Herne Hill Harriers’ British Athletics League travelling show got on the road with a trek to Exeter and a good strong 2nd place in our opening fixture as we mount our challenge for this season after finishing 3rd of 8 teams in the 3rd tier division, known as BAL National 2 for the past 2 years. We may well have to at least replicate this result in our remaining 3 matches if we are to secure that elusive top 2 position overall for a promotion berth this year, but with a good start we have given ourselves the chance if we can take it. With 4 away meetings of 4 and our closest destination being Abingdon in match 3, we will be clocking up the miles in our quest for success, but if we can continue to display the team spirit and consistency we took to the West Country we could do very well.
Our all round effort was illustrated by the fact we only recorded 4 event wins, with a good number of 2nd and 3rd placings and team backup being the foundation of our performance. Pride of place must go to our 4 x 400m relay team, who rewrote a good club record that has stood since 1985 with a magnificent win against strong opposition to claim our only track win of the afternoon in the final event to send us away happy on the journey home. Sammy Croll-Mensah gave us the perfect start on the opening leg, leading out with a split of 48.9 seconds, handing over to BAL debutant Nicholas Atwell whose 48.8 stint kept us nicely in front. Toby Adeyemi followed his well judged B string 400m 2nd place with another great leg of 48.6 to send Surrey champion Peter Phillips off ahead of a couple of fast anchor leg opponents who were hunting him down. Although Peter’s split of just outside 49 seconds was the slowest of the team, his tactical acumen paid dividends when the two predators entered the home straight on his shoulder only for him to hold his ground and pull away again in the final few strides. The club record which had been 3.16.8 was shattered as the team time here was 3.15.53 and if given less windy weather this quartet could bring this time down further still in our remaining matches. As he also ran a substantial PB of 48.35 in placing 5th in a strong A string 400m, Peter was his team manager’s choice as the HHH man of the match on this occasion, despite strong claims from 3 or 4 team members who contributed superbly to our score in 3 or 4 individual events each.
Our other event winners were in the field, with Thomas Ashby and Ashley Ralph recording clear wins in the A and B discus and Blade Ashby winning the B high jump. Our superiority in the discus was underlined by us having a non scoring guest, Gavin Johnson-Assoon throwing a distance that would also have won the B string had he been required as a scoring team member in this event. The Ashby brothers’ contribution was immense, with Thomas filling 4 A string events and running a sprint relay leg and Blade backing up his high jump with 3 more very good B string performances, a couple of 2nd places and a 3rd with a PB over the senior 400m hurdles. Ashley also threw the hammer and shot, while Piotr Spas, who until now has been coach to Thomas, Blade and Gavin in his time with HHH took up the challenge of joining his charges in the team with 3rd A high jump, 2nd B javelin and 3rd B pole vault. To complete this very valuable training group effort, Gavin was also 2nd in the A javelin.
Our sprinters were less dominant than usual, but still scored well with Dele Onifade 3rd in the A 100m, Sammy Croll-Mensah 2nd in the A 200m and Idris Ojuriye 3rd in the B 100m and 2nd in the B 200m, while Idris joined forces with Daryl Thomas, Thomas Ashby and Simeon Ramsey-Graham for 3rd in the 4 x 100m relay. Paul Oluyemi again found the strong winds to be a curse on his run up, especially with one huge marginal foul jump before he got 3rd place points on the board, while not for the first time Jeff Cunningham was asked to complete the curious double of steeplechase and triple jump, the latter being part of his warm up and warm down for a 2nd B string placing in the chase in the absence of a specialist B triple jumper.
Our middle distance runners were all competitive, as Jordan Maurice and Mike Cummings performed well in the 800m, another BAL debutant Jordan Stokes and regular Jonny Henderson combined to good effect in the 1500m and Sarwar Khan’s first scoring run in a BAL match allowed Jeff to score good B string points in the steeplechase. In the longest race, the 5000m, James McMullan and Chris Busaileh both ran well in the conditions to finish 5th and 2nd in the A and B in a particularly loaded event which included some internationals. Sam Parsons again ran superbly for 4th in the A 400m hurdles, while Taiwo Aderini overcame an ankle problem to place 5th in the A triple jump. Club president Garry Power scored 3rd place points in the B string hammer to add some veteran representation and experience to what is essentially a young team in most areas.
This was an excellent team effort and all must be thanked for making the trip and are asked to make 3 more, to Manchester on 2nd July, Abingdon on 13th August and Derby on 27th August, as we will require our very best teams possible to make the most of this fine start to our BAL campaign.
Final scores were Exeter 350, HHH 338, Southend 292, Notts 287.5, TVH 272, Basingstoke 220.5, Trafford 208.5, Derby 207.5.
Full match results are at this link: