What was a dream a few years ago, has become reality – Thames Valley Harriers have become the Champions of the UK Women’s Athletics League, and are the first club from the South of England to win this very prestigious title! TVH women’s team are officially the best in the UK and will now go on to be Great Britain’s representative in the European Club Champions Cup in 2016. What a fantastic achievement!
There were five amazing club records, four A string wins, eight B string wins and eight PB’s as TVH dominated the final UKWAL match of the season. We were undefeated in all three matches and won this last match by a whopping 39 points. TVH have shown a fantastic team spirit all season and huge strength and depth.- Everyone at TVH should be very proud of this outstanding team!
The first event of the track, the 400m hurdles, TVH got off to a tremendous start. GB heptathlete, Jess Tappin, fresh from her England/Inter-Counties title the previous weekend over the 400m hurdles showed her class again. Jess had a very strong run against GB U23 international and 400m hurdles specialist, Shona Richards to finish a great 2nd in 59.21. Lucy Ferguson started the TVH victories rolling in the B string 400m hurdles, ending the season unbeaten at the 400m hurdles in the UKWAL. Up to this season Lucy was a 100m hurdles specialist but has now moved up to the 400m. It has been Lucy’s strength over the last 100m all season that has allowed her to snatch victories and it was the same in Eton where she set a new life time best of 62.10. Lucy for starting the run of 1st places and TVH’s dominance was awarded the TVH Track Athlete of the Match. Less than one hour after her 400m hurdles victory, Lucy was back on the track in the 400m flat demonstrating her grit and determination to finish strongly in 6th place in a very competitive field with a season’s best time of 60.04.
The sprint hurdles saw Angelita Broadbelt-Blake, who has been suffering with a back injury in the last few weeks, put in another exceptional performance for the team. Angelita was rewarded with a 2nd place finish behind another GB International Serita Solomon with 13.93 – a great time considering her injury did not allow her to push off the hurdles as she would like. Jess Tappin was unexpectedly back on the track in the 100m B string after she happily agreed on the day to run an additional event and was rewarded with her first victory in the UKWAL Premier division and a pleasing SB with her first sub 14s run of the season (13.94).
In the field, TVH’s horizontal jumps combination was Angela Barrett and Lia Stephenson. As usual, the long jump saw some very good points got to the TVH ladies. The ever reliable club stalwart, Angela Barrett, leaped a very good 5.74m to finish 3rd in the A string. Lia Stephenson in her first ever long jump competition in the UKWAL did very well to also finish 3rd. Angela and Lia confirmed the triple jump as TVH’s top points scoring event with a fantastic double victory. Angela was experimenting new techniques as the wind kept changing speeds and directions on the back straight and pulled out a tremendous 12.97m hop, step and jump to win the A string. Lia was not too far behind and claimed maximum points in the B string with a fantastic 12.33m.
In the vertical jumps; the high jump saw Ella Widdop-Gray with a first time clearance of 1.65m to earn her 3rd place. Ella is still only 18 years old and we all look forward to seeing her progress next year. It was great to have ever enthusiastic Anne Rees back in the team. Anne cleared a solid 3.10m for 7th place in the A string pole vault and helped by giving advice to Aeysha Robinson who was close to her best with 2.70m as a guest. Anne scored even more points in the high jump with a great 3rd place with 1.50m in her first high jump competition of the season. TVH’s number one pole vaulter, Shannon Connelly, had a terribly long car journey from Canvey Island due to various traffic problems on route. A journey that should take one hour took more than three resulting in Shannon having no time to warm up. Shannon still valiantly attempted the opening height of 3.30m but unfortunately failed to clear a height for the first time – Shannon is having a fantastic season having already improver her PB by 30cm this year and at this rate she will soon be a 4.00m pole vaulter.
The throwers found the very hot conditions quite tough. Danielle Opara rose well to the occasion in the hammer to be rewarded with a new life time best of 43.15m in the A string. Carla Letheby was a slightly little below her recent good form with 39.43m but finished a good 3rd place in the B string. It was a very close call on who was going to be the scoring B string discus thrower between Carla and Danielle, but this time the honours when to Danielle. Danielle had a good competition to finish 2nd with 38.71. Carla who only had three throws as she was competing as a guest had another good discus competition to pip Danielle with 38.98m.
Laura Britane who had been unwell all week was determined to still compete, Laura did very well to finish 5th in the A string discus (41.42) and 4th in the A string javelin (41.67m SB). Olga Kotmilosi backed Laura up very well in the javelin with 39.16m to claim a fantastic victory in the B string. Having just arrived back from university in America, Lucy Knott also joined in TVH team effort as a guest in the javelin with a good throw of 33.85m.
In the shot putt, the athletes not only had to contend with the heat but also a very slippery newly laid circle. Danielle Opara who last week set a new club record at the Inter-counties match coped well with the conditions to place 4th in the A string with 13.16m. Phyllis Agbo was another athlete to get stuck in traffic and only just arrived in time for the shot putt. Without a warm up she still did remarkably well to go over 12m for the first time this season (12.07m) to finish 3rd in the B string. TVH also fielded a guest in the shot putt, Abigail Moronkeji, who is very popular amongst the team and has been competing for the club for a long time. Abigail’s 11.38m throw would have also placed her 3rd in the B string had Phyllis not have arrived on time. TVH Field Athlete of the Match went to Danielle Opara for her great efforts in being out in the hot sun and still doing so well in all three of her events; the hammer, discus and shot.
Back on the track the first middle distance event produced the first club record of the day. Michaela Mayor has been after this record all season and finally got it with 2:09.60 for a great 4th place in a very classy field. In the B string, Izzy Dye ran another very good tactical race and had an exciting sprint finish with the four athletes around her. She came home in an excellent 2nd place in 2:13.77. The ever present Michaela/Izzy combination has transformed the 800m from being one of our weaker events last year to one of our best scoring events this year.
