Following a tense match, in which Blackheath held a narrow lead at least once, we had to wait until a few minutes after the finish to discover that we’d beaten them by one point. For many of us, this compensated for the 2006 final, in which we came second to Oxford by half a point. A case of swings and roundabouts.
The victory means that only Blackheath have been champions more times than us, with ten wins to our three. They’ve achieved two hat-tricks.
Our team of 22 had only two athletes under 45, which might have pleased some veteran purists The eldest was M70 Micky Harran, who came a fine second in the M50 walk.
The weather at Ashford is often unfriendly, and wind and rain seemed to impede some of the performances. No wind gauge readings are available. That did not stop the recording of a number of season’s bests. Each individual can say that his points were crucial to the victory.
The team was not quite as strong as last year, and the toughness of the challenge showed in the smaller number of individual wins. We had three wins on the track and three in the field, compared with thirteen on the track and six in the field last year. The spectators reaped the benefit as they watched some closely contested events.
M50 sprinters Kwei Sankofa and Enfield’s Mike Vassiliou are ranked in the national top ten for 100/200/400. Kwei has unavoidably missed a lot of training, and in both the 100 and 200 he came second to Vassiliou. He then had a comfortable win in the 400, Vassiliou having switched to the M35 A string, which he also won.
The best was yet to come. In what must be one of the finest ever performances by a HHH vets relay team, we pipped Enfield by 0.1 of a second in the 4 x 100, Kwei holding off Vassiliou on the anchor leg. With the team made up of two M45s – Bobby Cooper and Masakatsu Kondo- and two M50s – Akin Oyediran and Kwei Sankofa – I believe that the time of 48.5 ranks as an M45 national record for a club team. The current record appears to be 48.8, set by Blackheath in 1996. I’ll try to get the record verified.
The middle distance races also provided entertainment. M40 Dave Peters, who started his season late, was up against a top ten M35, Alex Gibbins of Blackheath. Dave came a good second to him in both the 800 and 1500.
M45 Francis Marsh, on one of his infrequent visits to England from Belfast, made his league debut in the 3000 and was a close second to highly ranked M40 Andy Morgan-Lee of Southampton.
Another debutant was M45 David Millard, who was second to a very good Blackheath thrower in the javelin. Team captain M45 Garry Power won the discus and was second in the shot.
M50 Akin Oyediran covered several field events and gained a win double in the long jump/triple jump, in both of which he tops the national rankings. Another multi-eventer, M50 Brian Slaughter of Eastbourne, won four of his seven events. He scored about half of his club’s points, but this did not stop Eastbourne from finishing last.
I’ve only mentioned selected individual performances but details of all performances are listed. This very satisfying result had a lot to do with the well-established team spirit. There was plenty of mutual encouragement, with everyone enjoying contributing to the end result.