UK Women’s Athletics League, Premier Division – PBs and a Club Record at Birmingham
Thames Valley Harriers ladies team continue to go from strength to strength with a superb team performance in the second UKWAL match at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham. As usual the fantastic team spirit shone through welcoming to the team three debutants. There was also a club record and several individual lifetime best performances.
The 24 athletes picked up enough points to place 4th out of eight teams and just 1 point off 3rd place. This result, coupled with 5th place in the first match in Swansea means the squad are in a very strong position to stay in the Premier league next year, provided all goes to plan at the final match in Eton next month.
As expected the team got off to a slow start due to last minute changes to the team owing to an unfortunate set of injuries and illnesses in the last few days leading up to the competition. Potentially good points were sacrificed by the team manager in the hammer to allow for athletes to cover other field events. In the early morning heavy rainfall, ever reliable Carla Letheby threw 43.29m for 6th place in a very high standard hammer competition. Carla was backed up by one another longstanding UKWAL team member Abigail Moronkeji who happily agreed to throw in this event even though she does not specifically train for it. Abigail threw 27.63m for 7th place in the B string to earn the team some valuable points. The other throwing events took place in slightly better conditions in the afternoon. The familiar pairing of Laura Britane and Carla Letheby threw well for 6th (41.68m A string) and 2nd (35.57) place in the discus respectively. In the shot put, the duo of Phyllis Agbo and Abigail Moronkeji threw solidly to see Phyllis claim 4th place with 12.54m in the A string and Abigail 3rd place in the B string with 11.14m. The best event that produced the most points for the team was the javelin. Laura Britane, fresh from her club record the weekend before, threw very well again for 2nd place in the A string, just missing out on the win by 3cm. The B string saw one of our debutants, Greek javelin thrower Olga Kotmilosi, who is currently doing a PhD in Brunel University, win the B string with 40.24m – a great start in TVH colours and she has promised that there are bigger throws to come.
The long jump took place simultaneously with the hammer in the morning downpours. Angela Barrett coped well in the conditions to jump a season’s best of 5.80m in the A string event, jumping further and further in every round. The B string saw heptathlete Emma Buckett making another good TVH debut by finishing 2nd in the B string long jump in 5.38m. Emma has been recovering from a virus so did well to then go on to do further three events. The high jump mat was soaking, in fact, the BAL men refused to jump onto the mat later in the day even though the sun was shining, forcing their event to move indoors! However, there were no such complaints from our ladies, with one of our young stars Ella Widdop-Gray clearing 1.65m for 3rd place in the A string. Emma, fresh from her long jump, placed 2nd in the B string high jump with 1.55m. Not quite satisfied, Emma then went on to compete in two non-scoring events; the 100m hurdles (16.58) and shot put (10.36m) making her one of the busiest TVH athletes of the day. The triple jump saw Angela Barrett return to the runway. With the sun finally coming out, Angela continued her good return to form through the rounds with 12.83 for 4th place in the A string. Lia Stephenson finished her competition with 11.86m for 4th place and some valuable points for the team, although she was a little disappointed to have just missed the cut of the top eight to progress for three additional jumps.
After an earlier threat to cancel the pole vault due to the heavy rain, the event finally got under way two hours later than scheduled in dry, sunny conditions. Still learning the event, Shannon Connolly continued her recent good progress with a solid 3.20m for 3rd place in the A string. Due to illness, TVH were not going to field a B string athlete, however, Carla Letheby was determined that there would be zero gaps in the team. Carla bravely stepped in to compete in her first ever pole vault competition, however, despite showing encouraging potential she could not clear the challenging opening height of 2.10m. For Carla’s sterling effort and determination throughout the day, she was awarded the TVH Field Athlete of the Match for highlighting the team spirit that this great group of athletes have. This is how TVH made its way into the Premier Division in the first place – where everyone wants to do well for each other.
There were quite a few contenders for the TVH Track Athlete of the Match award but it was won by the amazing Clark. Zoey ran her best ever series of races for the club; the 400m, 200m and final leg of 4×400. The 400m individual saw Zoey take her first ever win in a UKWAL match in an impressive time of 53.96, nearly a second clear of her nearest rival. Just 35 minutes later, she was back on the track to take 3Zoey place in the 200m in another time (24.59) close to her lifetime best. The 200m was notably won by Dina Asher-Smith from Blackheath in a league record of 22.98. Zoey’s best event of the day was the 400m relay – more to come on that later. In the other sprint events on the track ran a superb 100m, leading for the first 60m putting Dina under pressure. Annie set her best time in 6 years for 2 place in the A string (11.67).Annie was well backed up in the B string by rdAnnie Tagoend Brade who crossed the line in 3 place with 12.28. set another personal best in the non-scoring 100m with 12.67. Following a late change to the team in the 200m, ran a good race to earn some valuable points for the team in 5 place in the B string. TaylardVenus Benjamin-MacleanAngelia Broadbelt-Blaketh
The hurdles again had its highs and lows for the team. TVH were missing their top two 400m hurdlers but Lucy Ferguson and Ambwene Simukonda rose well to the task of trying to earn the team the most points possible. Both showed their determination by sprinting all the way to the line and each overtaking an athlete off the final hurdle for 7th and 6th (70.62) place respectively. Lucy’s time of 65.01 was a lifetime best over the long hurdles and her great form continued into her next two events. In Lucy’s preferred event of the 100m hurdles, Angelita Broadbelt-Blake was first up in the A string, the starter held the set position too long for Angelita who slipped fractionally before the gun went off and unfortunately got disqualified for a false start. Multi eventer, Emma Buckett who was taking part in the 100m hurdles as a non-scorer also lost her balance over the hurdles and ran through the last hurdle. Lucy however managed to hurdle all 10 barriers without any trouble in the B string for a well deserved sub 15s, her first in over two years for 4th place (14.94). Lucy had a busy day on the track and rounded off another great series of events with her second PB of the day in the 400m flat for 7th place in the B string (59.62).
As always, the middle distance events kicked off with the 800m. TVH’s 3rd UKWAL debutant of the day and busy mum of twins Michaela Mayor made a welcome appearance in the A string race. Michaela battled round and gave it her all in an extremely quick race (won in a blistering time of 2:02.13 – a division record) to place a superb 5th in a time of 2:12.67. This is even more impressive given Michaela has been out of training recently due to a twisted ankle. Michaela was backed up by recently turned marathon runner Claire Day, who placed 8th in a time of 2:27.18 – a good effort considering the 800m is merely a sprint for Claire these days! The Michaela/Claire duo were back in action again later in the 1500m, both with lactic in their legs they gave it everything to pick up as many points as possible. Michaela placed 7th place in the A string in a time of 4:50.98, with Claire nearly closing her in on the final lap to place 4th in the B string (4.53.53) – a valiant effort by the pair. Lisa da Silva took on the 3000m and with no barriers to get in her way this time, ran solidly to place 5th in 10:11.70, a pleasant surprise given she had been suffering from a cold leading into the race. Lisa was backed up by Fiona Thompson who also placed 5th (10:42.68) in the B string. Notably, Fiona has been out of training for months due to a hamstring injury however, it was encouraging to hear that for the first time whilst racing, this did not hurt her so much. In the final middle distance event, the 2000m steeplechase, TVH fielded two athletes (where only one athlete scores). Marathon specialist Tracy Barlow made her first track appearance for the club this season and looked smooth over the barriers, putting in a fine run to place 4th in a time of 7:37.46. Maire Gorman ran and hurdled well to win the non-scoring B string in a PB of 8:17.1, which would have placed her 5th in the A string.
The relays were similar to the day’s weather, a storm followed by bright sunshine. The 4 x 100m team showed a lot of raw potential that needs some work done around baton changes, the quartet of Venus Benjamin-Maclean, Angelita Broadbelt-Blake, Tayla Brade and Annie Tagoe struggled to get the baton round. Despite a reasonable change over from Tayla to Annie on the anchor leg, followed by Annie’s tremendous run to the finish, the team got disqualified due to an infringement during a previous changeover. The 4 x 400m was one of the most exciting races of the day for the club. The team manager was delighted to have so many willing candidates for the team and managed to get four to the line who all contributed to a new club record of 3:47.70. Ambwene Simukonda showed good form by running a solid 58.4 on leg one. Triple jump specialist Angela Barrett made a welcomed last minute return to the relay team and ran her first 400m in well over a year in a very respectable, even-paced lap of 58.7. Next up was Angelita Broadbelt-Blake on leg three and still with lactic in her legs from the earlier 200m fought all the way to the line for a good split of 57.8. With just the last leg to go, it looked like TVH were in a battle for 4th place and knowing that we needed every point, Zoey Clark ran an absolutely fantastic race quickly moving the team into 3rd place with 200m to go and she had enough left to sprint past the Swansea Harriers athlete Laura Maddox in the last 100m (who beat her the month earlier in the 400m individual) to bring the team home in 2nd place. Her split time of 53.0 was the quickest by far from any athlete on the day and her best ever 400m relay leg, putting her in great contention for Commonwealth Games selection.
The final UKWAL Premier Division match of the year is in Eton on 5th July where the TVH ladies can go out and enjoy themselves knowing that their status as one of the top clubs in Britain is virtually secured following this great team effort.
Blackheath & Bromley
Thames Valley Harriers
Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow
Blackheath & Bromley
Thames Valley Harriers
Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow