump. Big headwinds made sprinting difficult and with strong fields and five false starts Darren Chin struggled in the A100 but the situation was immediately recovered when Wade Bennett Jackson won the B100.
The steeplechase followed and thankfully Bruce Barton and Mark Humphrey travelled by train on the day to do the best they could for points, With Birchfield having no entries they delivered seven points which was well above expectations. Good lads.
And then a golden spell which was to move us briefly into the lead. First in the long jump we clocked two second spots with Darragh O’Farrell registering a legal pb of 7.45 closely followed by Richard Danso with another best of 7.44 - a wind reading of +2.1m/s prevented it being a pb for him too. Then to the hammer with a slimmed down Mick Jones gaining third in the A closely followed by John Osazuwa who won the B. Meanwhile, back on the track William Sharman again eased to victory in the A110H clocking a fine 13.85secs into a big headwind. A tired Dom Girdler dragged himself over the hurdles to win the B and complete yet another max points performance for our sprint hurdlers. The 400 saw a welcome introduction to the team for junior Ryan Thomas who ran well for third in the B. With a shortage of one lap specialists the recently injured decathlon champion Louis Evling Jones held on well in the A400 but faded in the home straight and clearly has lost a lot of fitness. Meanwhile nineteen year old Chris Gearing gained third in the A shot while Mark Allen who is about to celebrate his twenty-first birthday won the B shot to add to his good discus points.
M-d men suffer in the heat
We’ve been struggling to get all our middle distance specialists together to make an impact on the BAL points and this time we called on Darren Gauson, recovering after injury, to back up Phil Wicks in the 1500m. Darren who is a sub 3.45 man at his best found this high class race run in soaring temperatures a baptism of fire and struggled from the gun. The field were caught napping early on as a runner broke clean away and as usual its was Phil Wicks taking the responsibility of getting the pack back on track; not surprisingly, he was unable to kick off this and lost a couple of places on the run in. But if that was tough, the 5000m men really suffered, as the mercury climbed in to the low 30’s C. Jon Blackledge handled the conditions well and stayed with the breakaway group of three but blistered in the last two laps to fall back and take third in the A. Simon Jones’ marathon experience showed as he picked his way through the field to gain a fine second position in the B5000. A wise head on very young shoulders! And in the 200’s Wade and Darren swapped places resulting in a fourth place in the A for Wade. In the B200 Darren Chin lost the plot as he entered the home straight but whereas in recent races he has faded this time he surged to close on winner Darren Campbell to snatch second spot; again big headwinds. It was still close but once again we paid the price for not having any fit specialist high jumpers. The javelin too suffered even though Scot Thompson contributed with a best for two years. James Everard was the first to express disappointment with his javelin but high jumping just before was not the ideal preparation.
Woodford Green would not lie down!
And still Belgrave and City of Manchester were neck and neck with one field event and the two sprint relays to go.
Things were looking good in the triple jump with Farel Mepandy second in the A and David Wellstead, back from University in the USA, taking a valuable second spot in the B event. It was coming down to the relays. And a quick check showed WGwEL behind Newham and Essex who had moved into third spot as they tried to recover their league position after their poor first two match results. But WGwEL would not lie down and to their credit won both relays. Our young sprint squad ran a season’s best to almost catch a fine City of Manchester quartet. Our 400 squad contained only Ryan Thomas as a specialist one lapper. Their final fifth spot was magnificent in the circumstances due particularly to a 47.8 secs last leg from 800 specialist Graeme Oudney. And as we waited for the final points score we realised that both Newham and Enfield Haringey had been disqualified in the sprint relay. Suddenly WGwEL had moved two points above Newham and given themselves a chance to win the league at the last Match. They need to beat Belgrave by 48 points.
So after a gutsy performance from a very young team Belgrave had moved clear to head the league. But with one demotion position still to be decided, the next and last match of the season will be strongly contested and could still throw up some major surprises. Team selections start next week.
