While our UK League women went top of our division at Crawley, our men followed a trip to Exeter where we had placed a good 2nd in our opening British Athletics League match with another long journey, this time to the Manchester area for a fixture at the well appointed Leigh Sports Village. With some of our key team members from our first match unavailable this time this was to be a tough challenge and the match that would tell us if we are true contenders for promotion from BAL National 2. That we came away with 3rd on the day, only 7.5 points behind match winners TVH was a source of both relief and frustration. Relief that the result not only keeps us in contention, but moves us to the top of the division with 2 matches to go, but so frustrating that we were that close to a match win which would have seen good daylight between us and the other 7 teams and would have been right up there with the best results ever achieved by any HHH team anywhere.
In weather that was out of character for this part of the world, conditions were conducive to good performances and our athletes did not disappoint. Victories in the A string events can be hard to come by and it took a real breakthrough 400m run by Peter Phillips to record our only one in Leigh as he took half a second from his best time to race under 48 seconds for the first time with the great time of 47.85, which moves him up to 4th on the HHH club all time list only just behind our club patron, the Right Hon Lord Terence Higgins. Maybe the fact that Peter was my man of the match for his previous PB at our last BAL leads me to give my vote this time to another team member who shattered his lifetime best by not just breaching, but annihilating the 4 minute barrier for the metric mile as in one fell swoop Mike Cummings reduced his best by no less than 5.65 seconds as he ran a fabulous 3.56.20 for 1500m. No win for Mike, but even my famous optimism and high level of expectation would not have banked on 5th place A string points as Mike was rewarded for being positive without getting carried away for what must be his best race yet in a long line of fine efforts for our BAL team.
Another team member also took a huge chunk from his PB as Sunny Adebanji marked his BAL debut with an improvement as emphatic as Mike’s as despite his raw tactics in the B 800m his home straight charge carried him to 4th in 1.56.67, down from a previous best of 2.02. Having missed out on an English Schools Championship he had hoped to run in memory of murdered London Schools team mate Sylvester Akpalara, Sunny ran with great credit and illustrated what awesome potential he has, underlined by a superb leg in the 4 x 400m relay at the end of the match. Sunny would love to earn himself an individual 400m berth in our strongest event at present and after Saturday I am watching that space. Our 3000m runners, James McMullan and Chris Busaileh had both endured recent illness and had been unable to train properly and Chris was only able to declare himself fit to run, still with some uncertainty after a warm up jog at the match. You would never have known this from watching their race, as they both tracked the race leaders assiduously for most of the 7.5 laps and scored far better points than we have enjoyed in distance events recently, as James’ PB of 8.28.98 placed a great 2nd in the A string, while Chris scored a B string win with 8.36.13, which was superb in the circumstances.
In what was generally a good day for our distance runners one more PB was recorded in the A steeplechase by Sarwar Khan, with 10.04.31 for 6th place and he was well backed up by 48 year old Keith Newton, whose B string 2nd place in 10.11.23 will take him towards the top of the UK over 45 rankings for the season to date. Not to be totally outdone by Mike’s great run, Jonny Henderson broke 4 minutes for the first time this season in placing 4th in the B 1500m
Our one A string winner Peter was joined by B winner Chris and also Thomas Ashby scored a good win in the B high hurdles with 14.89 and Sam Parsons also in the B 400m hurdles with 56.55. Our hurdles points were bolstered by the presence of Austin Ferns, whose fine 3rd in the A 400m hurdles in 53.77 was only eclipsed by his own animal competitiveness that drove him to a brilliant 2nd in the A 110m hurdles in races that were both won by the overall man of the match. Thomas put in his usual shift of all afternoon points scoring as his efforts in the A discus (3rd), A pole vault (5th), A shot (3rd), B long jump (4th) and a sprint relay anchor leg (4th) were added to his hurdles win. Others who multi tasked for the HHH cause were Gavin Johnson-Assoon, who competed in all 4 throws, placing 3rd in the B discus, 4th in the A javelin, 4th in the B shot and 8th in the B hammer, while Piotr Spas, coach to Thomas and Gavin, was 4th in the A high jump, 4th in the B pole vault and 5th in the B javelin. The contribution to our team score made by these guys should never be underestimated.
Our 4 x 400m relay men hit the headlines in the previous match with a great club record and although they didn’t quite live up to that on this occasion their time in placing 2nd and battling all the way to the line was only just outside the old record, as Sammy Croll-Mensah, Nicholas Atwell, Sunny Adebanji and Peter Phillips combined for another great team run. Dele Onifade tried to block out his ongoing injury issues with a decent 2nd in the A 100m, while Sammy ran well for 2nd in the A 200m and 3rd in the B 100m. Nicholas made his individual 400m BAL debut with a good 3rd in the B 400m only hundredths outside his PB. AJ Boyce stepped in at the last minute to fill the B 200m in 6th and also combined with Daryl Thomas, Thomas Ashby and Paul Oluyemi for 4th in the 4 x100m relay. Paul was also 2nd in his speciality long jump with 7.02m, while our triple jumpers, Shola John-Olojo and Taiwo Adereni placed well, with 3rd A string 13.91m and 2nd B string 13.14m respectively. Michael Dyer made a welcome return to our BAL team and although he won’t be happy with 8th A 800m, his time was the fastest by a HHH man so far this season, while veteran club President Garry Power threw A string hammer before contributing his usual invaluable support for and super action photo shots of fellow team members. Our youngest team member, young Tayo Andrews will have enjoyed the experience of his BAL debut in the B high jump.
As with our first long haul trip match, the entire team were worthy of mention and made very much appreciated contributions without which we would not now sit proudly at the top of the division with promotion in our own hands. Provided we have strong teams for our remaining 2 matches, on 13th August and 27th August we can continue to prove we are good enough to go up and achieve our highest ever league standing. We look forward to the next match in Abingdon.
Full results can be found at this link to the BAL website: