The third fixture of the season was a new experience for the BAL with all five divisions, featuring 100s of athletes, competing at one venue. The ‘Big Saturday’, as it was named, brought an exciting atmosphere to Bedford. It also proved to be a roller-coaster ride for the TVH men who finished the match in a highly credible 6th place, after fighting tooth and nail against rivals as the scores moved back and forth throughout the day.
Importantly we finished ahead of both Southampton AC and City of Liverpool AC, placing us in 6th place in the Premiership Division after three matches. The fight with Southampton was very close, and we ended the day just eight points ahead (237 points versus 229 points). The season is not over until the last match at Allianz Park where we will need to make one last push to ensure that our continued position in the Premiership is secure, for the first time in over 10 years, and to reach a mid-table finishing position in 2017.
Thames Valley Harriers have become Champions of the UK Women’s Athletics League for the second time in three years, and will now go on to represent Great Britain at the European Club Champions Cup (A Group) in 2018.
On a warm calm day, TVH ladies team travelled to Norman Park, Bromley to complete against the top eight clubs in the country and prove once again that they are the best team in the UK. It was a great day of athletics with TVH athletes achieving their aim and along the way picking up an amazing seven new club records, five A string wins, four B string wins and 12 PB’s as TVH were pushed all the way by last year’s champions Birchfield Harriers. The standard of the Premier division this year was at its highest as all clubs did well to get their top athletes out as they seek selection for the London World Championship and next year’s Commonwealth Games. Going into this final match, we knew that Birchfield would be battling it out for the title, with TVH needing to finish within 1 place and 11 match points of Birchfield to become champions. It was an incredibly close match and following the first flurry of events Birchfield quickly got to an early lead and maintained this until the last few events where TVH fought back strongly to become champions.
After the first event of the track, the 400m hurdles, TVH knew that it was going to be an exciting day with so may top class athletes competing. In the A string, TVH’s Aisha Naibe-Wey and Birchfield’s GB International athlete Meghan Beesley were both seeking World Championship qualifying times. The Birchfield athlete ran one of the best races of the day to win in an excellent time of 56.63 with Aisha finishing a very good 4th place in 59.33 from the difficult lane 1 draw. TVH’s GB heptathlete, Jess Tappin has been forced by a knee injury to switch her specialism to the 400m hurdles/400m flat. Jess ran an excellent season’s best and only 2 tenth’s outside her lifetime best to finish a very close 2nd behind a Birchfield athlete in 58.03.
The battle in the field was also underway with the hammer and long jump. Hammer duo Pippa Wingate and GB junior international Kate Lambert have been ever present for TVH in the UKWAL this year and again secured some excellent points for the team. Outscoring the Birchfield combination by 1 point, Pippa and Katie did very well to finish 4th in the A string (56.12m) and 2nd in the B string (54.72m) respectively in a competition in which 3 athletes threw over 60m. In the long jump, team captain Angela Barrett was pleased to have fellow triple jumper Lia Stephenson for company. As usual, the long jump saw some very good points go to the TVH ladies. The ever reliable Angela, leaped to a fantastic 5.92m to claim TVH’s first win of the day. Lia Stephenson in her first UKWAL competition of the season just missed the cut by one place for a further three jumps, however her best jump of 5.30m placed her a very good 3rd place in the B string.
Back on the track, with Clieo Stephenson out in Poland representing GB’s U23 team, the TVH sprint team was changed for this final title deciding match. TVH were delighted to have two British Champions and London World Championship bound athletes Lorraine Ugen and Zoey Clark covering in what is not their usual events. Both Lorraine and Zoey showed off their all round athletic class as they dominated their respective 100m races. In the A string, GB long jumper and British record holder, Lorraine, ran an outstanding new TVH club record time of 11.41 to easily win against specialist 100m sprinters. British 400m champion, Zoey, looked equally impressive, winning by over half a second in a fantastic new life time best of 11.54.
