Atwell breaks long standing Herne Hill 400m club record in Southern Gold Rush

Nicholas Atwell has been knocking on the door of ducking under the Herne Hill Harriers senior men’s 400m club record for the past three years with a PB that has hovered within a tenth of a second of the standard set by Darren Bernard way back in 1989.

Last weekend after tough heats and semifinal qualification on Saturday, Atwell won the men’s final on Sunday at the South of England Senior and Under 20 Championship at the Bedford International Athletics Stadium. Atwell was a clear winner in a time of 47.05 seconds, eclipsing Bernard’s long standing mark by six hundredths of a second and looks good to become the first Harriers athlete to go sub 47 seconds in the coming weeks. Club mate Samuel Adeyemi will also be chasing this record after his excellent PB of 48.06 in his semifinal saw him qualify to place seventh in the final.

Atwell’s victory was in the middle of a veritable gold rush for Herne Hill athletes, with five winners and a silver medalist on Sunday afternoon following a much quieter Saturday during which only Ore Adamson was on the medals rostrum claiming her event winner’s award.

Adamson kicked off the club’s medal haul with her winning long jump in the under 20 women’s event with a best leap of 5.94m, just one centimetre below her season’s best to date and 6cm shy of the qualifying distance for this year’s European Youth Championship. Adamson wins the under 20 female title while still actually in the under 17 women’s age group for this season, defeating her older opposition.

On day two Georgie Grgec arrived to discover only three athletes would be contesting her senior women’s 5000m final and Grgec simply ran away from the others setting her own pace very nicely out on her own, reeling off her prescribed lap targets with a good pick up of pace in the closing stages to bring home a PB of 16.36.02. Grgec won by some 50 seconds from her nearest rival and lapped the bronze medalist.

The next Harriers gold medal was won by Kristal Awuah dominating the under 20 women’s 100m, her winning time of 11.61 seconds being the second fastest ever run by a Herne Hill female sprinter, bettered only by her own recent club women’s record of 11.58 and sets her up very well going into next weekend’s England under 20 championships on the same track that is popular with those who sprint. In the same final Lakeisha Owusu-Junior placed fifth in 12.42 following a time of 12.26 in her heat.

The under 20 women’s 1500m was a high quality affair which came alive after a slow first kilometre as Alex Brown produced a fast final lap to take the gold medal in a time of 4.29.90, the third occasion so far that she has breached the 4.30 barrier and it appears that the club record for this age group currently held by Katie Snowden may now be living a charmed life, with said England under 20 championships on the horizon. Behind Brown, Saskia Millard ran her first track race for two years and her fourth place in 4.35.19 after being one of the main protagonists earlier in the race suggests she too can join the sub 4.30 club before long.

The last of the Herne Hill gold medals was won in the closest of all of the races, as British Students double sprints champion Marvin Popoola added the Southern senior men’s title to his collection. Popoola was fastest around the bend and just kept himself in front at the line in 21.32, with second place clocking 21.33 and third place 21.34!

The only Harriers athlete on the podium not collecting gold was Charlie Krammer, whose very fine PB of 9.33.17 in the under 17 men’s 3000m earned him a surprise silver medal.

Only Stacey Ward has ever run faster for 5000m in the history of HHH female track racing than Grgec’s time in Bedford and Ward enjoyed her own race victory in road racing at her local St Albans half marathon, defeating a fellow England international to finish as first woman by over twenty seconds in 78.34 on a very hilly course and only a few seconds outside a course record she was blissfully unaware of while racing.

Back on the track, the weekend also saw the county schools championships with Herne Hill athletes gaining a great number of selection places in both the London and Surrey Schools teams for the English Schools championships in Birmingham next month.

Full meeting results are not yet published, but so far sixteen Herne Hill youngsters have been announced in the London Schools team, while Surrey Schools championship winners included middle distance athletes Maisie Collis, who set a new Championship Best Performance of 4:36.2 with a brilliant solo run in the Junior Girls 1500m leading gun to tape, winning by nearly the length of the home-straight and one of only four CBP’s broken on the day.

Team mate and training partner Charlotte Alexander also had a gun to tape win in the Intermediate Girls 1500m and her 4.31.9 was only just outside the CBP in her event with Isobel Penniceard taking Silver in 4.47.1 for a new PB.

Geoff Jerwood