Club Win European Cup
The weather was terrible. There was no meat in the bolognese sauce. A strange man in a yellow cardigan didn't seem to be able to take "no" for an answer. But amidst all the adversity, the senior women produced a series of fantastic performances to win Group B of the European Champion Clubs' Cup and gain promotion to the elite Group A for 2011 - the winning of the UKWL permitting.
Having endured a torrid journey to Slovakia in 2009, hopes were not high for a smooth trip to Switzerland, but a combination of Swiss efficiency and a direct flight meant that those fears were unfounded, and the team arrived at the hotel via Basel airport in time for dinner. The fact that the meal consisted of a pungent Caesar salad and a plate of spaghetti coloured with a simple tomato sauce dampened spirits a little, but not too much. A lothario from the male Irish team took no time in trying to work his magic, but was sent on his way (he would be back, though), while Kath Endacott's demands for dessert fell on deaf ears. Many of the team headed straight to local eateries to forage for more food, before an early night in preparation for the main event.
The weather on the day of competition was predictably bad, with howling winds and horizontal rain being interspersed with some relatively benign conditions. The match got off to a slow start, but from the first event the Sale athletes gave their all. Momentum built as the match progressed, until eventually the team succeeded in winning a competition that had eluded them the year before. In the end, the margin of victory was a comfortable 16 points from the Dutch team Rotterdam. Here's how the team got on: -
100m: Chief cheerleader Katherine Endacott recorded the first victory of the day for the team on the track, running very close to her recent pb with a great time of 11.56s. She nearly matched that at the end of the meeting in trying to catch me to throw me in the waterjump, but narrowly failed.
200m: Shaunna Thompson, having marvelled at the Swiss countryside on the bus to Bern, repeated Kath's success in the longer sprint, achieving a World Junior Championships qualifying mark in the process (23.76).
400m: The youngest member of the team, Tyra Watson, gave a very good account of herself, taking 5th place in a season's best 58.59s. In the absence of a party in the evening, Tyra made her own fun, by finding a magnet and thrilling to the sight of it sticking to metal surfaces when thrown.
800m: Making her club debut, Nicola Maddick recovered from her disappointment of having to eat salad to front run to victory in the 800m (2:11.18s).
1500m: Jenna Hill, feeling under the weather and in no fit state to challenge her best times, ran a very sensible race to claim a podium spot and one of the all-important pink scarves.
3000m: Rachel Deegan also found the going tough, but battled hard to finish a credible 4th with 10:22.20.
5000m: Shocked to see a 5000m on the timetable just 15 minutes before it was due to start, we didn't have anyone to do it. Linda Benin, the hammer thrower, looked like she might have been open to persuasion, but sadly it was too late. Luckily this didn't affect the overall outcome.
3000m Steeplechase: Lateefah Burton had never ran a steeplechase further than 2000m before, but she stuck to her task and completed the race, claiming what could have been a vital point.
100mH: Andrea Vinet ran a superb season's best (and her best time for a couple of years) to take the victory in 13.95 and then went on to be a contentious choice as the guardian of the large Toblerone that was given to us for coming first. She performed her job in an equitable fashion, although it did take her some time to reveal that she'd brought the chocolate on board the plane.
400mH: Holly Belch had to run the 400 hurdles at the start of the day when the wind was at its worst, and her time therefore suffered accordingly. Nevertheless, she came home in a useful 5th place.
High Jump: Adele Lassu won comfortably in 1m70 in slippery conditions, but was then faced with an hour and a half in doping control. She was also the keenest to get her hands on one of the complimentary Swiss knives.
Pole Vault: Abigail Haywood was disappointed to only clear her opening height of 3m60, but that was still enough for second place. There still seems to be plenty more to come for the rest of the season.
Long Jump: Abigail Irozuru suffered from problems with her run up as a result of the high winds, and was frustrated to be down in 4th going into the final round. She responded brilliantly to take 2nd place with 6m09, but was unfortunately only 2cm from taking the win. Let's hope her injury problems are banished forever.
Triple Jump: Clare Linskill had similar problems in the Triple Jump, but also produced a season's best (12m46) to take 3rd.
Shot: Alison Rodger launched a practice throw out to 16m50+ and her hopes were high for a Commonwealth Games qualifier. The tension set in with so much at stake, so she had to be satisfied with a more modest 15m87, which was still enough for the win.
Discus: Alison had earlier started the day with a go at the discus, an event that she doesn't train for. In contrast to the shot, her practice throws all ended in the netting, which made her 40m76 for third place all the more impressive.
Javelin: Laura Whittingham is in fantastic form having thrown three pbs at the previous week's Loughborough international. She was over 52m again this time (52m01) which gave her victory by an astonishing 11 metres.
Hammer: New member and Kevin Madden-coached Linda Benin, a French International athlete who will soon be competing for Ghana at the African and then Commonwealth Games, picked up the team's first win of the day (57m22) in a competition that took place in very poor conditions outside of the main stadium.
4x100m: Rebekah Wilson, who had earlier won a guest 100m race in an excellent windy 11.82s, joined Andrea Vinet, Katherine Endacott and Shaunna Thompson to secure victory over the Dutch team by half a second (46.40s).
4x400m: The highlight of the day for most was the final event. Holly Belch got the team off to a very solid start and passed on to Nicola Maddick, who moved into second place. With 40m to go, it suddenly occurred to all watching that we didn't have a 3rd leg athlete ready to receive the baton. Nicola, by now panicking, was relieved to see Tyra Watson, who had been struggling to remove her tights, sprinting to the change-over zone with absolutely no time to spare, still wearing her leggings. That the change-over was legal was a miracle. Jess Taylor, who had earlier ran a windy pb (12.2) in winning another guest 100m, anchored the team with a very impressive 56s leg to hold off the challenge of the Swiss team and keep hold of second place in the race.
After the competition, there was a much anticipated banquet, held at a swanky hotel in Bern city centre. Those with more sophisticated palates appreciated the food (if not the extortionate drinks prices), while others preferred to sneak out to the local fast food restaurant for a snack between courses. Here, the team were presented with their prize for taking the win - an attractive engraved plate and matching goblets, which was duly pocketed along with the Swiss Army knives and packets of muesli that had earlier been given to every team. Gifts were a significant theme of the weekend, with podium finishers receiving a much sought-after goody bag that included, amongst other things, a large packet of pasta, a t-shirt, a scarf and, oddly, a pair of socks.
With the formal proceedings over, a party was the order of the day, but was, sadly, not forthcoming, as Bern on a Sunday night was not, it appeared, the party capital of Europe. Despite the encouragement of the excitable Irishman and some equally keen Swiss military personnel (who, bless them, had a midnight curfew) who wanted a dance, bizarrely, the following Tuesday, most of the team headed back to the hotel for a chat and a well-earned sleep. A 9am start the next day meant that, even accounting for the inevitable half-hour delay, we arrived back in Manchester by just after lunchtime, tired, emotional, satisfied, and 23 bags of meusli better off. (Written by Dean Hardman)
Posted 02/01/2012 22:13