Herne Hill Harriers’ men’s track and field team continue to defy the long established order in the British Athletics League, as in our first ever season in National 1, the second tier, we have now carved out a useful lead at the top of the table after 3 of the 4 fixtures. After going to Barnet Copthall in North London and again replicating our superb 2nd placings in our previous 2 matches, our team are on the brink of what would be a famous and most would think unlikely promotion to the BAL Premiership, the elite group of 8 club teams in UK league athletics.
HHH have amassed 21 match points compared to 18 of second placed Enfield & Haringey and 15.5 scored so far by Thames Valley Harriers, meaning a result of 6th or better at Eton on Saturday 18th August would guarantee us promotion and 3rd place would see us crowned division champions. But before we start counting chickens, the close nature of our division was illustrated to us by our weak start to the proceedings at Copthall as after 5 of the 19 events we were languishing in 7th place of the 8 teams and it was testimony to the strength of our team for the remainder events that we progressed up to 4th after 9 events and 3rd after 14 and were then able to overtake local rivals Belgrave Harriers to snatch 2nd place on the day in the final events. So we still very much have a job to finish at Eton and will need our strongest team possible to make this possible.
Our great season to date has been based on all round team effort and we tend to have few event winners, emphasising that everybody’s contribution is always vital, On this occasion we had only 2 A string winners, Michael Wheeler, who won the shot with an excellent and huge new PB and club men’s record of 17.08m, an improvement of a whopping 89cm on his previous best and 18 year old Blade Ashby running a great PB of 14.40 in a close battle in the 110m hurdlers, an event where older brother Thomas won the B string for our only double first of the day. Blade was also 2nd in the A high jump for a good day’s contribution to our tally, while multi eventer Thomas also competed in the A discus, A pole vault, B shot and 4 x 400m relay.
We enjoyed B string victories in the high jump, where 16 year old Tayo Andrews joined forces with Blade to form our youngest event pairing and claimed maximum B string points. Lawrence Mensah won the B 400m with a well judged run from the inside lane, Shola John-Olojo won the B long jump, as well as placing 2nd in the A triple jump and Taiwo Aderini defied a back injury to win the B triple jump. Peter Phillips placed a very good 2nd in the A 400m after going out harder in the early stages than hitherto this season.
Others who placed well included Idris Ojuriye, who was 3rd in a strong B 100m race and 4th in the A 200m, Paul Oluyemi 3rd in the A long jump, 18 year old Lukas Wieland who was 3rd in the A javelin while our oldest team member Dave Peters was a good 3rd in the B 1500m a week after winning the British over 40 title at the same distance and days before his 41st birthday. Jeff Cunningham must have thought he was a multi eventer as he was called upon to run 400m hurdles as his warm up for placing 6th in the A string steeplechase and 3000m as a warm down and in the latter he managed to grab 3rd place B string points. Jeff typified the team spirit and ethic with his willingness to help us fill gaps and is rewarded along with a small selection of others taking part in a test event in the Olympic Stadium this week less than 48 hours before the Games athletics events commence.
With one match to go the team position at the head of the division is a useful one, but by no means unassailable and we will require one final big push at Eton on 18th August to ensure we are able to make that great leap up to the BAL Premiership for 2013.