Results. 100m: 5 D Chin 10.74/0.3; 1 W Bennett-Jackson U20 10.50/-1.2; n/s 2r2 J Hussain 11.00/nwr.. 200m: 4 W Bennett-Jackson U20 21.63/-2.3; 2 D Chin 21.54/-1.2. 400m: 6 L Evling-Jones 49.62; 3 R Thomas U20 48.45. 800m: 3 G Oudney 1:49.94; 4 J van der Toorn U20 1:54.91. 1500m: 4 P Wicks 3:50.81; 7 D Gauson 3:59.66. 5000m: 3 J Blackledge 14:38.34; 2 S Jones 15:02.55. 110mH: 1 W Sharman 13.85/-2.1; 1 D Girdler 14.45/-1.8. 400mH: 1 M Douglas 50.54; 7 C Minn 57.50. 3000mSC: 7 B Barton M40 11:06.10; 7 M Humphrey 11:36.8. HJ: 5 W Sharman 1.90; 4 J Everard 1.85. LJ: 2 D O'Farrell 7.45/1.7; 1 R Danso 7.44w/2.1. TJ: 2 F Mepandy 14.99/1.4; 2 D Wellstead 13.28/0.7. PV: 2= J Ive 5.00; 3= C Johnson 4.20. SP: 3 C Gearing 16.25; 1 M Allen 16.06. DT: 5 S Thompson 48.60; 1 M Allen 45.49. JT: 7 J Everard 58.32; 4 S Thompson 52.76. HT: 3 M Jones M40 62.94; 1 J Osazuwa 59.13. 4x100m: 3 Belgrave 41.00 (W Sharman, J Hussain, D Chin, W Bennett-Jackson U20). 4x400m: 5 Belgrave 3:21.02 (C Minn 53.8, R Thomas 49.2, J Hussain 50.2, G Oudney 47.8).
Teams: 1 City of Manchester 351; 2 Belgrave 342; 3 Woodford GwEL 269; 4 Newham & Essex Beagles 267; 5 Birchfield H 257.5; 6 Enfield & Haringey 246.5; 7 Shaftesbury Barnet H 245; 8 Thames Valley H 190.
BAL Premiership match two re-scored
After two matches Woodford Green wEL and Belgrave are virtually neck and neck - both on 15 league points but the Essex club having a 25.5 match point advantage.
The reason for the re-score is that Birchfield Harriers, originally filling 2nd team spot in match two at Manchester, fielded too many foreign or otherwise ineligible athletes. With a few of their guys being removed from the match results (one was taken out on the day), they slip to 6th with Belgrave moving up to 2nd. Woodford Green wEL and Belgrave now have one win and one second place apiece.
Match three at Birmingham on July 1st becomes even more exciting!
Updated team result from match two:
1 Woodford Green wEL 348.5; 2 Belgrave H 300; 3 City of Manchester 295; 4 Shaftesbury Barnet H 270; 5 Enfield & Haringey 258; 6 Birchfield H 253; 7 Newham & Essex Beagles 252.5; 8 Thames Valley H 179.
Match Two, Sport City, Manchester, 3 June 2006. Full Results
We live to fight again
Above: "Wardy" under siege - our only middle distance survivor from match one finds himself battling alone against the opposition. Woodford's Mark Burgess leads but the eventual winner was Shaftesbury Barnet's Gareth Price (tucked in behind Beagle Mark Warmby - number 5). Pictures by Pat Mead
Last year our match at Manchester proved to be our nemesis, writes Bill Laws. This year’s visit had been viewed with trepidation, especially as England’s footballers were playing Jamaica at Old Trafford just eight miles away. Travel was bound to be difficult and could we get the team there in one piece?
Fourteen athletes had to be replaced
At the beginning of the week the turnout looked good enough to continue our winning ways but by the end of the week overseas duties and injuries meant that half our winning match I team were missing. Fourteen athletes had to be replaced. Some places could not be filled but nonetheless we were rewarded with some splendid performances.
