Herne Hill Veterans Teams kick-off the 2021 Track & Field Season.

For the first time for some years, for this fixture at Hillingdon Athletics Stadium it was not ‘cold, wet and windy up North’. Monday 7th June, contradicted the almost expected weather pattern as veteran athletes heralded the restart of our mid-London division Vets track and field competitions after a 20 month break with benign settled weather. Yet, whether the current restrictions, the distance from home, a lack of training or a forgotten loss of competitive spirit curtailed athletes from attending, HHH seemed more affected than the other key teams of the division.

Fortunately, we had a few stalwarts who desired to escape Covid somnambulance, and a couple of newbies, always welcome! Though depleted in numbers we showed we still have the spirit and the will to give the team competition a full on effort. It was particularly our Women who showed that collective team spirit at Hillingdon.

The Covid restricted programme provided 200m, 800m, 3000m on the track with Shot, Javelin and Long Jump on the field. With a total of 21 age group slots to cover between the fiesty five lasses, 20 were covered. Gillian Wheeldon topped performances by competing the full set of her age group six events as our only W60 attendee, getting 1st in both the 200m and Shot, two second places and two thirds! (Gillian did confess to be rather sore the following fews days. ..) Not to be outdone Nikki Sturzaker (two 1sts in Javelin & Shot) and the returning Sarah Guest punched out that feisty fist-full five of events each, too. Steph Mitchell, returning from injury turned in an imperious winning W35 800m and covered the 3000m with a fine fourth, (which feels like a marathon to a 400m runner). Newcomer to track competition, Inga Bellahn showed both grit and determination covering 200m and 3000m, finishing a well placed 3rd and 4th respectively to glean the valuable team points.

Eleven men were expected, eight showed up. (Sad.) The same limited events were available 200m, 800m, 3000m, Shot, Javelin and Long Jump. Yet again, what we lacked in quality we made up in miles travelled. Ever dependables Allan Long and Chris Carden competing for the travel miles trophy, Allan coming from the South Coast and Chris from Rugby making Simon Coombes’s trip from Leighton Buzzard seem more like popping out to the local shop. Chris threw Javelin, Shot and Jumped at M60. 78 year old Allan kept himself highly competitive with an M60 third place in the 200 metres. Simon hit a double 2nd in the 800m and 3000m where he was marginally bettered by great work from Gary Ironmonger getting an M50 800m 1st, yet outsprinted in the 3000m to 2nd as he went for a time rather than a tactical victory, and thus finishing in a brilliant M50 category 9m50.6s at 59 years of age. A fine start and a very welcome addition to the vets team for M60 Mark Bebbington taking a strong 2nd in the 800m with more to come from him, indeed. Mike Mann kindly covered our M60 3000m for 3rd place. Glen embraced the M50 200m and Shot with Andy Simms being equally enthusiastic scoring further 200m and 800m team points.

Home advantage took hold in both team competitions, the men coming a somewhat submissive third, whereas, at least the Fiesty Five gnarled at the heels of Hillingdon all the way to return a fighting second place, 126 points to 131. A grand performance from so few.

Finally, the vets track and field season had begun, so we need to grow that squad, its personality and passion.

And now for our ‘Match 3’ at Battersea, Monday 21st June. … ..

Two weeks later, HHH were responsible for ‘Match 3’ (which this year constitutes our second match). Battersea was dull, coldish and gloomy, fine if you were running middle distance, and at least the expected showers did not show. Many thanks to all who turned up to compete and/or help but we really cut operations to the finest limits, so I reiterate my thanks to those committing themselves to helping and officiating, without you we have no event.

The Women’s Discus started the show, with Nikki Sturzaker, Mandy Brown and Gillian Wheeldon set to repeat Hillingdon’s efforts keeping our scoring well ordered, M35 1st, M50 2nd, M60 3rd. Men’s Javelin followed with Chris Carden M60, Andy Simms and Garth Francis (making a late show) put points onto the team scoreboard with two 2nds. Ladies High Jump was willingly covered by Alexandra Shamloll getting a ‘for points’ 4th first attempt, and Patti Gnoato raising the bar to W50 1st, as the Men’s 100 metres started the business on the track.

Bang! What a glorious sound, and heartening, too, when Giuseppe Minetti, Mike Tay, Ian Strong & Allan Long open their legs and . … (I’d better not do a Colemanballs here… ) .. . compete with such determination. M50 Giuseppe, a very close second in the M35A race, letting Mike Tay take an M35B 1st, Ian & Andy giving solid scoring efforts, too. Alex Shamloll, Alex Marginean, Mandy Brown and Gillian Wheeldon took on their respective age group 100m events, yielding three fine 1sts, perfect!. Alex Marginean’s veteran racing baptism was a sight for sore eyes, welcome, the potential for a grand future to vets sprinting beckons.

The mixed M/F 2000m Walk saw a huge field where team manager Waldy Pauzers led by example and from start to finish. Three more 1st age group firsts from six was a fine yield with thanks to Mark Preskett, Glen Keegan and ‘first-walk’ W35 winner Inga Bellahn, well done!

This result was followed by four 1sts from eight in both 400m and 1500m, Steph Mitchell, getting a fine 1st and 2nd respectively, whilst Gary Ironmonger hammered out two M50 1st places.

Personally, things began to get a little hazy for me in overseeing the match. The fiield events needed ‘rescuing’ so I volunteered to lead the women’s Triple Jump judging which was near to an hour late in starting, followed by the men’s. My attention elsewhere and intentionally back to the track to avoid distraction, the rest of the report is based on hearsay, glimpse and vivid imagination. … but still just as worthy to record.

Alexandra Shamloll eased to 400m B win, whereas Patti Gnoato thrillingly fought hammer and tong down the home straight to earn her W50 1st place. Simon Coombes and Jack Brotchie dominated their M35A & B joint 1500m from the start to finish with their excellent M35A & M35B wins. Mark Bebbington gained his first M60 win and a PB for all 1sts in the men’s 1500m. Ola Balme covered our W50 1500m as Nikki Sturzaker concluded her four events with two 2nd ‘s and a 1st in the discus and a winning relay leg. Gillian Wheeldon gained her second 1st in the javelin with Mandy Brown covering discus and javelin at W50 for a pair of 2nd places. Patti was well and truly back getting those TJ, HJ & 400m wins and completing an eponymous relay leg.

Mark Preskett and Chris Carden persisted in the very late Triple Jump to score legal jumps, before Jess Winfield (doing a magnificent but unseen, unheralded job compiling results), Dan Hallam and I left as the Battersea track staff were itching to switch the lights out.

Overall, a magnificent win from our women who emphasised the need to cover events throughout, 168 points to Serpies 156 and Hillingdon’s 150.

The men improved to score a respectably close third with 148 points.

Serpentine’s men won with 167, Hillingdon at 151 points, yet oncoming is also Thames Valley Harriers building to 132 points, they will also be a force to be reckoned with soon..

Simple observation indicates we miss field athletes and performances and the need to cover all competition slots. We have lost a few, gained a few but need to renew the committed joy and camaraderie that we seen to have lost due to this unfortunate closedown isolation. Let;s keep building for the Perivale (7th July meeting). Our saving grace is we do not have a formal competition this year, but we do have a little top dog honour and status to maintain (or recover). Let’s start at Perivale, get in there and spring into veterans athletics as we expect it, HHH in the mix and winning!

Waldy Pauzers,

Vets Team Manager.