Having had such an overwhelmingly successful season with 3 wins in the first 3 matches, we started the final match in Division 1 of the British Athletics League with a very comfortable lead and were, in fact, already guaranteed promotion to the Premier League. The hope for the day was that we would win the final match and maintain a perfect card with 4 wins out of 4 for the season.
We were not at our strongest with several first team members missing and we had to work hard to finish 2nd with only a 1 point margin to 3rd. To finish 2nd in such a tightly contested match did feel a bit like we had lost a fiver but found a tenner – disappointed not to win but delighted that we had gained promotion as Division 1 Champions with 2 back to back league championships and promotions over the last 2 seasons.
Basingstoke were at home and languishing in 8th place in the league table and needed a big result to escape relegation and they produced their best performance of the season by a great margin, winning the match and doing enough to climb out of the relegation zone.
The other surprises of the day were that Enfield were relegated for the 2nd time in 2 years – Premier League to Division 2. Also relegated were Herne Hill Harriers slipping from 5th to 8th in this final match.
The day saw another fantastic display of the famous Valley team spirit as athletes rallied round to make sure of our Championship status.
It began with Craig Sturrock who joined this year from Gateshead and has made his mark with big point scores in Shot and Discus all season. Craig was scheduled to fly down to Southampton on Friday night but his flight was delayed and finally cancelled at 9:45 in the evening. Craig persuaded the airline to put on a coach to Southampton and eventually arrived at the hotel at 4:30 on Saturday morning – not the best preparation for competition but showed what great determination and commitment he has. What an asset to the club! In case you are interested the airline was Flybe and they don’t come with a recommendation from Craig!!
The weather was hot and sunny all day and unfortunately there is no stand at Basingstoke so everyone was seeking out whatever shade they could find. Fortunately, Phil Wetton had brought the Valley’s tent which was worth its weight in gold as a shaded haven for our athletes. The journey to Basingstoke was difficult for pretty much everyone as the M25 was very slow from north and south with additional delays on the M3 and we had nervous moments awaiting the arrival of athletes all afternoon.
In addition to Craig Sturrock’s travel problems, he has had health issues also this summer but he shrugged off all of this by throwing a season’s best of 42.06m for 2nd place in the Discus and 14.34m to win the B Shot. These performances earned him the TVH Field Man of the Match award.
The TVH Track Man of the Match award was won by Mo Aadan, who followed up his outstanding 2nd place in the England Championships (combined with the National Inter-Counties) 5000m last weekend with an easy win in the 3000m where he simply ran away from the opposition in the last 2 laps to record 8:18.75 to win by over 8 seconds.
The TVH Clubman of the Match was awarded jointly to Andrew Ajube and Chris McAlister who each ended up running three 400m races in the day. They both ran 400m hurdles, then 400m flat and then legs in the 4x400m – see what I mean about rallying round when needed? More of their performances later in the report.
The sprints have always been strong events for us but we missed Edmond Amaning for this match, although it was good to see Subomi Onanuga back from achilles injury. Leroy Cain was 4th in a classy 100m field in 10.98 on a day that saw all sprint times down due to head winds and a slow track with Subomi just failing to catch the winner in the B race, although it was so close that they were given the same time of 11.00.
Leroy went one better in the 200m with 3rd place in 22.15 but was only 1 metre away from winning the race. Luke Lennon-Ford is another athlete with strong club spirit as he dropped down from his favoured 400m to run 22.68 for the 200m and finished 3rd in the B race despite hurting his hamstring coming off the bend. Sadly, this brought to an end his day’s running. Having had a season that has never quite clicked for him it was great to see him pull on his Valley vest and make his contribution and we look forward to seeing Luke back up with the best in the country next season over 400m.
Chris McAlister was originally scheduled to have a relatively easy day – just the 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay, but life is never that easy for Chris. At this stage of the season we were prepared to ask favours of athletes as for many this is the end of their season. As the epitome of a great clubman Chris always says yes and so it was today as Lloyd King was a no-show (lost phone and car keys).
Chris has had a long hard season with a lot of racing early on and a string of lifetime best performances over 400m hurdles and 400m and today he appeared just a little jaded in his 400m hurdles race. However, he toughed it out to finish 2nd in the A race in 53.06 before taking on the 400m where his 48.68 earned him 5th place, a time that is still much faster than any he had run before this season.
Andrew Ajube looked very smooth over the first 8 flights in the 400m hurdles B race but fatigue and inexperience in his new event meant stuttering strides over the last 2 barriers robbed him of his first sub 57 second time. However, he still finished in 3rd place – his highest position this year and was rewarded with a lifetime best of 57.18. Andrew also came back to run the flat 400m and dug deep to hold off a late challenge for 6th in 52.01.