Joe didn't disappoint
Another early start – to fit in the double fixture with the UKWAL Div 1 fixture – saw our single vaulter, junior Joe Ive, determined to make up for his match 1 hiccup. And he didn’t disappoint. In swirling conditions he equalled his recent 5.00m pb and narrowly failed the Beijing qualifying height of 5.15m to gain a fine second place. Meanwhile there was controversy in the discus as the out of stadium field was declared to be too sloping to qualify for legal marks. The circle, too, had been cast just two days earlier and had a ridge in it. All this made Woodford’s Emeka Udechuku’s winning distance even more impressive. Leith Marar improved on his match 1 distance but in a close battle he finished below target while Mark Allen, competing for the first time for Belgrave in the discus, was also a bit below par.
Sub 51 for Ryan
But the track started with a bang, as in the A 400 hurdles Ryan Dinham ran his first sub 51sec clocking from an outside lane to just miss out on first spot and the B race saw the first appearance in this event for Belgrave of another young athlete Chris Minn who too was rewarded with a pb.
Graeme jumps the field
This was quickly followed by some exciting tactical 800m’s. In the first, Graeme Oudney had only one race plan – to go from 300m. And he did - pictured right as he made his break. A slow first lap of 60sec saw the field gather ready for a sprint finish but they were all surprised as Graeme jumped at 500m and quickly opened a 25m gap which even the fastest sprinters could not pull back. Negative splits are not unusual but to run the second lap in 52 secs which was a huge 7 seconds faster than the first, is pretty rare. The B 800 was a mirror image of the first but on this occasion Jonathan Blackledge got boxed down the back straight and by the time he had extricated himself in the home straight it was too late to catch the leaders. But another negative split.
Welcome back Wade
And the sprints to follow were to carry the momentum with Wade Bennett Jackson making a welcome season’s debut after injury, claiming a fine third in the A 100m followed by a second placing in the B race for Darren Chin. It was unfortunate that for both races the electric timing failed and the track judges had to decide the positions. Wade was clearly second in the unbiased eyes of the Belgrave supporters. Later Darren Chin was to win the B 200m from lane 1 in a big season’s best after Jason Hussain had disappointed in the A race, running nearly a second slower than his previous week’s Inter-Counties time.
We were sacrificing big points
All we can say about the steeplechase is that with only one entry we were sacrificing big points. Nevertheless veteran Paul Beaumont’s 4 points were better than none. The flat 400 was another event where our missing specialists made point scoring difficult. Ryan Dinham was feeling the effects of his earlier event but gave 110%, as too did Ian Deeth who has returned to the team after a 5 year absence. But there were not enough points here for us to advance. And in the 1500m Richard Ward was both our only middle distance man from match 1 and our only entry in this event. By now too many points had been uncontested and when the points scores were announced late afternoon Belgrave had drifted back from 1st to third spot with Birchfield just ahead of WGwEL. Our hope now was that Birchfield would push WGwEL into second spot so we could end the match with equal league points. But it was not to be.
Non specialists William Sharman and James Everard performed well in the high jump but the competition was so classy that they made little impression on the points. A similar scenario unfolded in the javelin where both James Everard and Wes Smith threw further than in match 1 but were rewarded with fewer points. James also got a mark in the triple jump where Farel Mepandy bettered 15m to gain a fine second spot in the A event. Meanwhile Mark Allen and Chris Gearing redressed the balance with good points in the shot when a drop to fourth team spot appeared a possibility.
Left: Long Jumper Richard
Hurdlers come up trumps again
A glimmer of hope was provided when William Sharman squeezed a sprint hurdles victory into a huge headwind followed by a clear second victory from Dominic Girdler in the B event. William was to be rewarded with an invitation to next Sunday’s Gateshead Grand Prix. Simon Jones was a welcome debutant in the 5000 and was to see one of Birchfield’s many Kenyan athletes run a non-scoring 13:48 time trial. Backed by the ubiquitous Will Cockerell we were just holding on to third spot. Will has been compiling statistics on Bel’s 5000 BAL representatives and appears to have proved he has competed twice as many times as his nearest rival. No doubt a bit more of that in “Skippers Corner” before long!
So to the relays
Well aware that a dropped baton could change the placings of most of the teams the Belgrave squad played it safe and were only headed by the WGwEL squad who won by virtue of some very slick baton changing. With the long relay to go we were still aware that a baton infringement could change the final result. And then, with 15 minutes to the start, Jason Hussain was unwell and to his great credit Darren Chin stepped in to fill the breach. How he managed to sprint down the home straight only he knows but he gave Graeme Oudney a sniff of gaining a place, Graeme responded with the fastest split of the day but again our lack of specialist one lappers was to prove our undoing. But we had held on to third match place and we live to fight again in Birmingham in four weeks time.
It was a long drive home through throngs of football supporters, celebrating a 6-0 win over Jamaica. The journey gave plenty of time to ponder a fascinating roller coaster competition.
Results: 100m: 3 W Bennett-Jackson U20 10.8/-3.8; 2 D Chin 10.7/0.5. 200m: 7 J Hussain 22.34/-2.2; 1 D Chin 21.44/0.6. 400m: 7 R Dinham 49.13; 5 I Deeth 50.14. 800m: 1 G Oudney 1:52.42; 3 J Blackledge 1:55.43. 1500m: 5 R Ward 3:51.95; no B competitor. 5000m: 6 S Jones 14:44.37; 5 W Cockerell 15:19.72. 3000mSC: 8 P Beaumont M40 13:14.60; no B competitor. 110mH: 1 W Sharman 14.29/-3.7; 1 D Girdler 14.21/-0.3. 400mH: 2 R Dinham 50.84; 7 C Minn 56.37. HJ: 5 W Sharman 2.00; 4= J Everard 1.90. LJ: 4 R Danso 7.14/1.2; 2 A Phillips 6.80/-1.0. TJ: 2 F Mepandy 15.08/1.1; 6 J Everard 12.52. PV: 2 J Ive U20 5.00; no B competitor. SP: 3 C Gearing 16.27; 1 M Allen 15.62. DT: 5 L Marar 51.90; 4 M Allen 45.05. JT: 5 W Smith 60.70; 3 J Everard 58.92. HT: 3 M Jones 65.34; 2 J Osazuwa 54.86. 4x100m: 2 Belgrave 41.32 (W Sharman, J Hussain, D Chin, W Bennett-Jackson U20). 4x400m: 7 Belgrave 3:19.42 (C Minn 51.0, I Deeth 50.3, D Chin 49.6, G Oudney 48.3).
Teams: 1 Woodford Green wEL 343.5; 2 Birchfield H 314; 3 Belgrave H 297; 4 City of Manchester 285; 5 Shaftesbury Barnet H264; 6 Enfield & Haringey 251; 7 Newham & Essex Beagles 248.5; 8 Thames Valley H 173.
Match One, Copthall Barnet Stadium, 6 May 2006. Full Results
Young squad fights back for the win
The first match of the season is when management act more like travel agents than team leaders, writes Bill Laws. Their first task is to check who is still abroad, when will they be returning, and then to approach the delicate task of when they plan to compete. A number of our team valiantly answered the call with the record going to James Ellington who flew in to the UK at 2.00am match day and still managed to make a valuable contribution to both relays.
As the day turned out Belgrave spirits moved in the opposite direction to the weather, which started bright and sunny but turned gloomy and ended with torrential rain. Gloom had already descended on the Belgrave supporters after the first few events which suffered from below par performances: a “no height” in the pole vault and a “no distance” in the hammer, while Commonwealth games returnees, Mick Jones and Matt Douglas, suffered a drop in performance and paid the price. Similarly the discus performances were below par and worryingly Scot Thompson was referred for a medical assessment on what seemed to be a displaced neck vertebrae.
