AVON Under-15 Sportshall Athletic Teams at the Sportshall UK Final

Sportcity, Manchester was a new and more distant destination for the 2014 competition.

From the squad that gained qualification for the Finals back at Torbay at the beginning of March Ada’ora Chigbo (South West Individual Champion) and Emma Warinton from the girl’s team and Gabriel Dos Santos from the boy’s team were not available for the final. Ella Falk not available for Torbay was an excellent addition. We travelled with 6 per team so that all athletes had to do three individual events and a relay – there was no seventh team member to substitute into a relay if an injury occurred. A risky strategy but more enjoyable for all the team members and it worked without any problems.

Dave Turner, still excited from the success of the Under-13s the previous day (the Boys under-13 team was first and the Girl’s under-13 team was second), came with the team which as they say had to follow that success.

Sarah Leong and Susanne Andersen acted as team managers on the day and Pippa Reilly and I provided our complement of officials. My personal and team thanks to the three ladies.

The teams performed excellently against nine other Regional winning teams. A National Final with no apprehension or anxiety and an eagerness to take part and do well. The outcome was fifth place for the girls and sixth for the boys. An Avon girls’ team has never been higher than fourth so without Ada’ora this year has to be a superb outcome. An Avon boy’s team has never been higher than fifth so this year maintained a consistent level. The third time in six years the team has finished sixth. I remember that the boy’s team this year was all of the five who came to the selection trial plus one drafted in from the previous year’s under-13 squad. So this year is an incredible achievement for the boys and if you check the results only a marginal difference would have pushed the team up to fifth.

The team score is based on the individual total of the best four team members plus the points for the two relays. Generally the individual total dictates the finishing order however the girls moved above Donegal and the boys almost overtook Tyne & Wear by better relay results.

Girls                                                                           Boys

Surrey                         1262                                       Norfolk                        1250

Birmingham               1217                                       Birmingham               1249

Norfolk                        1190                                       Hampshire                 1246

Derbyshire                 1127                                       Nottinghamshire        1073

Avon                           1094                                       Tyne & Wear              1049

Donegal                     1085                                       Avon                           1044

Powys                         1038                                       Co Londonderry          956

Cheshire                    1027                                       Lancashire                   924

West Yorkshire          1002                                       West Yorkshire            899

Tyne & Wear                865                                       North West Wales       839

The table below shows an impressive set of individual All-rounder  placings:

BOYS                                     Points             GIRLS                                     Points

21st     Aaron Reolizo            222                 13th     Abigail Roach                        245

25th=   Alfie Light                   217                 25th     Ella Falk                                 220

31st      Michael Bakare         207                 34th=   Sofie Andersen                     207

34th     Declan Walters          198                 34th=    Esther Leong                         207

39th=   Alex Crofts                 192                 39th     Jess Dadds                           200

44th=   Harvey Flower           180                 60th     Rosie Harris                          148

Sofie Andersen topped the podium with two others who tied with 90 speed bounces in 30 seconds.

Ella Falk and Esther Leong shared third place in the 8 lap paarlauf. Aaron Reolizo, Michael Bakare, Declan Walters and Alex Crofts were a very clear third in the 4 x 2 lap relay.

Events were keenly contested so a top 10 position took some achieving. Abigail Roach was the most consistent with equal positions 8 4LR, 10 SB and 11 SLJ, Ella Falk 4= 4LR and 7 VJ and Jess Dadds 9= SLJ.  Aaron Reolizo 5= SLJ and 9= 2LR, Declan Walters 6= SB, Alfie Light 7 SP, Michael Bakare 9= 4LR and Harvey Flower 10= SP.

I had observed all the individual time trial races and eagerly anticipated the relays which did not disappoint at all.

Esther Leong and Ella Falk shared the 8 laps between them and were always just a fraction behind the leading two teams and neck and neck with Donegal. Adrift of the first two teams but well clear of fifth the judges and timekeepers could not separate Avon and Donegal both recording 1min 29.0secs. Had Donegal gained the verdict for a clear third the team result would have been sixth and not fifth. The team place was that close.

Harvey Flower and Alfie Light combined for the boy’s paarlauf. A good first 2 laps by each runner and Harvey was struggling on his second effort. Alfie took the baton ½ a lap earlier than intended and coped with the extra distance but was not strong enough to overhaul the Tyne and Wear team who finished just 0.4 seconds in front. Harvey and Alfie’s time was 1minute 26.7.

The girls 4x 2 aim was to make the final by either winning a heat or being among the next four quickest teams. The team had run really well at the South West and repeated that in the heat. Bearing in mind that individually Abi had made the top 10 in the 4 Lap Run whereas the others had not made the top 20 in the 2 Lap Run to qualify was not going to be easy. Third in the heat with 1min 26.0 proved to be the sixth qualifier 0.7 secs clear. A short break and into the final. Another great team effort and fifth with a quicker time of 1minute 25.9.

The boys relay 4 x 2 team had been dominant at Torbay with Michael now replacing Gabriel. A similar strategy with Aaron off first, Michael, Declan and Alex to finish. Drawn against Birmingham and Hampshire the heat was run rapidly with Avon third in 1minute 17.5 secs. Norfolk won the second heat doing enough to book a place in the final. In the final Aaron’s start and pace rattled the other leading teams. The teams responded, changeovers were slick and the team could not have done better. Norfolk pipped Birmingham by 1/10th of a second and in third the team improved to 1minute 16.5 to finish ahead of Hampshire.

Then came the results and the final presentations.

A long trip back with a contented team. An excellent day of competition and team work.

We had been welcomed by George Bunner and other speakers encouraged us to contact our MPs about the lack of funding for Sportshall Athletics. The present arrangement with Sport England puts the emphasis on 14+ activities. There was minimal information from UKA/British Athletics and certainly no consultation about the reduced funding and staff redundancies amongst the sportshall athletics staff. The Regional events only went ahead due to local participating teams finding alternative and cheaper venues. This year we had to pay a team entry fee for the Regional Championships and there were no travel grants available for either the Regional or National Finals. The National Final only took place because Manchester offered the indoor 200 metre track facility free of charge. The central area used for the running was the best surface ever. The venue did not have enough floor or spectator space to hold the Under-13 and Under-15 finals at the same time.

Sportshall athletics is a grass roots activity and we have seen many athletes progress on to become Junior and/or senior internationals. Some may benefit and move into other specific sports. The competition may have been running for over twenty years but it is fresh for each batch of athletes. A new venue was definitely a fresh experience.

So let’s chase those who set the parameters for more sensible funding for Sportshall Athletics.

A full set of results can be found on www.sportshall.org . A set of performance comparisons over recent years can be found at

http://www.bristolandwestac.org/downloads/sportshall/

Hilary Nash 8/4/2014