Fantastic 5th Place for the Women on UKWAL Premier League Debut

“This was one of the closest ever matches, with the top three teams separated by just a single point”

Saturday’s match was like no other, with an average wind speed of 28mph and gusts well in excess of 50mph, dreams of PB’s and club records were blown out the window…. it was all about the battle. The 23 strong squad, donning their new Nike tracksuits, finished a superb 5th place overall in a closely fought match and a mere 15 points off the leaders, Birchfield Harriers.  This was one of the closest ever matches, with the top three teams separated by just a single point and TVH were in contention throughout the whole day.

As expected, the day had many ups and downs, highs and lows, sweat and tears, although quite simply, the ladies proved themselves to be one of the top clubs in UK athletics. The usual club spirit shone through and everyone put in their best efforts to maximise the TVH points tally, including the nine athletes who debuted for the team, to whom we extend a very warm welcome.

The first field event was the pole vault where, fortunately for us, the threats to cancel this event due to adverse weather conditions did not prevail. Shannon Connolly debuted for the club with a brave vault of 2.90m to place 2nd in the A string. Shannon was backed up by team stalwart Kizzi Barazetti who blitzed the B string with a vault of 2.50m, where none of the other competitors were able to clear their chosen opening heights. Our duo felt the wind and sensibily came in at the lower heights. In the high jump, the bar was falling off on its own accord; however, 17 year old Ella Widdop-Gray made a fantastic debut in TVH’s colours to clear the bar whilst it was stationary at 1.65m for a fabulous 2nd spot. Ella was accompanied by Kizzi who placed 3rd in the B string with a jump of 1.50m.

In the throws, both Carla Letheby and another new debutant, Irish university hammer champion, Christina Furlong were in action amongst an exceptionally strong pool of hammer throwers. Carla threw a solid 40.98m for 7th place in the A string and Christina threw a similarly good 40.13m for 5th place in the B string. Carla was indeed the busiest TVH field athlete of the day, as she also competed in the javelin (4th B string, 34.67m) and discus (3rd B string, 36.23m) where she was forced to adapt her technique to accommodate the gales. Ever reliable Laura Britane just missed a win in the javelin A string with a good throw of 43.97m for 2nd and she also placed a well-earned 5th in the A string discus with 40.12m. By the time the shot putt was underway the wind was it strongest, resulting in some athletes being some 2m short of their PBs. However, long standing UKWAL members and tag team Phyllis Agbo and Abigail Moronkeji managed to keep their feet on the ground and performed well against the best in the country for 6th (11.67m) and 5th (10.89m) respectively.

TVH field athlete of the match was awarded to Angela Barrett who warmed up with a long jump of 5.52m to claim 4th place in the A string. She then went on to dominate in her main event, the triple jump. Fresh from her win at last week’s British University Championships, Angela held her form where others failed, with a fine jump of 12.95m against an extremely strong group of international level jumpers. The B string long jump was accomplished by our young 100m specialist and debutant Tayla Brade where she used her speed to leap to an impressive 5.15m for 4th place in her first ever long jump competition at any level. Tayla was well advised by our former GB international heptathlete Phyllis.  Lia Stephenson competed in the B string triple jump coming a well-deserved 2nd place with an excellent jump of 11.83m considering the extreme cross winds.

On to the track, the first race of the day was the 400m hurdles where there was another athlete making their UKWAL debut, Claire Taylor.  Claire stormed round for 4th place in a time of 62.69 to set a new lifetime best in an event that she is still learning. The B string was undertaken by Sian Mitchell, who finished strongly in the home straight  to claim 4th place in 66.8. The 100m hurdles proved more eventful with Angelita Broadbelt-Blake hitting her second hurdle, owing to the -5.4 headwind interfering with her stride. Angelita did however ensure that she picked up a point by hopping to the end. Lucy Ferguson ran sub-16 seconds (15.98) in a very competitive B string 100m hurdles to finish 6th, which was very respectable given the conditions.

