On Saturday the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, newly upgraded for this summer’s Commonwealth Games, was the venue for this year’s “London” Wanda Diamond League meeting, televised live on BBC. Many of the world’s finest athletes were competing and on the start lists were Katie Snowden and Kristal Awuah.
But pride of place from a Herne Hill perspective on this day must go to the Under 20 women’s 4 x 100m team who set a new Harriers club record in the Club Connect Relays for younger athletes at the start of the meeting. Four sprint relay races for Under 20 and Under 17 men and women were held before the main events and provided aspiring athletes, including at least one Herne Hill team in each race, with a wonderful opportunity to take part in and then spectate in a World Athletics meeting, one of the biggest on British soil this year.
In the first couple of races the Harriers teams struggled a little with their baton handovers, but the Under 20 women’s A team in the third race seized their chance and placed a close second behind a strong Croydon Harriers team in a club age group 4 x 100m record time. Saskia King, Maleeka Taylor, Jaydine Robinson and Niyah Costley combined superbly to clock the excellent time of 47.88 seconds on the big stage.
Katie Snowden raced later in the afternoon in one of the strongest events of the day and produced another world level performance, albeit not quite matching her recent season opener in the USA, as on this occasion she finished eighth in the Diamond League women’s 1500m in 4:08.33. In a race in which she was ranked tenth of the eleven competitors in terms of their lifetime best times, this was nevertheless a very good run, regardless of any personal disappointment. Although two Scottish athletes finished ahead of her on Saturday, Snowden is currently the fastest English woman of this year to date in this event. Her next race is potentially another Diamond League 1500m in Rome in early June.
Sprinter Kristal Awuah was another Harriers international who was racing at this meet, competing in the women’s B 100m race among a quality field comprising six British, two Americans and a Canadian. In her first major race of this season, Awuah finished sixth (third among the British) in 11.60. She will be pleased to have her season now under way and move herself up the rankings in her upcoming races.
The other Harriers young athletes who raced in the Club Connect Relays were the U20 men Mine Ebriku, Andris Thorpe, Nathan Latigo and Maxwell Bediako sixth in 44.38, U20 women B team Makarios Mensah, Tia Meghie, Lizlove Fenning and Shanice Daley fourth in 52.37, U17 men Ayo Bello, Jude Austin–Unuajefe, Khalil Sesay and Dante Clarke fifth 46.20 and U17 women Temi Oluwadi, Alecia Davidson, Khelye Ekewe and Ye Sung Park seventh in 56.75.
Back home in the opening Southern Athletics League fixture on Sunday at Sutton, Herne Hill men and women placed a close third in the match. Field events were low on numbers which made it difficult to challenge the two leading teams, but there were some very good individual marks recorded on the day.
Isaac Ogunlade, who the previous weekend at the Middlesex Championship had secured a qualifying time for next month’s British Athletics Championship with his 53.50 for 400m hurdles, raced the flat 400m this time and his win by a huge margin in 49.4 saw him named as the male athlete of the match using a points scoring system. His final leg at the end of the meeting in a winning 4 x 400m combo which also included Jacob Alley, Keeran Sriskandarajah and Harvey Kande was at least as impressive and his split was timed at 48.7.
U17 Sriskandarajah also scored a good tactical win in the 800m in 1:58.9 and Alley won the B string 400m in 53.7 and ran a PB in third in the 200m B string with 24.3. M40 Jeff Cunningham and Sam Knight were winners in the men’s A and B string 2000m steeplechase in 7:00.7 and 7:45.3 respectively, while U17 Dante Clarke was second in both the high jump and long jump with his 1.85m clearance in the former being a PB.
A very emphatic winner in the women’s javelin was Ellie Jamieson with a best throw on the day of 40.14m. Team captain Joyce Kalombo scored a double win with PB’s in both, taking the A long jump with 4.68m and the B 200m in 27.1. Other Herne Hill winners in the women’s events were all Under 17s, as Justine Chambers in the B 800m, 2:41.2, Vivi Marshall in the A 1500m 5:27.8 and Izzy Perry in the 2000m steeplechase. On her first lap Perry had to contend with the water jump barrier still being at the height for the men’s race until the adjustment was very hastily made in time for her second lap, but coped admirably with the unexpected to carry on for her win.
In road race action at the Sri Chinmoy 10k in Battersea Park on Saturday, Eric Dol placed 28th in 35:28, one place ahead of M40 Paul Calver, who clocked 35.35. Jonathan Ratcliffe finished 37th overall in 36:38. Now a M55, Ratcliffe was here placed third in the M50 category.
James Brown was 51st in 38:26, ahead of a very good PB run for Jenny Nandi, whose 39:27 clocking saw her finish as seventh female in the race.