That was CLOSE! We went into the final match of the 2013 British Athletic League season as "favourites" for the title, courtesy of a 2 point lead over old rivals Shaftesbury Barnet, but anyone who has followed the BAL in recent years knew that taking the championship would be a far from straightforward task.
While we had won match 3, Shaftesbury had won Matches 1 and 2 and were always going to be formidable at their home stadium. Likewise, with 4 strong teams, including the illustrious trio of Birchfield, Newham and Essex Beagles and Woodford Green, all fighting to avoid relegation, finishing in the top two (which is what we needed) was going to be a stern test. When you think that over the past 6 seasons we've placed 7th, 1st, 5th, 6th, 3rd and 5th in the final fixture, 2nd was never going to be as straight forward as some may have assumed.
As it turned out, Shaftesbury were indeed the best team on the day, romping to victory with 366 points, and it was the less fancied City of Sheffield that produced the biggest challenge to us for 2nd. The 4x400m finished and Sheffield were 3 points ahead of us in 2nd, with the high jump, triple jump and javelin results still to be added. We knew that Sheffield might be able to beat us in the javelin, while we also knew that we had beaten them in the high jump, so it was left to the triple jumpers to see us over the line. In the end, we needn't have worried, as James Barrett produced his best ever performance in a senior match to take 4th in the A string in and Adam Howell, a junior making his team debut, took 3rd in the B, both beating their Sheffield counterparts. Cue celebrations and relief all round!
The championship was ours and was the reward for incredible consistency over the course of the 4 matches. Shaftesbury might have won 3 matches, but 5th place in match 3 cost them, while our team turned up in every fixture and fought for every single point. Superb commitment across all event groups, with equal contributions over the season from the sprints and hurdles, the throws, the jumps and endurance.
We now get to have another crack at the European Cup in May 2014 and can sit back and reflect on an outstanding season in green, white and red.
Throws: The day started with the Discus and it was great to see Scot Thompson make a long-awaited return to the team. He took 3rd in the B with a season's best 47.33m, while Tomas Rauktys again showed his superb form by taking 3rd in the A with 54.89m. He's been a great addition to the throws squad.
Tomas's Shot has improved massively as the season progressed and he again took a podium spot in the B string, with a 16.60m putt, while his good friend and club stalwart Rimas Martisauskas took 3rd in the A with 17.25m.
In the Javelin, we had a debutant in Jordan Carter, who immediately produced a vital performance. While he was disappointed with his 59.51m throw, it meant that Stephen Porter could finish 2nd in the B (57.00) with what I consider to be his best performance ever in a Sale vest.
The Hammer saw Mike Floyd and Alex Smith reunited once again. Alex scored the A points with a 3rd place (69.02), while Floydy, now a FOUR-time BAL winner, took 2nd in the B. His first league win was way back in 1996, at the tender age of 27.
Well done to Thomas Furlong and, of course, Jack Andrew, who contributed to the throws in previous matches.
Jumps: The jumps, again, proved fruitful for us on Saturday. In the pole vault, Andy Sutcliffe entered the competition early to ensure some points and ended up clearing 5m, which was enough for 4th. Matt Cullen took the wise decision to move up in 10cm increments and his 4.70m saw him take 2nd B.
James Barrett in the triple jump recorded two no jumps in stiff cross winds, but pulled a magnificent 14.22m out of the bag in the 3rd round to seal 4th A, in what was by far his best day for the club in a BAL match. Adam Howell showed nerves of steel on his debut to secure a much needed 3rd B. Ricardo Twumasi, Jonathan Ferryman and Allan Hamilton also jumped well in earlier matches.
Andy Burgess had a nightmare weekend, as he somehow contracted food poisoning and ended up in Watford Infirmary on the Friday night. Barrett stepped up to the plate and picked up 4th B, while Jacob Brown continued his consistent year by taking 5th in the A. Allan Hamilton has also contributed big points to the team this year.
In the High Jump, Chris Baker returned from his national team commitments and took 3rd place, while it was great to see Rob Mitchell in the team, 9 years on from his club debut. He took 4th in the B. Michael Piccoli also contributed in the high jump this year.
Hurdles: UK Championships Bronze medallist Nick Gayle made his second appearance of the season and again showed his class, with a second place into a stiff wind. Gabriel Odujobi has been a revelation in 2013, having made his long awaited debut after 4 years of inactivity, and he took 4th in the B. Jack Andrew and Chris Wakeford both ran important sprint hurdles races earlier in the year.
In the 400m hurdles, Chris Wakeford ran his specialism and, despite having missed 3 weeks of training, took 4th. Matt Sumner, making his second appearance for the club, took 3rd in the B with a fast finish. The club is lucky to have 3 excellent long hurdlers and Darren Lewis also took good points in match 1.
Sprints and relays: It's been a superb season for our sprinters and match 4 was no different. Ryan Oswald again doubled (he competed in all 4 matches this year), taking 5th in the A 100m and 7th in the A 200m, while young Roy Ejiakuekwu (3 appearances) returned to the team after representing GB at the European Juniors to take 2nd in the B 100m. Chris Craig, another ever-present, was 4th in the B 200m. Umar Hameed and Nathan Selby also ran in earlier matches and their contributions were vital.
In the 400m our two juniors, George Caddick and Callum Roughneen both produced their best ever BAL runs to keep the team in the title hunt. George was majestic in breaking 47 seconds for the first time and placing 2nd in the A (which is a GB junior lead for the year), while Callum fought hard for 4th in the B. Pat Swan ran in all 3 of the previous matches and is also a vital squad member.
Endurance: In the 800m Luke Betts ran his first ever BAL A race and performed admirably to take 4th against top opposition, while it was great to see Niall Brooks back in the B. He won his race in customary fashion, beating Sam Ellis to continue his unbeaten record in the BAL.
In the 1500m, regular senior runners Charlie Hulson, Nick Samuels and Gavin Hill were all unavailable, meaning that Ryan Worland and Matt Holmes had to step up. They fought hard and made what proved to be very important contributions.
Simon Horsfield has made 3 appearances this season over 3000m and 1500m and has won on each occasion. He's in brilliant form and has been a key performer for the team all year and this was our only individual A win of the day. His 3000m victory came at just the right time. Team captain James Bailey doubled up in the chase and 3000m and took 14 much needed points, while Rob Flannery also picked up 6th in the B chase, again showing great commitment. Antony Ford and Matt Barnes also contributed to the endurance squad this year.
The relays have been incredible all season. Coming into the match, the 4x100m team had won all of the previous 3 races and they maintained their unbeaten record with another startling run. The quartet here was again Umar Hameed, Chris Craig, Ryan Oswald and Gabriel Odujobi, while Roy Ejiakuekwu, Allan Hamilton and Jack Andrew have all played a part in the win streak.
In the 4x400m, Chris Wakeford, tired from a long year, got the team off to a solid start, while the new John Regis, Chris Craig, contributed a 49.2 split, just minutes after his great run in the 4x100m. Then Debo Ademuyewo stepped up to the plate. He's not ran a 400m since May, hasn't broken 22 seconds for 200m since 2006 and hasn't broken 49 seconds for 400m since 2010, yet produced an astonishing leg of 48.0 to pull the team into contention. Callum Roughneen then ran his fastest ever 400m, 47.3, to claim a superb 4th place.
Media reports of the title win: http://www.athleticsweekly.com/news/sale-see-off-shaftesbury-to-take-bal-premiership-title/ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/other-sport/sale-harriers-settling-the-score-5586273 See you all next year! (Report Team Manager Dean Hardman Photo courtesy Emanuelis Stasaitis
Posted 08/08/2013 16:47