A ray of hope from Ryan
Ryan Dinham, back after a year of injury, produced the first ray of hope by winning the B 400H in a time faster than the A winner. To reward him for this magnificent effort the team managers allowed him to run the B 800m 30 minutes later and his single point could well have proved important as by this time the team score was about 50 points below planned and the Bels were languishing in 5th spot. But then … the sun was still shining. To be fair to Ryan - his single point would doubtless have been more had he not tightened a hamstring just when considering a move up the field at 600m. The A race had seen Joe van der Toorn, suffering from a cold, boldly step up from the B after a late withdrawal caught us on the hop.
It all started to turn round
And then, as the clouds rolled in, it all started to turn around. A second place in the A long jump (Adrian Phillips) backed by a win in the B (Richard Danso) was followed by good points in the A 100 where we saw the welcome return of Darren Chin (who lost last season through injury) backed up in the B 100 by Phillips Idowu (honing his speed). The ever reliable Will Cockerell produced one point more than anticipated in the steeplechase and then came our only maximum point event of the day as William Sharman won the A 110H in deteriorating conditions and Dom Girdler did likewise in the B race. William had previously won the non scoring 100 in a time faster than the B 100 winner and continues to confound and amaze the team managers.
Our youngest pairing
The shot saw our youngest pairing square up to some elder statesmen and they acquitted themselves with distinction. Chris Gearing was a clear second to Woodford’s Emeka Udechuku in the A competition while yet another returnee from injury, Mark Allen, produced a pb to win the B shot.
Then followed two hours of sublime track competition as the Premiership match events alternated with the Division 1 match which was being held in conjunction.
In the A 400 Set Osho continued to show improvement in a season which has only just started for him, while decathlete Louis Evling Jones was another one who missed last season through injury but ran the field down on the home straight to snatch a fine second spot in the B 400.
The skies opened
At about 3pm the skies opened to chill and soak the 1500 men. Eighteen year-old Kris Gauson was looking for a fast time after finishing third in the previous week’s BUSA’s and he was not disappointed as a high class field ignored the conditions and followed in the wake of Essex Beagle Mark Warmby who looked determined to lead from gun to tape. Kris gradually worked through the field and with 200m to go sprinted after the leader whom he just failed to catch while the Valley’s Ben Tickner sneaked silver in a last gasp lunge for the line. Kris was rewarded with a big pb and is getting himself a reputation. And who should be just a few paces behind but Richard Ward who not only won the B 1500 but showed that he too is beginning to get back some of the old sparkle.
And then two second places in the 200 with A runner Harry Aikines-Aryeetey finding the conditions very different from his recent training camp in the USA. More good points came from Darren Chin in the B 200. He is clearly not race fit but getting through this without injury is a key step on his road to recovery.
Best middle distance race in ten years
And then to the 5000m which many of those present thought was the best middle distance BAL race in depth they had seen over the last 10 years. With 8 runners finishing in under 14 min 15 secs in appalling conditions the athletes owed it to Phil Wicks who hit the front early and relentlessly ground out a fast pace for the next eight laps only to find the big guns were still there. Andy Coleman, of Enfield, jumped with 600 to go and was followed by an attentive Newham man in the form of Steve Hepples. Stephen Sharp (another who had returned recently from warm weather training in Portugal) sprinted to cover and passed Hepples but failed to catch Coleman. Phil stuck to his guns and both he and Stephen were rewarded with big pb’s. More excellent scores and Belgrave were suddenly leading by 19 points.
In the field we welcomed back Seni Majekodunmi. He, and late stand in Darragh O’Farrell (who had broken a leg in a decathlon pole vault in Ireland during the winter), kept the score ticking along before the high jump result knocked us back again. The late withdrawal of our A string saw the ubiquitous William Sharman promoted and despite not having jumped since last year he mixed it with the best in still atrocious conditions to clear 2m. Dalton Grant only beat him on count back. Our B man Louis Evling Jones was still running his B 400 as the high jump started due to a 30 minute delay in the track program. By the time he had recovered sufficiently to consider any vertical movement the bar was at 1.95. Too high for him to enter the competition. So, 6 points from the high jump instead of the hoped for 26 and we were back in the pack as the last three events approached.
