This was the first year in a long time where we competed on our own in the MAL top Division, rather than combined with Yate & District, and it was always going to be a test post-Covid. The short story is we maintained our position in the Division with Tamworth and Birchfield being relegated and Gloucester deservedly winning the Division and League.
The slightly longer story is that bar our home match, we had skeleton teams at the three away matches, who multi-evented familiar and unfamiliar events far more than a club of this size and capability should ever be asking of anyone, but we did beat Birchfield in the last match relegation shoot out. Along the way there were heaps of PB’s and three Divisional records set – well done Emma Clarke, Elaina Gard and Kat Entwistle. We have a great day out every time in a friendly, well organised league and I’d hope more of you give it a go next season.
On to the drama of the day on an incredibly hot August Saturday in Notts where we finished third. Our officials led the way by accumulating 30 more match points than Birchfield’s to set out our stall. Thanks Carol Strange (Track Referee for the day to help out Notts), Mike Strange, Henrietta Anstey (along with 5 events) and the Betti Farkas’s family.
23 athletes responded to the call to retain top Division status and covered 74 of the 86 competitive spots. As ever we had a wide age range going from U20’s to V55’s but sadly no U17’s. We welcomed Ackeem Mohammed to his first Midland League match for the 400m and 4x400m relay.
Our throws efforts were greatly boosted by the attendance of Moni and Ruben Brady and Anna Loughlin who filled 11 of the 16 spots between them. They were backed up by horizontal jumper Sam Barrett, sprinter Tristan Jamieson (3 of his 7 events) and 5000m runner and unofficial team bus driver, Tariq Kurd, to fully cover every event. Anna’s Hammer Throw also earned the team bonus performance points for the second match in a row.
The horizontal jumpers trio of Sam Barrett (5 events), Andrea Jesudason (4 events) and George Hunter (3 events) have been with us all season mixing in high jump, discus and relay sprints and have been a massive part of keeping us in the game through the season. Matt Hula mixed his sprinting with Long Jump as he did at earlier matches and Tom Foxon did Triple Jump along with his track races to give us complete coverage of the horizontal jumps.
Sprints have been an area of feast and famine throughout the season with NAL and age championships often conflicting. Sarah Long has been ever present even doing the Shot Putt when she was too injured to run. True to form, when she had to pull out of the 100m because of cramp she jogged a 4x100m leg to make sure we scored points and helped us get an amazing third place with Hen, Sam and Andrea. Maria Jones didn’t stop all day and went straight from her 800m to do the 200m B string before running the 400m and then the 4x400m relay.
The men’s sprinters of Ed Wilson and Josh Maggs brought home a clean sweep of wins in the A and B string 100m and 200m and that is rare for any club to achieve and unbelievably recorded identical times in the separate 100m races.
All women and men’s track events from 400m up were full of multi-eventing much as Maria did. Kat Entwistle mixed a 2nd finish in the A 800m with a win and the Division 1 record in her first ever steeplechase. Anna Ford ran a super savvy race to give herself the best chance of winning and decisively ran away from the competition with about 250m to go. Sarah Everitt ran the 1500m and then the 5000m less than an hour later, accompanied by Julia Belyavin who came out of competitive retirement to help the team. Great effort from two great long stranding club contributors.
Tom Foxon doubled up his 800m with the 1500m, as well as the TJ. Tom and Steve Kerfoot were running 1500m team tactics on the hoof to maximise points while remaining as fresh as they could for the 4x400m relay, and after Steve had also run the 3000m s/ch. It was very amusing to watch and is the legal team focussed thinking that helps win you a relegation battle. Lee Gawler had more than 5 minutes notice of his 400m and 5000m double this time round unlike at Rugby, and won a great last straight battle in his less familiar 400m race.
Sam Johnson has been an invaluable and increasingly adventurous member of the team at all 4 matches, and all in his first year in the league. Not previously a track runner, Sam started in the 800m at Yate as he was “track curious”. He asked if he could do something else while waiting for the relay so ran the 400m. Throughout the season, the event list grew to include the 1500m, 4x100m relay, javelin, long jump and shot putt. He saw we had a gap in the 3000m s/ch at Notts he thought he could fill before having to leave early. So after his 800m and some quick instruction, off he went to win the B race.
Sam’s enthusiasm and positivity is infectious, and he made an invaluable contribution to the atmosphere around the team and our points total and typified the spirit of everyone who competed this year. In recognition of his contribution, I will be nominating Sam for the “Division 1 Most Valued Team Member” award. All six teams will propose an individual with the Team Managers voting on a Divisional winner.
Not only did everyone work incredibly hard, almost everyone recorded PB’s, SB’s or both:
Women’s PB’s – Sarah Long (200m), Kat Entwistle (800m & 3000m s/ch), Anna Ford (1500m), Moni Brady (JT), Anna Loughlin (JT)
Women’s SB’s – Maria Jones (200m), Henrietta Anstey (400m), Sarah Everitt (5000m), Julia Belyavin (5000m), Andrea Jesudason (HJ & TJ), Sam Barrett (LJ), Anna Loughlin (HT), Moni Brady (HT)
Men’s PB’s – Josh Maggs (100m), Lee Gawler (400m), Tom Foxon (1500m), Tristan Jamieson (110mH & HT), Sam Johnson (3000m s/ch & LJ), George Hunter (HJ), Ruben Brady (SP & DT), Tariq Kurd (PB)
Men’s SB – Matt Hula (100m), Ed Wilson (100m & 200m), Steve Kerfoot (1500m & 3000m s/ch), Tariq Kurd (5000m)
Next year, the Division will be made up of BRAT, ourselves, Cannock & Stafford, Gloucester, Notts and Rugby & Northampton. The MAL committee are looking at more innovations on top of those introduced this year and we will let you know what they are as they emerge.