The charabang left Tooting heading south eastwards at 07:40hrs. The day out to Kent wasn’t a seaside jaunt or a day’s merry hop picking but Herne Hill’s men did pick up a regional championship title and trophy as they ran, threw and jumped their way to a well earned team driven victory at the Southern Counties Vets AC Track & Field League Final on Sunday September 6th 2015 at the Julie Rose Stadium, Ashford.
A cold morning sun soon warmed the stadium atmosphere as did Herne Hill’s men who similarly warmed to the early events in field, track and vocal support. Domineering throws by Stuart Thurgood (48.81m hammer, 11.76m Shot) with Des Austin and Garry Power racking up the M50’s points, Giuseppe Minetti covering long jump for a second place and Didier Sorel on the hop-pole vault set the team standard of excellence and quality event covering for the team. High quality opposition in both 800m and 100m did not dismay Lloyd Collier, Tom Conlon, Gary Ironmonger, Mike Mann or Giuseppe Minetti, Paul Marriott, Kwei Sankofa, Allan Long respectively to earn an array of 2nd and 3rd places to discreetly put the team second five points behind Southampton after six events, with Cambridge Harriers, last year’s winners a close 3rd.
The same sprinters consistently stoked the score up further in the 200m whilst Shot M60 was well covered by Andy Lea-Gerrard. Brian Ray started his multi-eventing whilst Kwei Sankofa, already on his third event, both bounded to solid 3rd places in the triple jump. Excellent and exciting 1500m races ensued. One first, one second and a third for Simon Coombes, Lloyd Collier and Tom Conlon in their respective races equalled Southampton’s high scoring. Not to be outdone Giuseppe Minetti willingly filled the breach of a late arrival to post his best 400m time for several years in his fourth event and a 2nd place. Didier Sorel’s comeback was more than his pole vault and more than welcome; Gary Ironmonger came 2nd (now consistently under 60s for the lap) and Mike Mann stepping down distance in the M60 400m field. Southampton gained the highest long sprint points, despite the loss of one athlete to injury, but no significant advantage was gained.
It was not until after the 2000m walk (Andy Millbank’s 1st, Waldy Pauzers’ 2nd) and high jump (Brian Ray 3rd, Paul Marriott 3rd and Waldy’s surprise 2nd) did Southampton get usurped from their lead by Herne Hill with Southampton and Cambridge Harriers now the stalkers of whom we had to beware. The discus added to the demise of Southampton’s challenge (7 points) whilst Cambridge Harriers (20 points) edged closer to our discrete lead despite our well earned 16 points drawn from Garry Power’s 1st, Brian Ray’s 2nd, Andy L-G’s 4th.
Tracking the match progress, team manager Waldy Pauzers now warned our athletes we were in serious danger of not competing for the title but winning it! Our red & black hooped athletes’ focus went up a level and the support for our athletes got louder! This was now a team on a mission possible.
The 4x100m relay welcomed back Darren Bernard (still the HHH senior 400m record holder) to track action with a born again baptism of fire on the third leg. Sankofa to Marriott to Bernard went the baton, but the lead went from Herne Hill to Southampton. Minetti on 4th leg had 2 metres to make up and thrillingly pulled in the Southampton athlete but was just left inches behind at the line. Yet, two points made on Cambridge Harriers, only one lost to Southampton. This was exciting racing indeed!
3000m track points were now at stake, M35A&B, M50, M60 a maximum of 28 points. Race one saw Simon Coombes grind the heart out of the opposition with a great front running win (9-05.69) whilst Jon Key knew he had ‘only’ the B-string to contend with. Track apprentice, Jon paced his race which led to an awesome 150 metre sprint to edge into first M35B runner on the line whilst taking 30 seconds off his PB, now 10-04.24. Race two had the ever reliable Gary Ironmonger taking Simon’s uncompromising approach to lead home comfortably. Mike Mann, on his third race and still running determinedly took a fine 2nd place in the M60’s. That was 27 from 28 points, Cambridge and Southampton yielded 11 and 14 points and our lead was now significantly ahead of the opposition.
That man Brian Ray, again so close to his PB in the javelin, and M50 Garth Francis took 2nd and 4th, matched Cambridge Harriers for event points which was daringly thought (but not sufficiently definitive to say) for our lead to be adequate, barring mishaps, to be unassailable.
The long relay followed with Coombes, Bernard, Sorel and Collier. Southampton stormed off, the Hill came a fine second only to be disqualified on a dubious technicality! Nul points! Oh, dear, did we already have enough points?
Allan Long, our super M70 veteran closed out our competition with his second 2nd place in the M60 long jump. Only one point gained by Cambridge Harriers….. can we be sure?
Reassuringly (and sportingly), both Cambridge Harriers and Southampton congratulated us, convinced of our victory. On that basis our relay disqualification appeal and its rejection then seemed insignificant. But it still felt like an age waiting for confirmation of our resounding victory by a 24 point margin !
The standards get better each year. And so must we to retain our championship title. We have proved we can do it. We also have the potential for improvement, the promise of better. Yet, equally important, we still know how to a have a good day out! I enjoyed every minute of a real complete team effort. Well done to everyone. Wear those hoops with pride, we are back where we want to be.
Men’s Vets T&F Manager.
MEN: 1. HHH 231, 2. Cambridge H 207, 3. Southampton 198, 4. Abingdon 181, 5. Dartford H 176, 6=. Epsom &EH 130, 6=. Barnet 130.
Results in the following link : http://www.richarddean.plus.com/hands/2015/finalmen2015.html