Herne Hill Harriers retain National Athletics League status in Liverpool

Andris Thorpe (number 55) 2nd in B 100m
Rachel Gibson (number 5) a strong 800m debut for the club 
Mike Cummings (number 5) to the fore in men’s 800m
Jenny Nandi & Lily Newton in 3000m – all pics credit Mark Hookway

Herne Hill Harriers senior team with a sprinkling of under 20s made the trip to Liverpool to compete in their final National Athletics League (NAL) team fixture with a potential threat of relegation from the league looming. A finishing position on the day of sixth of the eight teams for the second successive match in combination with seventh at the first one proved sufficient to avoid this eventuality.

Throughout the three match season the team has been strong in many of the events they have been able to cover and have regularly shown some true quality. A lack of athletes in some of the technical and other field events meant that a challenge for a position closer to the top end of the Championship division table had been unlikely this summer, but performances have been more than worthy of NAL status. 

In what was the strongest of the matches and in wet and windy conditions, the Herne Hill A string event winners were Cerys Aboagye in the women’s shot with 11.52m and Esther Fuja in the women’s A 200m with 25.22, with Joyce Kalombo winning the women’s B 200m in 26.33 and Jenny Nandi taking the women’s B 3000m in a PB time of 10:31.90. Aboagye was also third in the women’s A discus with 32.91m and Kalombo had placed third in the B 100m in 12.77 and equal sixth in the A long jump in 4.65m before her 200m win and also ran a 4 x 100m relay leg.

A number of good second places were added to the wins, three coming from the team’s top points scorer of the day, Sarah Grover. Her efforts were in the women’s B 800m in 2:18.62, the A 1500m in 4:43.70 and the A 1500m Steeplechase in 5:17.48. Fuja’s 200m win preceded by second in the A 100m in 12.34 plus a sprint relay leg saw her as the next highest contributor, while for the men Ignatius Abebrese scored highly with his second places in both the A long and triple jumps with 6.46m and 12.93m respectively.

In the women’s A 3000m Lily Newton enjoyed a superb debut at the distance as she placed second in 10:22.96 ahead of Nandi’s B string win. Grace Leyland joined Grover in the 1500m and was second in the B string in 4:59.11, gaining a vital place with her home straight sprint.

Rachel Gibson from Northern Ireland made her Harriers debut placing second in the women’s A 800m, clocking 2:15.50 and then covered the women’s 400m in 63.76 and helped to fill the sprint relay team. Zac Crowther was second in the men’s B 400m in 51.75 in his first race for more than a year, while Nate Standing was second in the B string 110m hurdles in 19.41, third in the B high jump with 1.67m and seventh in the A shot with 9.25m. 

George Withers clocked 2:00.23, tantalisingly close to sub 2 minutes in second place in the men’s B string 800m. Another multi event athlete Tim Stephens was fifth in the men’s A 400m hurdles in 60.38, sixth in the A 110m hurdles in 20.30, seventh in the A javelin with 32.41m and eighth in the A discus with 20.80m. 

In the men’s sprints U17 Rikaion Smith was fifth in the A 100m in 11.08 with Andris Thorpe second in the B string in 11.39 and in the 200m Byron Robinson and Shanpy Sealy were fourth in the A and B with 22.82 and 23.15. Dante Clarke was third in both men’s B long and triple jumps with 5.65m and 11.31m. Nathan Latigo was sixth in the men’s A 400m in 51.52.

Daniel Shaw was fourth in the men’s A 1500m in 3:59.42, backed up by Mike Cummings doubling up after placing fifth in the A 800m in a season’s best 1:58.49, then coming fourth in the B 1500m in 4:11.50. Another from Northern Ireland Thomas Patterson was fourth in the men’s A 3000m in 8:56.66, with Ronan Tanguy, fifth in the B string in 9:32.74. 

High jumper Fikayomi Awolope “warmed up” for his specialist event by scoring extra team points with fifth in the men’s A 2000m steeplechase with 7:43.54 before his fourth in the A high jump with 1.67m.

The match was rounded off with Patterson, Nathan Latigo, Jeff Cunningham and Shaw finishing sixth in the 4 x 400m relay with Shaw on last leg overtaking the man in the Bristol team who Herne Hill needed to beat in the match to stay up. 

Harriers have a young team in many events and with more expected to come through from the younger age group next year should now be on an upward trajectory and can build on what turned into a survival year this season.

One top overseas result on Saturday was at the Folksam Grand Prix meet in Malmo, Sweden where international sprinter Kristal Awuah placed third in 11.52 with +2.5 metres per second following wind, over the limit for record purposes, but a fast run nonetheless.

At the Sri Chinmoy 10km road race in Battersea Park on Saturday morning John Franklin was 14th in 33:04, Jonathan Ratcliffe 51st overall in 36:42 (second M55), Tom Irish 54th overall in 36:53 and Leonie Biemolt fifth female in a PB 37:12 (second W40). 

In the evening there was the Hercules Wimbledon 5000m Festival Night where Race 5 of 10 races saw a superb new club M50 record of 15:53.78 for Ben Paviour finishing ninth in a big season’s best. In Race 2 Tom Foster was 19th in 18:31.38, in and in Race 8 Brandon Dewar was fifth in 14:54.22 as he returns to form.

Geoff Jerwood