The 100m hurdles was a very competitive event and TVH were unlucky to be drawn in lane 1 again. Club stalwart Angelita Broadbelt-Blakeran a superb race to finish 2nd with a fast time of 13.66 in the A string. Tayla Benson in the B string had another fantastic race, equalling her PB with 14.40 to claim 5th place. Zoey returned to the track for another awesome A string victory clocking a new 200m club record of 23.36. Angelita was also back in action within half an hour of her hurdles race to help cover a gap in the team, running a new life time best of 24.94 for 3rd place in the B string. For her huge team effort in the 100m hurdles, PB in the 200m and a fine leg in the sprint relay Angelita was awarded TVH Club Athlete of the Match.
As Zoey was running the shorter sprints and Sophie Preece got married the day before (congratulations by the way from all at TVH) the 400m was covered by Jess Tappin (who had already raced over the 400m hurdles earlier in the day) and Lucy Ferguson who has just recently returned from injury. In two very fast races, both Jess and Lucy did extremely well for the team. In a new PB Jess finished 6th in the A string with 54.89 and it was great to see Lucy back racing and scoring a valuable point for the team as she finished 8th place in the B string with a season’s best of 59.61. For her PB in the 400m, SB in the 400m hurdles and exceptional leg in the 4x400m relay, Jess was awarded TVH Track Athlete of the Match.
TVH’s young middle distance team was made up by local west London juniors and Imperial College students. The team were delighted to finally see Alice Harray and India Weir make their debuts in a UKWAL match. First up was Alice who was in a very fast 800m A string race. Alice held her own with more experienced athletes, sticking to her race plan well to run a brilliant new PB by over 2 seconds, 2:12.03, to finish 7th. India’s twin sister, Kosana Weir, who made her UKWAL debut this year at the first match in Birmingham, had a good race in the B string which was also another fast race, finishing in 5th place with 2:18.85. Kosana returned back to the track later in the day with her training partner Alex Mundell in the 1500m; a race where A and B string run together. Alex bravely went with the early pace but faded slightly at the end to finish 5th in the B string. Kosana, with a strong finish, claimed 6th place in the A string with 4:44.46. The 3000m has been TVH’s best scoring middle distance event of the season and this match further confirmed the strength in the longer distance events. India Weir had a superb debut to set an excellent new PB and a new U20’s 3000m club record time, 9:56.48 for 4th place in the A string. India was well backed up by Imperial College PhD student, Sarah Johnson, who finished close behind in a season’s best time of 10:03.21 to claim a fine 2nd place in the B string. Alice returned to the track for the final individual event of the day, the 2000m steeplechase, with Stephanie Ainley who has just recently returned back from a 6 weeks holiday travelling across Canada. Alice and Stephanie combined well together to comfortably stay ahead of the Birchfield athlete. Despite the lack of specific track training, Stephanie ran strongly setting a new personal best time, 7:31.68, for 4th place in the A string. Just behind was Alice smashing the U20s 2000m steeplechase club record with 7:38.04 to win the B string.
Back to in the field and the jumps; the high jump saw a very good first time clearance of 1.65m for Teele Palumaa to claim the B string win on count back. The A string was also a tight result as two athletes went clear over 1.75m, Pippa Rogan narrowly missed out on clearing 1.80m so had to settle for an excellent 2nd place on count back with her 1.75m. English School’s pole vault champion Molly Caudery was away preparing for the European Junior championships in Italy and with a few other injuries it was down to Clare Maurer to fly the TVH flag in the pole vault. For the third match in a row Clare set a new club record with a brilliant first time clearance of 4.00m to finish 2nd and equal Molly’s club record height set at the second match in Eton. Despite having to leave the competition early to run legs in the relays, Angela Barrett and Montana Jackson confirmed the triple jump as TVH’s top points scoring event again this season with a fantastic double victory. Angela put together a tremendous 12.72m hop, step and jump to win the A string by over half a metre. Montana was not too far behind and claimed maximum points in the B string with a fantastic 12.22m. For a fine display of jumping with a double victory in the long and triple jump A strings, Angelawas awarded the TVH Field Athlete of the Match.
