Monday 08/05/2017 SVT&F Mid-London Division Match 1, Millennium Arena, Battersea Park
The day began to brighten, just as the sun was dropping to the horizon, the clouds disappeared and any initial warmth went with that sun to the heavens beyond. Air temperatures were dropping but the heat remained on in this match unto the final event.
The first veterans match had a classic start for a working Monday evening. An 18:30hrs Discus start began with a phone call at that very hour from our big guy throwers, Gary Power and Stuart Thurgood. ‘Gary and Stuart here, we are stuck in traffic, but not too far to go now. Get our names declared, we’ll be there at least before the last throw. Bye.’’ At least the welcome sight of returning M60 throwers Derek Prentice, Andy Lea-Gerrard and Des Austin gave the judges credence in our discus declaration. Finally, at the end of the warm up throws in strolled our missing big boys to strut their stuff. Bang, bang and two wins in the bag, like partridges for supper! But we had a few hours of effort to hang out that points score to maturation and the taste of success. Derek got a 3rd but ahead of both main rivals Hillingdon and Serpentine, allowing HHH to take an immediate 5 point lead.
The High Jump had to take to our usual contingency plans, enter new man Tony MacDowall, that man Derek Prentice both rusty in this event, whilst the team manager accepted Paul Marriott’s offer of ‘only one jump, though’ (but that was riskily awaited and tactically achieved, winning the M50 in 1-40m.) Tony’s 3rd and Derek’s 4th covered the main opposition points here, which is all we wanted here.
On track at 19:00hrs, Giuseppe Minetti was out the blocks and away. He took the race as if he was the rabbit at a greyhound stadium, leaving the contenders from the gun and posting an excellent early season 12 seconds dead. Not to disappoint the returning, clearly rejuvenated Kwei Sankofa had similar attitude and pick up to yield another outstanding 100m win in the ‘B-string’ race, with minimal training for 2 years of injury woes, welcome back! Although outsprinted by tough opposition, Paul Marriott and Andy Lea-Gerrard kept the points coming in for the match score to reach 66.5 points for HHH, 66 points for Hillingdon with Serpies 12 points behind! The usual trio of match result challengers were already slipping ahead of TVH, Metros, Highgate, Ealing S&M and British Airways.
The 2km Walk, saw Valdis Pauzers and Andy Millbank ably win their competitions and Glen Keegan give the walk another go with a sound third placing. So, HHH now got breathing space being four ½ and thirteen points clear of Hillingdon and Serpies respectively.
Then came the Hillingdon ‘full house’ challenge: four 400m races and 4 straight wins and maximum points! Despite good performances from our middle distance men running under-distance, Mohammed Ismael (3rd), Tony MacDowall (3rd), Gary Ironmonger (2nd) and Mike Mann (3rd) we could not stave off Hillingdon’s quality in this event. Adding the results of the simultaneously occurring Long Jump event, where we were also constrained to field a brave, willing ‘fill in’ squad (Paul Marriott 3rd, Nick Nicola 4th and Andy L-G 6th) compared to Hillingdon’s 22 from 24 points (1st, 1st, 3rd), alas, HHH were now pushed into second place overall with a significant eleven point deficit with three events remaining… ..
Fortunately, we once again had the reliability of those HHH Big Boys up for the Shot: The double barrels boomed once again, Stuart pushed 12-21m and Gary 9-57m both winning their respective groups. Derek, now loosening up into the action getting the fine 2nd he could best reasonably hope to achieve with 7-92m. Twenty three from twenty four points achieved! Des, Nic and Andy did solid supporting roles here too. And nine of those eleven deficit points were eliminated.
Little did we know it at the time but back on the tartan, the four 1500m races were becoming critical. Mohammed took the M35 A-string event by forceful front running, knowing there were good kickers to wear out to finish first. Simon Thompson took second in his race, as did Keith Newton and Mike Mann in theirs. Hard racing for each of them but significantly none of them beaten by their respective Hillingdon counterparts. A further seven points recovered and the lead with it by five points!
Unknown to the HHH team, we could yet lose the match over the final 4x400m event. Hillingdon fielded their strength in depth in the 400m. HHH had a plucky, very new look team. Dan Hallam ran his first leg faster than his individual 400m, handed over in the mix to the ever willing Paul Marriott who had never run 400m since his school days! As expected, Hillingdon were out in front. HHH needed safe handovers to finish and get points to win but were hunting for second place. Paul ran heroics over his final 50m and collapsed after his handover to Tony MacDowall who took off with the chase well set up for him. Suddenly, the Hillingdon leader was down! Tony was making a larger lead (and he also bettered his individual 400m time) to pass to our last leg, Simon Thompson. That 10 metre gap fluctuated over that last lap but essentially stayed the same to the end. An HHH win and an unlucky DNF for the Hillingdon relay team.
Finally, a warm welcome to Duncan Rimmer, testing T&F waters by racing 100m, 400m and 1500m for his track inauguration. And to Gary Budinger, who was returning to track racing after a 30 odd year absence in the 1500m. All can try any event here provided you are an M35 club member.
A grand win, but it was far from straightforward. Had the Hillingdon relay team not had injury to their unfortunate 3rd leg runner we would have squeezed home by a mere 4 ½ points. Hillingdon are expected to fight back on their home ground in the next match (Monday 5th June). There is absolutely no room for complacency on our behalf. If we want the ‘top club status’ in this division it has to be fought for in every event, in every match. The quality of teams is ever improving and that means HHH need to do so as well.
Thanks to all for your efforts, enthusiasm and hard work. And that includes officials and helpers, without you all there is no competition. Match 2 will be our biggest test of the early season. Let’s be there in numbers, as were Hillingdon at Battersea.
Up the Hill,
Valdis Pauzers, Mens Veterans Team Manager.
Result: 1. Herne Hill Harriers 186.5 ; 2. Hillingdon 173 ; 3. Serpentine 163.5 ; 4. Metros 98; 5. Thames Valley Harriers 86.5 ; 6. Highgate 85.5 ; 7. Ealing, Southall & Middlesex 28 ; 8. British Airways 15.