Javelin boys did the business
Fortunately our javelin boys did the business. Wes Smith had flown in from Finland at midnight yet still won the B while James Everard nipped past him in the last round to get a good third in the A javelin. The run up for this event at Copthall is so poor that many throwers will not compete there. This together with the heavy rain had an adverse effect on distances.
It was going to the wire. The relays would sort it out one way or the other with WGwEL putting out strong teams and the Belgrave men under instructions just to get the batons round - and they did just that. In fact Tim Abeyie (who has left Belgrave and joined WGwEL) just beat Darren Chin to the line in the sprint relay but second was great by us.
And so to the final event. New man Chris Minn held third for much of the first leg but faded down the home straight so that Set Osho was having to look for him and the baton in the frenzy that marks the first changeover. Taking over in sixth spot Set gradually powered through moving up to second and being rewarded with a 47.6 split. Next came decathlete Kevin Sempers (who had earlier equalled his pole vault pb) who hung on gamely to again equal his fastest 400 split time. And then to James Ellington. The team managers can remember 14 years ago when they had persuaded John Regis to run his first ever 400 in the long relay. A touch of the deja vu’s here, then, as James strode round the first 200, moved up a place as he put in more effort to 300 and then fought to stay moving as the line approached. By the time he had finished he was barely able to stand. Total exhaustion and the look on his face seemed to say “never again”. But that was what John Regis had said and his split had been the same at 49.4. Will history repeat itself?
Actually at that moment not too many people were considering this semi-philosophical question. The relay men had done their jobs. The win, which 5 hours earlier had seemed impossible, had been achieved by a superb team effort. With five pb’s and one A string win backed by eight B string wins this really was a good day for our young squad.
And finally thanks to the Belgrave supporters and to Tony Ganio, sports masseur, whose magic hands eased tired legs and kept the team on track.
Results: 100m: 4 D Chin 10.89/-0.8; 4 P Idowu 11.17/-0.6; n/s 1r2 W Sharman U23 10.90/0.6. 200m: 2 H Aikines-Aryeetey U20 21.81/-0.4; 2 D Chin 21.94/-0.2. 400m: 4 S Osho U23 48.10; 2 L Evling-Jones 48.49. 800m: 4 J van der Toorn U20 1:53.70; 8 R Dinham U23 2:32.57. 1500m: 3 K Gauson U20 3:49.85; 1 R Ward 3:52.29. 5000m: 2 S Sharp 14:03.75; 1 P Wicks U23 14:07.50. 3000mSC: 7 W Cockerell 10:29.54; no B runner. 110mH: 1 W Sharman U23 14.22/-0.4; 1 D Girdler 14.32/1.1. 400mH: 2 M Douglas 52.30; 1 R Dinham U23 52.06. HJ: 6 W Sharman U23 2.00; no B competitor. LJ: 2 A Phillips 7.18; 1 R Danso 7.05. TJ: 5 S Majekodunmi 14.58; 6 D O'Farrell 12.37. PV: 5 K Sempers U23 4.20; J Ive U20 nh; SP: 2 C Gearing U23 16.71; 1 M Allen U23 15.98. DT: 5 L Marar 48.79; 1 S Thompson 47.37. JT: 3 J Everard 59.20; 1 W Smith 58.40. HT: 3 M Jones M40 62.65; 3nt K Chester U23. 4x100m: 2 Belgrave 41.50 (W Sharman U23, H Aikines-Aryeetey U20, J Ellington U23, D Chin). 4x400m: 3 Belgrave (C Minn 52.5, S Osho U23 47.6, K Sempers U23 50.4, J Ellington U23 49.4).
Teams: 1 Belgrave 339; 2 Woodford Green wEL 316; 3 Enfield & Haringey 291; 4 Shaftesbury B 277; 5 Newham & EB 261; 6 Birchfield 254; 7 City of Manchester 250; 8 Thames Valley 179.