With Kieron Sexton racing in Ireland Andrew Walshe made his debut for the club in the 800m. Andrew has a best of 1:52 but having started racing late this season after injuries he front ran 1:57 last month but ran 1:53.60 mid-July and was therefore selected for the A race. This proved to be a major challenge with Hayden Carter being a 1:50 man and former UK no.1 1500m man Andrew Baddeley also in the field. Andrew ran a sensible race; he was well placed throughout and was rewarded with another season’s best of 1:53.51 for 4th place. It is clear that Andrew has the ability to run much faster and with a full winter behind him next season looks exciting.
Paskar Owor again produced a dogged and determined performance in the B 800m in a very slow race. After a 66 second first lap the race kicked off with about 200m to go and Paskar was again the fastest in the home straight as he closed to within 3 metres of the winner for 2nd in 2:04.24.
Paskar came back with another determined 2nd place in the 1500m A race in a similarly tactical race in 3:57.59. Paskar has again made a massive contribution over the season with his 800/1500m double at every match.
Connor Kissane Wood went with the pace for 3 laps in the B 1500m but found the 3:02 pace at the bell just too hot though he held on doggedly for 5th place in 4:16.78.
The 3000/5000m has been a banker for good points all season and Mo Aadan won the A race comfortably in 8:18.75. Antonio Silva has had a season dogged by injury but he is finally fit and getting back into good shape and his 8:44.31 earned him a comfortable win in the B race. Mo and Antonio have been great assets for us all season and look set to continue their domestic battles over the country this winter.
Jason Comissiong again suffered misfortune in the 100m hurdles. He had a great start and was hurdling smoothly until the final hurdle when his heel clipped the hurdle and he almost went down. With great athleticism he recover his balance and lost only 1 place to finish 5th in the run to the line. His time of 15.60 is so close to his lifetime best of 15.39 that you have to feel he was robbed of a clocking close to 15 seconds.
Danny Burrowes gamely took on the 110m hurdles B event but as an Under 20 he is used to training and racing over 3’3” barriers and the 3’6” hurdles proved too much of a challenge and he was unable to finish.
The steeplechase was the only event on the day where we failed to field 2 athletes and it was left to Robert Vallance to see out his season with a 10:44.64 clocking for 8th place.
In the Hammer Steve Whyte missed the start of the event as he was stuck in traffic, but jogged from the car park to just make the first round and still went on to throw over 51m and gain 2nd place with 51.09m. Maybe the adrenaline rush of the late start could work in future? Probably, but it is not good for the health of the team managers!
Although our number 1, Jamie Potton-Burrell, was unavailable he had the perfect stand-in – his Dad! Dave Burrell has been a regular point scorer for the club for years and he threw close to his season’s best with 42.63m to earn 3rd place in the B event. With both Steve and Dave now over 50 it shows that if you have the talent then age doesn’t matter!
Remco Goetheer teamed up with Craig Sturrock for both Discus and Shot and it proved to be a very fruitful partnership.
Remco is recovering from a bruised foot but was determined not to let his team mates down and with the help of a few painkillers he won the Shot with 16.71m, which was a massive 1.6m clear of 2nd place. Craig matched the win by reaching 14.34m in the B event to win by nearly 2m.
The Discus was also a good event for us with Craig throwing 42.06m for a season’s best and 2nd place in the A event as Remco hit 39.76m for 2nd in the B event just 24cm short of his second win of the day and his best of the season.
Remco and Craig are both new to the club this season but have already established themselves as great clubmen. Remco competed today through the pain of a bruised foot and Craig had overcome both serious illness mid-season and a 6 hour overnight coach trip. When you have that sort of commitment in the team you can see how we have done so well this season.
Jon Harvey and Dawid Jerzykowski were both below their best in the javelin. Jon has been adjusting to life as a new Dad and Dawid has been struggling with an injury-blighted season. However, Jon’s 48.54m earned him 6 points for 6th in the A event and Dawid’s 41.10m earned him 4 points for 5th in the B event and every point counted today, as in the final match scores we were just 1 point ahead of 3rd and 5 points ahead of 4th place.
Michael Adekunle continued his recovery from a twisted ankle as he cleared 1.90m for 7th in the High Jump in a classy competition that saw 7 men clear 2 metres.
Toni Ademuwagun again cleared 1.85m to finish a creditable 5th in the B event. With Toni celebrating his 16th birthday tomorrow the future looks good for this quiet and likeable youngster who has taken the British League Senior competition in his stride. He has had a frustrating year where he has cleared 1.85m in 7 separate competitions and hit 1.86m once but is desperate to reach the 1.90m mark. He clearly has the ability to jump much higher next season but may yet reach his target this summer.
The Long Jump saw performances well down on season’s bests for all competitors as the windy conditions and slow runway took their toll. Ogo Anochirionye jumped 6.89m for 3rd in the A event that was won in only 7.05m and Nav Childs managed to jump through the discomfort of a niggling tendon injury jumping 5.91m for 6th in the B event.
Nav Childs was 7th in the Triple Jump A event, jumping 12.84m, with Odell Okwuosa jumping 11.62m for 6th in the B event. Unfortunately Jude Bright-Davies was again unavailable as he struggled with the injury that has dogged him for much of the season. Jude, with coach Dave Johnson, have managed the injury problems well over the season and Jude was rewarded with a lifetime best of 15.40m in the qualifying round at the European Youth Championships in July. We wish him well for a rapid recovery and look forward to seeing his progress next summer.
With Greg Conlon and Erik Tropp missing in the Pole Vault Stan Vilga was 6th in the A event with 3.60m, while youngster Danny Burrowes again stepped in to clear 2.20m and score the point in the B event that was the difference between 2nd and 3rd places on the day.
The 4x100m team again saw changes in personnel as Chaka Maillet, Subomi Onanuga, Nigel Thomas and Leroy Cain put together 3 slick but safe changes to take maximum points again in a time of 41.51. Apart from our fantastic 41.36 at the previous BAL match in Bromley this is the fastest time we have run since 2009.
The 4x400m team was missing Luke Lennon-Ford who had injured himself in the 200m earlier in the day and Lloyd King (Mr. Zip) who still hadn’t found his keys or phone ( Remember the rapper Mr. Zip with his Britain’s Got Talent one hit wonder “Where’s ma keys where’s ma phone”?).
The team consisted of 4 “volunteers”, namely, Mark Dyble who stepped up from 100/200m and 4x100m, Andrew Walshe who had earlier run a season’s best in the 800m, Andrew Ajube who had already run 400m hurdles and 400m flat, and Chris McAlister who had also already run 400m hurdles and 400m flat.
The split times are very revealing as Mark Dyble ran a determined first leg to finish surprisingly strongly to equal his lifetime best of 51.1. Andrew Walshe showed some of the leg speed that has seen him run 49.03 as a young athlete with his split of 51.0 keeping us in the mix. Andrew Ajube found a second on his flat 400m time as he clocked 51.2 and Chris McAlister waited until the last 80m before unleashing a killer finishing burst to fight clear of Enfield and Southampton in the tightest of finishes for 3rd place with a 48.7 clocking. A great team performance where everyone excelled themselves – a fantastic example of the team being greater than the sum of the individuals.
With the Division 1 Championship trophy in our hands it only remained for team captain Caspar Donnison to take the customary dip in the water jump, whilst Phil Wetton took to the water of his own volition (jumped before pushed?) in a well-earned celebration.
With a barbecue back at Linford Christie Stadium the evening was also one of celebration with athletes and supporters from both the Men’s and Women’s teams back from their respective matches. The food was produced by Delroy Mitchell and his “Jamaican Aroma” team and there was no food left at the end of the evening as his combination of grilled chicken, fish kebabs and burgers with spicy roast vegetables and salads were snapped up by hungry athletes. Great job Delroy!
We are now looking forward to competing in the Premier League next season and although we don’t underestimate the challenge we are determined to be competitive.
The team management of Caspar Donnison, Phil Wetton and myself have had a tough but rewarding season and have benefitted greatly from the willing support of the Valley team members, and, of course, John Husbands and Tony Taylor. Thanks should also go to one of last year’s team managers, Paul Oppe, along with the coaches and officials who have worked away in the background to bring athletes into top shape and make the meeting happen and to the club stalwarts who keep this great club alive.
UP THE VALLEY!
|1||Basingstoke & Mid Hants AC||314||8||7||15||709.8||1023.8|
|2||Thames Valley Harriers||290||7||24||31||1032.0||1322.0|
|5||Glasgow City AC|
|6||Enfield & Haringey AC||267||3||9||12||742.3||1009.3|
|7||Blackheath & Bromley H & AC||255||2||15||17||831.0||1086.0|
|8||Herne Hill Harriers|
LEAGUE STANDING AFTER 4 MATCHES
|Club||League Points||Match Points|
|Thames Valley Harriers||31||1322.0|
|Blackheath & Bromley H & AC||17||1086.0|
|Glasgow City AC||17||1036.0|
|Basingstoke & Mid Hants AC||15||1023.8|
|Enfield & Haringey AC||12||1009.3|
|Herne Hill Harriers||12||996.3|
6 August 2016