Strong Herne Hill middle distance clean sweep in UK Women’s League match and a Night of 3000m PBs in Wimbledon Park

(Photo credits Stephen Yates)

The Herne Hill Harriers UK women’s athletics league (UKWAL) team at Lee Valley placed fourth in Sunday’s final fixture, a result which enabled the team to move away from the bottom of the table after a difficult season team wise, finishing sixth of the seven clubs in the division and avoiding relegation from the league.

Within the overall team score, however, the contribution from Harriers middle distance athletes could not have been better as the team scored maximum points in every event from 400m upwards!

English Schools senior girls 1500m champion Alexandra Brown was the first of the Herne Hill winners. Brown won the A string 800m clocking 2.12.67, easing back towards the finish after a sub 65 first lap knowing she would be racing again just over half an hour later to fulfil her commitment to also race 400m for the team, who welcomed such a top talented junior athlete in among our seniors. Maturity beyond her years rewarded both Brown and her team with another A string win in her debut at the distance in 60.78.

Helena Corbin followed her race plan to the letter to run a season’s best 800m in winning the B string in 2.16.53 and she then again accompanied Brown in the 400m, emerging victorious in the B string with 60.72. Stacey Ward was another who followed a plan, in her case it was to run her 3000m race with as evenly distributed pace and effort as possible in the very hot weather. A halfway split of 4.53 projected nicely towards her finishing time of 9.47.29 and like Brown in her 400m and Corbin in both of her races, Ward was another who ran a season’s best time.

Natasha Lodge stuck as closely to Ward as she could for the first half of the race before the heat took its toll, but not so much so as to prevent her from being second across the line and winner of the B string by well over a minute in 10.14.66. Georgie Grgec showed her class despite not feeling at her best as she soon took a good grip on the 1500m to run away to a good A string win in 4.34.79.

In the same race was the Herne Hill athlete of the match, Sarah Grover, who was originally only declared for the 2000m steeplechase, but had been on standby for the 400m in case Brown was unable to double after her 800m, but was then instead needed to replace Fiona de Mauny, who after a short warm up attempt realised that she was unable to race. So Grover stepped in as late cover and having already placed fourth in the high jump she then won the B string 1500m in 4.43.38 and then the A string 2000m steeplechase in 7.31.80, the latter immediately before running a good anchor leg in the third placed Herne Hill 4 x 400m relay team at the end of the meeting.

It was of course not all about the distance racers as Herne Hill athletes also scored well in some throws and sprint races. Esther Fuja and Vanessa Grant were third and second respectively in the A and B 100m in 12.91 and 13.02. Grant was then fourth in the A 200m in 27.42, with Manon Bukasa-Muteba fourth in the B in 27.44.

In the throws Hazel Robertson was fourth in the A hammer with 36.46m and fifth in the A discus with 29.14m. Charlotte Nicholls was third in both the B hammer and the B discus, throwing 27.05m and 24.08m and then also placed seventh in the shot with 8.64m. Unable to run as had been planned, de Mauny filled in at the javelin, coming seventh with 14.86m, while in the jumps, in addition to Grover’s fourth in the high jump with 1.55m, Joyce Kalumbo was third in the triple jump with 9.74m.

In Liverpool on Saturday a small Herne Hill men’s British League team of eleven athletes were fulfilling a fixture in the knowledge they were already consigned to relegation to BAL National Division 2.

Harriers were competing in the very strong second tier of British club men’s team athletics (like the Championship in English football but without the money millions) against seven of the top 16 in the country.

Again the middle distance runners formed more than half of the team, the best of whom were Lewis Lloyd, running in the A string 800m and 1500m, following up his fifth in a strong line up at the shorter distance in 1.55.51 with a superb second over 1500m in 3.51.24 with both races being of a tactical nature.

Mike Cummings led the B 800m from the front and was a little unlucky to get blocked when some others made a move with 200m to go, finishing well to place fifth in 1.57.22, while Andrew Clarke followed Lloyd until the later stages of the 1500m to ensure this was Harriers’ best event of the day as he placed third in the B string in 3.58.26. M45 veteran Simon Coombes ran another sub 16 minutes time for 5000m and was indeed on schedule for a quicker time until the last lap as his 15.57.38 put him in seventh in the A string.

Club men’s 100m record holder Marvin Popoola placed sixth in an exceptionally strong event at the distance with 10.68 and was then fourth in the 200m in 21.66, while in the field events another veteran Stuart Thurgood was third in the hammer with 49.73m before also placing seventh in the shot with 11.76m and eighth in the discus with 31.66m. Promising under 17 athlete Memphis Ayoade was seventh in the high jump with 1.78m.

Earlier in the week there was a veritable night of 3000m PBs as Herne Hill athletes were in force in Wimbledon Park at an excellent and superbly run Hercules Wimbledon 3000m festival.

3000m PBs were recorded in different races by Fiona de Mauny 10.08.61, Sarah Grover 9.59.01, Matt Robertson 9.19.69, Georgie Grgec 9.27.53, Simon Messenger 9.34.08, Lewis Laylee 8.48.76, Nick Bester 8.50.41 and Andrew Warburton 8.42.39.

Charlotte Alexander and Alex Hobley both went hard early on in their races and maybe paid a little for exuberance, but Alexander’s time of 9.37.62 was a season’s best and Hobley’s 9.18.07 was close to his best. Mike Cummings recorded the fastest Herne Hill time of the evening with 8.38.31, just a second outside his PB.

Grgec’s time elevated her to third on the Herne Hill female all-time 3000m list behind Chloe Tighe and Katie Snowden and just ahead of Stacey Ward by mere hundredths of a second.

Geoff Jerwood