Herne Hill National League teams battle back into contention

A warm Saturday afternoon saw the Herne Hill Harriers flagship senior men’s and women’s National League teams both competing in separate matches at Kingsmeadow Stadium. The women in the UK Women’s Athletics League (UKWAL) had placed a close third in their first fixture at Bedford last month while on the same day the men’s British Athletics League (BAL) team had finished last in their match at Chelmsford, a long way behind the other seven teams on that day. 

In the second round of matches the UKWAL team placed second by a single point ahead of Liverpool in third thanks to some great teamwork within the ranks, the depleted middle distance squad and one or two field eventers doubling and trebling up where needed to bring it home. The men in red and black also performed superbly to place a battling sixth in the match to move off the bottom of the division table 

Zoe Tompkins had a mixed day, starting out with an unexpected long jump filling in for a no show (when every point counted), then being very harshly disqualified for an alleged false start in the A 400m hurdles. Her day got better as she was a runaway winner of the 2000m steeplechase in 7.28.40 and almost immediately afterwards ran a cracking third leg in the 4 x 400m relay to hand over a good lead with her split of 59.7.

Helena Corbin and Aimee Hargreaves were also on the track for 3 races each as both paired up in the 800m (2nd A and B respectively in 2.15.57 and 2.22.78) and 400m (Corbin third in the A race with 60.37 and Hargreaves fourth in the B with 66.01) and Hargreaves also squeezed in a cheeky B string 3000m win in between in 10.59.96 while Corbin anchored the winning 4 x 4 relay team comprised entirely of middle distance runners.

Katie Kedward won the B 400m hurdles in 76.54 and was then second in the A 3000m in 10.51.37 while Ella Newton (4.41.14) and Fiona de Mauny(4.45.68) were allowed “only” 1500m and 4 x 400m after they had run multiple events at previous fixture. They duly placed first and secondoverall in the 1500m and then combined to win the relay with Tompkins and Corbin, de Mauny’s dive for the line at the end of first leg of the relay seeing her go sub 60 with 59.9.

Herne Hill female sprinting strength is such that only one team member was asked to double up (excluding the standard sprint relay stint) as Esther Fuja secured a very close A string 100m win in 12.53 followed by a clear 200m B string victory in 26.35. Lilian Matamola won the B 100m by the same narrow margin of two hundredths of a second in 12.89 as Fuja in the A race, both crucially in terms of the match result defeating Liverpool athletes.

Eleanor Smith-Hahn was second in the A string 200m in 25.40 and Fuja and Smith-Hahn linked up with Vanessa Grant and Michelle Watson to place second in the 4 x 100m relay as the Harriers track section of the team scored more points than any others in the track events.

There were field event stars too, though as Michella Obijiaku warmed up for next week’s European under 23 championship in Sweden where she will represent Italy in the shot put by winning the shot and discus with 14.94m and 39.03m by huge margins and placing third in an exceptional hammer contest in which the winner broke the division record, Obijiaku’s best throw being a good 53.55m.

Ore Adamson was a convincing winner of the A long jump with 5.81m, while new member Jen Sheasby was a good second in the pole vault with 2.70m and further demonstrated her value to her new club team by filling in at javelin and triple jump to also make a very important difference to that close team result. Indeed every team member was valuable and valued as Charlotte Nicholls placed third in the B hammer with 27.13m, while Kathleen Moeller was sixth in the B javelin and Sharon St Luce filled the same position in the B shot.

In the men’s fixture it was again the track events where Herne Hill athletes claimed the lion’s share of the team points as despite being sixth overall on the day, the Harriers track section were second highest scorers in those events with some outstanding performances.

Marvin Popoola, the fastest sprinter in the history of the club to date won the A 100m in 10.62 and was narrowly beaten in a good A 200m race with 21.66 against a strong headwind before producing an anchor leg for the 4 x 100m relay team in which he passed several runners in the straight to claim what appeared an unlikely win at halfway. Byron Robinson’s points haul was opposite to Popoola’sas he lost a very close B 100m race to finish second on the line with the same time of 11.10 as the winner and then left nothing to chance with a clear B 200m win in 22.03 also against the wind.

Mike Cummings has run a lot of BAL races and has waited a long time to get his first A string victory, but Saturday was the day as he superbly executed his win in 3.59.16, with Lewis Layleemaking it a great HHH 1500m day winning the B string in 4.05.86 with the women’s 1-2 following straight afterwards for maximum points all round.

Rushane Thomas was a class above the other high hurdlers present as he finished a long way ahead of his A string 110m hurdles opponents with a good 14.73, while in the field Seb Wilson Dyer Gough produced the other Herne Hill win of the day in the long jump with his 6.79m. With Michael Wheeler placing second in the A shot put with 14.94m and veteran Stuart Thurgood third in the A hammer with a season’s best 50.42m it wasn’t all about the track.

Isaac Ogunlade is returning to fitness and racing form as witnessed by his third place in the A 400m hurdles in 56.17 and third in the B 400m in 50.86.Morgan Lewis prepared for this coming weekend’s English Schools Championship in Birmingham by placing third in the B long jump with 5.91m.

Angus Butler found a good quality B 800m race a good platform to clock 1.57.77, his fastest time for ten years as he placed fourth. Under 20 Arlo Ludewick ran his fastest 5000m time so far with 15.49.25 on a hot and humid afternoon, backed up by Josh Pewter whose track debut at the distance in 16.23.46 is quicker than his off track exploits to date in another tough race. 

John Foxall made his BAL debut with a warm up run over 400m hurdles in 76.39 then ran a PB 3000m steeplechase of 11.04.10, backed up by an out of sorts Jeff Cunningham who battled his way around the B string.

With points at stake, Butler (55.3 split) and Ludewick (56.3 not long after his 5000m) contributed to our 4x 400m team. After Ogunladehad run third leg, Peter Phillips ran a strong solo anchor leg in 50.5 after earlier placing sixth in the A 400m in 50.20, being a member of the winning sprint relay team and then demonstrating his willingness to help the team by contributing in the B triple jump.

This was a day when the Herne Hill National League track and field teams battled back into contention in their respective divisions in separate leagues – it would be very good if the two can be combined as one league with men and women covering the same events as currently, but as part of one bigger team, this is hopefully on the horizon.

The Harriers UKWAL team will now need to produce a similar result on 3rd August in Basingstoke to achieve promotion and likewise another comparable result for the men’s BAL team on their long trip to Glasgow on the same day could yet see the team  avoid relegation, a feat which had looked impossible after the first match debacle.

Move on up! 

Geoff Jerwood