Track & Field SML Division 1: End of Season Report

A Serpie running less than 11s for the 100m? You have to be joking...!
A Serpie clearing 2m in the High Jump? Pull the other one...!
A Serpie throwing 45m in the Javelin? Whatever...!
A Serpie running 2:02 for 800m? Err, well, yeh, OK - I’ll buy that one...
It is a little known fact that some of the Club’s best athletes are not marathon runners, IronMen or 5km specialists, but a small group of sprinters and field-eventers that call Serpentine home for the summer. It won’t surprise many of you that we perform well in the middle distance races at our T&F matches, but it will be quite an eye opener to hear that we regularly win the 100m, 200m, 400m as well as Triple Jump, High Jump and Javelin. These guys have been the core of the Div 1 team for a number of years now - captain and club stalwart Robin Kindersley has been in the team since 1990 when it was in Div 7! But since its promotion to Div 1 in 2005, it has suffered by not having a regular, committed core of middle distance runners to support them and so the team usually ended the season languishing in the bottom half of the division. This despite the encouragement (as well as participation) of one Danny “Run with Pride” McIntosh who has been in the team since its Div 6 days in 1994.

However, this year there has been a complete root and branch restructuring of the whole Athletics outlook at Serpentine. Building on the hard work and ambition that Justin Lock has put in over the past few years (with a fantastic legacy of 4 sustainable teams), this restructuring encompassed a change in the governance structure, change in squad management ethos and a step-change in athletes willingness to put themselves “out there”. In came JT Wong as overall Squad Manager, a new position with the role of co-ordinating all the teams (Div 1, 3, 4 and Rosenheim) and sharing resources. However, unlike in previous years, where a more egalitarian approach was taken to resource allocation, this year a top-down approach was taken whereby all the Div 1 team slots would be filled before filling Div 3 team, with the Div 4 team coming last - even if it meant Div 4 had only 3 competitors, as was sometimes the case! But if you want to get your best team out in the top division this was a necessity. The Captains of each team worked with JT to encourage participation (press-ganging), to allocate athletes to events and to manage the teams on the day.

One key element of this strategy was to encourage the top middles distance athletes in the club to step up to Div 1 from the Div 3 they had been used to in previous seasons – way beyond their comfort zones (or so they thought...). So, while the captains roles in the other divisions remained pretty much as per in previous years, it was decided to bring in a co-captain to support Robin in merging the old and the new, in order to forge a fully functioning team. (A kind of thesis meets antithesis to create synthesis – you know the kind of thing!) So – lucky old me!

Match 1 (3/5/08) was held at Battersea Track, our first home match of the season. It soon became apparent that there was some work to be done gelling the team (as well as rubbing off the more lackadaisical approach from the old guard!!) and more immediately making sure all the team had re-instigated elapsed club membership! Before the 400m Hurdles applause and recognition was given to Neil Tunstall for his recent World Masters Silver medal, unfortunately he could only manage 3rd against the young whippersnappers in 59.70s. In fact on the track we had no victories at all, but a double-2nd in the Steeplechase for Andrew Reeves (10:23.80) and Ebrima Noble (11:25.50). We did better in the field with a win in the javelin for Keston Thomas (43.24m) and six 2nd places. Notable of these were Jasyn Savage coming joint 2nd in the Pole Vault with 3.2m and newcomer Angus Beaumont clearing 2.6m in the B-String, also for 2nd place. (That jump would have won in every other B-string in the season - unfortunately Angus was already injured and played no further part – next year!) Overall we came 3rd with 95.5 match points.

Our 2nd match (17/5/08) was far away in deepest darkest Portsmouth and unfortunately clashed with the Green Belt Relay weekend, so leaving our team severely depleted, missing all of the “new” team members. Luckily captain Robin came out of retirement picking up valuable points in the 1500m and 5000m and Alessandro Brandimarti stepped up from 4th Division to fill the slots in 4 events. But despite wins for Keston Thomas in Javelin (46.25m) and Long Jump (B-String: 5.99m), Myro Rush in High Jump (B-String: 1.7m), Sheldon Noel in 400m (B-String: 52.6s), as well as for Dixon Courtney in Long Jump (6.18m), Triple Jump (12.61m) and High Jump (1.9m), the team came last with 78 match points.

With the full squad back in business and with a return to Battersea for our 3rd match (7/6/08), expectations were high. Neil Tunstall kicked off proceedings well with a victory in the 400m Hurdles (58.5s), followed quickly by another 5 points in the 100m courtesy of Leslie Frederick (10.90s!!). However, apart from a High Jump double win by Dixon (1.95m!! where only his loose number clipping the bar prevented it being 2m) and Myro (1.7m), we were mainly picking up just 2 or 3 points, especially in the middle distance events. Exceptions were Danny in Hammer (B-String: 22.27m) and Dixon and Myro in the Triple Jump all of whom picked up 4 points. With just 3 events remaining, the overall standings were very close. In the first, our 4x100m team was weakened by some injuries and we could do no better than last place, which we then repeated in the 4x400m. But sandwiched in between the relays was the 3000m S/S which was won by Andrew (10:07.70). However it was not enough to turn things around and we ended in 3rd place with 105 match points. The match was notable for being the last time ex-Chairman John Walker carried out the race starting duties, he had been performing so capably for the club for many years. A short announcement was made to this effect and John gained some well-earned applause.

