Herne Hill track league teams again struggle for points

Saturday saw the third round of four National Athletics League match fixtures with Herne Hill Harriers combined men and women’s team travelling to Bournemouth.  

The team placed seventh of the eight teams despite some good individual performances and one or two heroic efforts to fill events that were optional extras on the day. The team was nevertheless stronger and performed better than at the second match, but against higher placed opponents in the league this was always going to be a challenging third match. 

A common theme this season has been empty spaces on the team sheet, especially in the more technical events, eg hurdles and field events and this was again where the team suffered with insufficient points on the board overall. 

Julia Wedmore’s contribution to our team was immense, as addition to running close to her season’s best for 3000m with 10:51.62 for second B string, she also filled four of what she called “completely rogue events”, the 400m hurdles (a PB by around 10 seconds), javelin, 400m and shot. 

One of the best individual performances was Georgie Grgec’s runaway solo win in the 3000m against two or three strong opponents. Grgec sat in for the first 500m and then upped the pace and romped home in 9:35.72. An impressive victory on a windy day.

Fiona de Mauny won the B string 800m in 2:25.91 and from there she ran straight over to throw the javelin. Zoe Tompkins travelled down from York and came second in a very competitive A string 800m and then ran a PB in her PB 400m race not long afterwards. She shaved three hundredths from her previous best but was still excruciatingly just outside 60 seconds with her 60.08.

Sarah Grover hit the front of her 1500m after a slow early pace and it was enough to beat all bar one as she finished second A string in 4:49.97. She then even produced a very dominant win in the 2000m steeplechase by a huge margin of over a minute and lapped almost the entire field, clocking 7:43.59. Grace Leyland placed a good second in the B 1500m in 5:11.60. 

The men’s middle distance races featured a good PB for Daniel Shaw with 1:59.03 for fifth in the A string. As with Tompkins 400m, the PB was marginal time wise, but was worth faster in more benign weather. Shaw then ran well in a tactical 1500m race to place second in the B string with another strong finish in 4:10.20.

Keeran Sriskandarajah has yet to reach his 16th birthday, but he handled the tactical 1500m very well to come away with fifth in the A string and a PB of 4:08.87, a time which he can expect to improve in a different sort of race. He later ran a superb opening leg split of 51.5 in the 4 x 400m relay which set the team up for a superb battle with Liverpool and Basingstoke. In an exciting finale Sriskandarajah, Tyson Oladokun (50.0), Adam Thompson (49.5).and Isaac Ogunlade (49.2) finished a fighting second place for a very positive to end to the match.

The women’s 4 x 400m was also thrilling, with three teams swapping the lead in contention and in which we again the Herne Hill team were an excellent second, composed of four distance runners. Tompkins ran a great first leg in 62.6, then de Mauny 66.2, then “NIght of the 10000m” race winner Grgec showed a good turn of shorter distance speed clocking 63.5. On the last leg Grover was back on the track having only just finished her steeplechase win and she fought all the way, but as with the men had to settle for second after a 64.5 split.

Individual results from the UK Athletics Youth Development League match at Croydon on Sunday are not yet out, but the combined Under 13 and Under 15 boys and girls team placed third of the six teams in a hard fought match. They now sit equal first in their division table with one match remaining, which will be held on the newly resurfaced Tooting Bec Athletics Track. As with their senior counterparts, the areas of relative weakness have been in the field events which have been more difficult to train effectively for first of all during the Covid restrictions and then recently during the period in which the club’s home track was closed for a much needed and now completed upgrade. 

Geoff Jerwood