In the sprints, the 100m was stacked with international athletes, with debutant Clieo Stephenson, who is a GB junior relay runner herself, battling the headwind of -4.3 to cross the line in a fabulous 5th place (12.72). Clieo was backed up by fellow debutant Tayla Brade, in her second event of the day she destroyed the opposition for an unexpected and well deserved victory in the B string (12.68 into a headwind of -4.6). Sprinting is becoming one of TVH’s strengths, with another one of Tayla’s training partners at the Track Academy, Venus Benjamin-Maclean gaining valuable experience in the non-scoring 100m, winning in a time of 13.38. Venus is still only 16 years old and she is a name to watch out for in the future. Zoey Clark was also in fine form in the 400m, having claimed a bronze medal at the British University Championships the week before. Zoey ran a fantastic race given the conditions, finishing in 2nd place in a remarkable time of 54.70. In the B string, 400m hurdler Claire Taylor ran a great second lap for the team, this time with no hurdlers, to finish in 6th place (59.21) and claim her second PB of the day in another event that she is relatively new to.  Zoey Clark was back in action in the 200m, scoring some more very valuable points, clocking 25.62 for 5th place into a -4.6 headwind, accompanied by ever reliable Amber Simukonda who placed 6th with a time of 26.65, having earlier run an 800m.

The middle distance squad was somewhat depleted with too many injuries, weddings and work commitments to mention. However, one athlete unwittingly saved the day, debutant  Imogen Simmonds, having just recently recovered from a marathon and completing her end of year university exams, she was thrown into the deep end by competing her first ever club race on the track at any level. Due to late withdrawals Imogen ensured that there were no gaps in the team running three races in terribly blustery conditions for distance running; the 800m (7th A string, 2:35), 3000m  (3rd B string, 11:22) and 1500m (6th B string 5:41) picking up a whopping 11 points against some of the best athletes in the country. Imogen was deservedly awarded the TVH track athlete of the match plaque and we hope this new experience has not put her off competing in future! Also putting her neck on the line purely to help out the team was Fiona Thompson, who has been suffering from a persistent hamstring problem for months knocking her out of training. Fiona ran the 3000m (7th, 10:35), which was very much appreciated. Notably, the winning time in the 3000m was a minute or so down on what is usual for this league, highlighting the exceptional weather conditions.  Back to the 800m, and in her first event of the day, sprinter Amber Simukonda nobly competed in this event (7th, 2:39) due to the lack of middle distance athletes available. Also backing up Imogen in the 1500m was fellow debutant Victoria Carter and marathon runner, who changed from her planned event of the 3000m steeplechase (where only one athlete scores) to fill out the A string 1500m, producing a very decent run for 7th place in 5:08, just one second off her PB – surely a sign that in better conditions she will smash her lifetime best.  And finally, Lisa da Silva took on the UKWAL League’s first ever 3000m steeplechase to pick up valuable points with a 3rd place finish (11:34) but with all her hopes of a faster time blown away, quite literally.

The 4x100m relay team of AngelitaTayla, Amber and Clieo worked in unison to finish a very respectable 4th place in 48.21, not too far off the club record. Clieo on the anchor leg, powered past the Edinburgh athlete who had earlier beat her in the 100m individual event. The 4x400m proved to be the most eventful of the day. The team of AmberAngelitaLucy and Zoey were fired up, with Angelita particularly keen to make up for her earlier disappointment in the hurdles. All was going to plan, with four fantastic legs, with Zoey bringing the team home from 6th place to cross the line in 3rd (with a split of 54.1), however, the team were sadly disqualified owing to a minor breach of a newly instated rule regarding lane discipline during changeover.

 As always, a big thank you to the TVH officials and helpers who ensured the day went smoothly: Dave and Marion Huffer, Roy Clarridge, Maire Gorman, Alan Ferguson, Dave Wilkinson and of course long-time supporter, and former team manager John Smith.

 A summary of the match scores are below.  Remarkably in our first season competing at this level with a bit more luck in a couple of events, TVH could have won the match.  TVH finished 4 points from the 4th placed team, Blackheath and Bromley and 15 points from the winners, Birchfield. With a few athletes due to come into this fantastic team, TVH have shown that they will be contenders to win the remaining matches. The team is very much looking forward to competing again in the second of three fixtures on the 6th June in Birmingham … although they are hoping that the wind will not make an appearance! The final fixture will be in Eton on the 5th July, with the champions of the league going forward to represent Great Britain at the European Club Championships.