Both Herne Hills Veteran Men and Women had qualified for the finals once again, no mean achievement in itself. So it was off to the Julie Rose Stadium, Ashford once again on Sunday 4th September.
An optimistic men’s team had a solid composition and started the finals with a flurry of fine performances, to kick off the defence of their 2015 title. On the track Mohammed Ismail, Lloyd Collier and Gary Ironmonger stormed to three wins in their respective M35A, M35B and M50 800m races, whilst Giuseppe Minetti did the same in the M35A 100m, adequately supported by Mo Ismail, Paul Marriott and Allan Long in their age category short sprint races. The morning’s throw events of Hammer and Shot were equally well contested by Stewart Thurgood doing both (1st and 2nd) supported by Des Austin (3rd in M50 Hammer) and Garry Power (3rd in M50 Shot). Earlier Garth Francis had already taken a fine 3rd in the M60 Shot. The Long Jump was covered by Giuseppe Minetti and Paul Marriott in conjunction with their 100m duties. But both athletes were disappointed with their similar 5th places, but this total still led to The Hill having an early morning overall lead in the team competition, which we knew we needed to overcome our lack of cover in the Pole Vault.
The 200m concluded the morning’s proceedings with Giuseppe being pipped to the post for first, Lloyd Collier warily holding on to 3rd place and Paul Marriott clocking a 4th in a classy M50 field. But ominously our consistency failed to prevent us from falling behind Southampton when the ominous Pole Vault results were taken into account. Southampton won both M35 and M50 competitions where we were unrepresented, and so we gave away a maximum 14 point advantage to the team which had already indicated they were to be our main rivals for the day. The worst case scenario had occurred, but at least we now knew what we were up against and knew what we needed, to recover in the afternoon’s proceedings. Cambridge Harriers also crept close to our second place points score.
The 1500m performances just served to demonstrate Southampton’s strength. Despite Simon Coombes’ fine 1st, Gary Ironmonger’s 2nd place, Jon Key’s hard fought 3rd and Mike Mann’s gallant efforts they edged a further 2 point ahead. Our solid Triple Jump efforts were once again not sufficient to stave off the Southampton charge despite good jumping from Dave Adam and Allan Long. Respite came from the discus, where Garry Power’s 1st (39-07m), Stewart Thurgood’s 2nd and Andy Lea-Gerrard’s 3rd cut three points off the overall difference.
Likewise, a fantastic debut high jump of 1-25m and 1st place by M60 Garth Francis and 2nd in the Javelin only served to track Southampton’s scoring without making inroads on their advantage. Dave Adam was 2nd equal in High Jump, but equal to his Southampton rival and Paul Marriott had to suffer 5th place in M50 and undeservedly having an off-day. Nick Nicola generously covered the M35 Javelin slot with aplomb despite giving a few years to his rivals.
Back on the track the 400m crew of Mo Ismail, Lloyd Collier, Andy Simms and Steve Knight fought on. The unfortunate Steve pulled a hamstring halfway through but hobbled in to ensure points were scored. Good efforts, but again falling behind Southampton’s score; their range and diversity of squad demonstrated their strength. The 2000m Walk, covered by Waldy Pauzers and Bob Healey, getting a PB, again gave an exciting race and sound points scores but could not affect the Southampton advantage, though we were now well clear of any challenge to our second place from below. With events and available point ever diminishing, we had respite and further success in the 3000m. Fine 1st ‘s and maximum points by Simon Coombes and Gary Ironmonger, a personal best and 3rd from Robin Jones took us further away from Cambridge Harriers and the fast climbing Hercules Wimbledon and at last cut into the Southampton lead but too little too late as the remaining events diminished and victory was now clearly out of our grasp.
The relays could not affect our second overall place, win or lose. The 4x100m was ably covered by Giuseppe, Lloyd, Paul, and Mo. The 4x400m by Jon, Mark White, Robin Jones and Mo again! The zest for competition remained despite our beleaguered circumstances.
An honourable finish and a fair second place to a superior Southampton team, the deserving winners for 2016. The Hercules Wimbledon finals debut sneaked 3rd place by covering all slots and a robust sprint contingent.
No Pole Vaulters was the significant wound from which we never recovered. But let us remember 2nd in the South of England is not bad and it goes to show the level of our standards, that I write and we all feel a degree of failure. Southampton were organised, functional and had specialists in most slots; that’s where we want to be as well as being dedicated and team spirited individuals. We do need you all from Match 1 to the final. (I loved and appreciated the commitment of those there at the final and during the divisional matches. In reality, we did put on a fair challenge.)
But oh, how we miss the injured Kwei Sankofa and other M50’s, the indisposed Didier Sorel, Brian Ray and a few more sprinters! Sadly the art of veterans athletics involves containment from injury which stymies us all from time to time. Fantastic work by Mo Ismail, he covered short stuff for the team to be my Man of the Match, though both Stewart Thurgood and Garth Francis were very close.
Let’s regroup and see what we can do better, together for next year. This standards of this competition continues to improve and remain a worthy top target challenge to put HHH veterans in the limelight. A few more bodies in good shape and we can come back fighting fitter, faster and first.
We still remain magnificent, be proud and look forward to the next season. Together we achieve, as individuals we just do well.
Men’s Vets T&F Manager.
MEN: Southampton 250, HHH 213.5, Hercules Wimbledon 185, Cambridge H 179.5, Dartford H 169.5, Abingdon 163.5, Barnet 53.
Results in the following link :