Fiona Thompson again ran the 3000m/1500m double and produced two more fantastic performances in closely fought races. Conditions seem to suit the 3000m athletes. Fiona ran a brilliant six second PB for a superb 3rd place in the A string with 9:43.77. Marathon specialist, Tracy Barlow, also went with the pace in the leading group and was rewarded with an impressive 18 seconds PB to score maximum points for the team in the B string in a great time of 9:53.18. TVH’s only debutant in the UKWAL for this match was BUCS 10,000m silver medallist this year, Sarah Johnson, who was competing as a guest in the 3000m. Sarah who is part of the TVH middle distance training group showed a good return to form after recent injuries injury by running a SB of 10:20.13. Fiona Thompson was joined by Michaela Mayor in the 1500m and bravely took on the pace. Michaela tried to hold on to the lead group and both ran very good races. Fiona narrowly missed out on victory, but was rewarded with an eight second SB (4:35.12) and closely behind, Michaela, won the B string with 4:39.51.
GB triathlete, Lucy Smith, who had been giving sports massages to the team all day, dug deep into her energy reserves in only her second ever 2000m steeplechase to win the B string in a very good time of 7.35.30, which would have placed her 3rd in the A string. It was a very welcome return to the team from Sheena Allport who has been away in Canada for most of the summer and unable to do as much training as she would like. Sheena however is a complete natural at the event and decided to run away from the field with 600m to go, slicing a second off the club record with a time of 7:18.93 to win the A string.
In the 100m; Clieo Stepheson, who has been ever present in the UKWAL this season had another very close race. Clieo ran a very good 12.15 into a 2.2 headwind for 4th place in the A string. Returning back to the team was Tayla Brade who missed the last match due to the English Schools Championships and a hamstring injury that has been troubling her all season. Tayla showed a great return to form with her quick start out of the blocks and held on well to nearly match Clieo’s time from the A string race to finish 3rd in the B string with 12.18.
The team were delighted to have Captain Zoey Clark back in the team after her relay gold medal for GB in the European Juniors U23 Championships. Zoey showed her class in her specialist event, 400m.Coming off the final bend Zoey was in 3rd place but in the last 100m she powered through the field to win by nearly half a second in 53.37. Less than 45 minutes later Zoey was back on the track in the 200m where she had another great race despite having some very tired legs from her earlier 400m. Zoey sprinted home to a club record time of 24.15 into a slight head win, but it was only good enough for 4th place as the three athletes ahead were all fresh. Indeed there are all part of the GB squad for the World Championships later this month, and included Dina Asher-Smith who ran a very impressive league record of 22.72 to win the race.
With our sprinters doing so well in their individual events the team were looking forward the final events on the track, the relays. The 4x100m relay team of Tayla Brade, Izzie Stanway (who had a bad back all week but did not want to let the team down so still raced), Clieo Stephenson and Jess Tappin showed everyone what a great team the TVH ladies have turned into with an excellent 3rd place breaking their old club record by over a second from the last match. Their new club record is a fast time of 46.37.
The final event of the day, the 4x400m, comprised the quartet of Angela Barrett (58.6), Angelita Broadbelt-Blake (56.8), Jess Tappin (55.8) and Zoey Clark (53.5) who all had tired legs after their multiple events. It was a very exciting race with some of the other clubs putting their best runners on leg one. Triple jumper Angela still came home in a strong 3rd place. Next off was hurdler Angelita who also had a great leg to overtake one of the teams and put us up in 2nd place. Jess produced the goods and overtook the Windsor athlete with a strong finish putting TVH into the lead. In the unusual position of taking over in first place, Zoey, was never going let the lead slip as she powered down the home straight to secure an amazing four second club record of 3:43.9.
For her fantastic five events which included three wins, two club records and a 2nd place, top points scorer, Jess Tappin was awarded the TVH Club Athlete of the Match for her heroic contribution to the team.
This is hands down TVH’s best ever day in the short history of the Women’s team. The awful weather in May blew our hammer cage down and our chance to win the title at Linford Christie Stadium, but the TVH volunteers all did well to host this match away from home. A huge thank you to everyone who helped make this day run so smoothly, especially TVH’s meetings organiser – Maire Gorman, the results and announcements team – Lisa da Silva, Tony Taylor, John Husbands and Gaynor Pullin, the officials Marion Huffer (who was up late the night before making all the packed lunches for the officials), Alan Ferguson, Allister Murdoch, Barry Saunders, Bob Densely, Dave Huffer, Geoff Hawes, Graham Bentley, Mick Lyons, Peter Davies, Roger Fitzgerald, Roy Clarridge, Terry Letheby and Wendy Leatheby. A very special mention to former team manager John Smith for all the help and advice he has given to the team and I over the last couple of years, and to Amber Simukonda and Dave Wilkinson who have helped with team management this season. It really is a huge team effort and days like Saturday make us all proud to be a member of TVH!
|Match Result||Team||League Points||Match Points|
|1st||Thames Valley Harriers||8||240.0|
|2nd||Windsor, Slough E & H||7||201.0|
|6th||Woodford Green with EL||3||154.0|
|7th||Blackheath & Bromley||2||153.5|
|8th||Enfield & Haringey||1||130.0|
|Standings||Team||League Points||Match Points|
|1st||Thames Valley Harriers||24||699.8|
|2nd||Windsor, Slough E & H||20||608.8|
|6th||Enfield & Haringey||8||438.8|
|7th||Woodford Green with EL||8||431.5|
|8th||Blackheath & Bromley||6||425.1|