Double British Students Sprint Gold for Marvin while Alex edges closer to Herne Hill age group record


Herne Hill Harriers student sprint star Marvin Popoola completed the sprint double at the British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS) Championship held annually at Bedford over the May Bank Holiday weekend. The more usual cool and windy conditions seen at this meeting gave way to the nation-wide heatwave which sprinters are known to enjoy far more than the longer distance athletes. ,

Popoola claimed his preferred 200m on Monday in a personal best time of 21.13 after comfortably negotiating the heat and semi-final, having won the 100m final the day before in 10.68 following a win in his heat in 10.67 seconds to dominate his opposition. All three of his fastest clockings were against a slight headwind, demonstrating that he is now fully back to his best from his junior international days in 2014. Having suffered numerous injury problems during the intervening period, Popoola commented that he is “just happy to be enjoying my running again and I look forward to the rest of the season”.

On Saturday the British Milers Club PB Classic meeting at Millfield School in Street, Somerset saw the return of Alexandra Brown after a winter of overcoming some issues of her own which wrote off her cross country season. Brown re-emerged with a determination to run a fast opening 1500m of her season.

It was a perfect evening, still and warm, albeit a pacemaker to lead for further than only the first 500m would have been welcomed at such an event. Brown then momentarily found herself a reluctant leader before some faster male runners took charge to provide some targets in front of her. The end result was a quick 4.27.29 – the second fastest ever 1500m time for a Herne Hill Harriers female under 20 and only just outside the current club under 20 women’s age group record‬.

Also on Saturday the Herne Hill men’s British Athletics League team travelled to Eton with probably the smallest teams to represent them in the top men’s club athletics league in the country (analogous to the Championship in football) taking along just four sprinters, four throwers and four middle distance runners, all of whom did their club proud despite the inevitable match result.

Two of the distance runners were especially busy as Jeff Cunningham and Tony Macdowall gamely filled gaps left by others who were not available on the day for reasons manifold. Cunningham covered six events, 400m hurdles, 800m, 3000m steeplechase, triple jump, 1500m and 3000m while Macdowall accompanied him in the first three of these races.

The team points haul in placing eighth of eight teams looks unimpressive, but would have been far less without such efforts, along with excellent performances from Andrew Clarke, running a big PB for 1500m of 4.02.62 and Andrew Warburton with a fine 3000m clocking of 8.47.60, both athletes placing fifth in their A string races.

Peter Phillips was the only Harriers event winner of the day in taking the B string 400m in 49.18, with team mate Nicholas Atwell placing third in the A race in 47.74. Stuart Thurgood placed third in the A hammer as well as throwing shot and discus accompanied by M50 Des Austin in all three events, while Allandre Johnson placed third in the A javelin accompanied by under 20 Alex Tischler who gained valuable experience of senior competition in throwing over 40m for the first time this season. The next BAL fixture is on Saturday 2nd June at Portsmouth where Harriers will expect a much stronger and competitive team on the day.

On the warm Bank Holiday Monday the club hosted a very successful and well attended Open Meeting at Tooting Bec, a fixture that features the Stan Allen Mile races in memory of a lifelong club member and coach. This year saw a record turnout with 76 runners entering and five races taking place. The first and fastest of these saw the winners of the senior and under 20 prizes awarded annually as the home club athletes Mike Cummings (4.25.04) and Georgie Grgec (4.50.90) were the fastest senior man and woman, with siblings from Dartford Cameron (4.55.10) and Chloe Sharp (4.51.88) the first of the under 20 milers.

There were a number of other strong performances by both home and visiting athletes during the course of an excellent, well organised afternoon of athletics which was a testament to the volunteer officials and helpers as well as the competitors, all of whom combine to make these fixtures the enjoyable occasions that they are.

Geoff Jerwood