The standard in all the throws was exceptionally high, in particular the shot put, where 6 throwers went over 15m. Making her TVH UKWAL debut was GB International Amelia Strickler and she was joined by TVH’s England International Danielle Opara. A superb final last throw by Amelia saw her claim 2nd place in the A string with a new outstanding club record of 16.72m. Danielle narrowly missed the cut for three additional throws but did very well to finish 4th in the B string with 12.96m. There were 4 throwers that went over 50m in another very competitive discus competition. Unfortunately, Sophie Parksin-Brown had to retire after just two throws with a badly injured elbow but did well to finish in 4th place in the B string with 37.73m. English Schools’ champion, Sophie Mace, stepped up well to take over A string duties and finished in a strong 5th place. The final field event of the day is one of TVH’s strongest with the reliable ever present duo Laurensa Britane and Olga Kotmilosi. Laurensa has another exceptional javelin competition to finish 2nd, 4 meters clear of 3rd place with 47.19m in the A string. Olga was also well clear (over 5 metres) in 2nd place in the B string with a an excellent throw of 41.72m.
The points score was very close with just a few events to go and TVH could not afford to lose much ground on Birchfield in the relays. The 4x100m relay team was made up of 100m hurdlers and triple jumpers. This newly formed team of Angelita Broadbelt-Blake, Tayla Benson, Angela Barrett and Montana Jackson did very well to run a fast 48.32 to claim 6th place. Knowing that the final event of the day, the 4x400m, was likely to decide the title and relegation for some teams, all clubs put together their best squads. TVH had a very good team on paper, and the quartet ofJess Tappin (55.6), Angela Barrett (56.9), Aisha Naibe-wey (55.0), and Zoey Clark (51.4) did not disappoint. It was a very exciting race as both Swansea and Birchfield Harriers pushed TVH all the way but Zoey Clark held on for victory on the anchor leg to bring the team home first. The final time was an astonishing 3:38.88, making up TVH’s seventh and final club record of the day, beating the previous 4x400m record by a whooping 4 seconds!
TVH ladies have shown a fantastic team spirit all season and are a wonderful group of people that are focused, determined and passionate about their athletics club. Everyone at TVH should be very proud of this outstanding team! A huge thank you from the management to all the athletes, coaches, parents, sports masseurs, photographers and officials, especially to John Smith and our ever present officials; Roy Clarridge, Alan Ferguson, Roger Fitzgerald, Dave Huffer and Marion Huffer who always support the team with such enthusiasm.
Zoey Clark’s superb 400m British Championship win, earning selection for August’s London World Championships, is rich reward for a year that has seen her talent blossom into full flower.
Zoey has in recent years led from the front as captain of TVH’s highly successful women’s team, at the same time harvesting individual successes both at British University level and in her native Scottish Championships.
She has enjoyed great relay days too, helping Great Britain’s under-23 team to European gold in Tallinn, Estonia two years ago, as well as performing in front of a home Scottish crowd in Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Zoey, who graduated this year with a first class hours degree in chemical engineering from Aberdeen University. Following in the footsteps of Mel Edwards, Zoey is one of a group of Aberdonians – including Tracy Barlow, Myles Edwards, Chris Smith and Fiona Thompson – who have performed with great distinction for TVH. She is coached there by Eddie McKenna who is making full use of the explosive sprint speed Zoey showed as a junior.
It was certainly an eyebrow raiser to see a weekend 8:30 Central London start on the Ron Hopcroft Endurance Cup schedule. Nonetheless, five Thames Valley Harriers athletes got themselves out of bed in time and showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed, or at least physically present and conscious, for the race.
For anyone who wants to know more about Sri Chinmoy races, look no further than their website (https://uk.srichinmoyraces.org/about). They stage regular 5Ks and 10Ks in Battersea Park. The firm, flat course allows you to really have a go at your PB. The 10K involves four laps of the southern part of the Park, essentially around the lake. These events are very well organised, allowing you a clear run despite the event sharing the space with other members of the public.
A triumphant weekend for TVH at the British Athletics Championships in Birmingham with two national titles and a host of fine performances.
Wins for Zoey Clark in the 400m and Lorraine Ugen in the long jump earned them both places in the British team for London’s World Championships in August. Alongside the marathon place Tracy Barlow won in April this means that TVH will have at least three representatives in a home World Championships – something for us all to cheer.