Match 4 (28/6/08) was held in Abingdon, near Reading and began like a bedroom farce (well, almost). For this year a new event schedule was created for a “Senior Women only and Men’s Match”, with all events about 1 hour sooner than the standard schedule. The club was informed, but sadly, it did not filter down to the coal face! Hence utter chaos ensued in the Serpie camp when the first track events were called at 12:30, just 5 mins after the first 3 Serpie athletes arrived, with the main contingent still on trains or in cars en-route. So between Ebrima, Richard Phillips and myself, we managed to fill all the slots for the 400m Hurdles and the 100m (although Richard’s standing start on the 100m did give the game away somewhat to his oppo’s) picking up a respectable 9 points out of a possible 20.

As the rest of the team arrived and took up the remainder of their normal events, things started to improve dramatically. Jasyn gave a good account of himself in the technically challenging events of Discus (34.86m), Hammer (27.18m), Pole Vault (2.8m), shot (10.90m) and 110mH (2nd in 20.2s). There were solid performances in all events with wins for Andrew in the 110m Hurdles (B-String: 21.80s), Leslie in 400m (50.50s) and numerous 2nd places. So after the first running total points announcement, things were extremely close with just a few points between all the teams, with Serpentine in 2nd place just 1 point behind the leaders. It was obvious that we were going to have to squeeze as many point as we could from every event, hence Andrew stepped in to clear a huge 1m in the Pole Vault to pick up 3 points!

The 1500m was one of the best races of the season – Nick Torry stretched the pack from the beginning – but, with one oppo staying with him, had he gone out too quickly? Then Richard Phillips, sensing Nick may have tired, took on the mantle and picked up the pace once again, still with the same oppo on his tail. But then on the last lap Nick showed his tactical judgement by going with the oppo’s kick and outsprinting him to the line in 4:20, with Richard winning the B- string in 4:23– 10 points out of 10! For good measure Nick and Ebrima repeated the double win in the 5000m, with times of 17:04 and 17:55 respectively.

With 3 points from the 4x100m (45.30s) and two 2nd places in the 3000m S/S from Andrew (10:07) and Ebrima (11:09), things could not have been closer and it was all down to the 4x400m. In an eventful race Sheldon, Leslie and the Torry brothers managed to hold off Newbury to come 4th (3:41), which may have just been enough. In fact we did not get confirmation of the victory (with 112 match points) until just before entering the Volunteer pub, where we shared the celebrations with the victorious Women’s Team, the not so victorious Div 3 team and one third of the Div 4 team (namely Paul Fromme who did 8 events!)

The 5th outing saw us at Windsor (12/7/08), where we aimed for a repeat performance. There were wins for Andrew in the 400m Hurdles (B-String 65.8s) and 3000m S/S (10:19.2), Ebrima in the S/S (11:13), Richard Phillips (2:02) and Hugh Torry in the 800m (2:06) and Nick Torry in the 5000m with a sensational 15:27.60. These were supported by wins in the Long Jump by Sheldon (6.58m) and Dixon (6.00m), in the Triple Jump by Keston (11.68m) and in the High Jump by Dixon (1.95m). However with some key field-eventers and sprinters missing we were unable to capitalise on this, despite a 2nd place in the 4x100m (47.8s), and we ended 2nd with 119 match points.

Our final outing (2/8/08) was down in Yeovil, but despite this, Serpie turnout was excellent with a full complement of the old-guard via mini-bus. However, from the new-guard, we were missing Nick, Ebrima and perhaps even more notably Jasyn, our Pole Vault and Throws specialist and a back injury to Andrew did not help matters. Plus we were up against the top 2 clubs in the whole league – so every point was going to be hard fought anyway. In fact, we were only able to secure two outright wins in the whole day, with Leslie clocking 11:03s in the 100m and Dixon clearing 1.90m in the High Jump. However, there was some good news (!), with Hugh finally able to try the 3000m S/S - earning 4 points into the bargain (B-String 10:58). In the end we came 4th with 82 match points – a disappointing ending to a good season where we finished 11th out of 25 teams with 18 match points.

Many thanks to all the supporters, officials, timekeepers, judges and scorers who helped us this year at our home matches (too numerous to mention) - but special thanks must go to John Cullinane who officiated at more than one away match for us. Also thanks to Robin for co-captaining, even though he does not (usually) participate and to Danny for co-ordinating the “old guard” and “motivating” the new!! After a shaky start the Div 1 team is now set to build on this year’s successes and with some new blood, some re-energising and a lot of hard training “things can only get better” (Q: spotlights, music and dancers...)

Report by Andrew Reeves

Note: Serpentine compete in the Southern Men’s League which stretches from Norfolk to Cornwall, comprises 4 divisions (Div 3 and 4 being further subdivided into North and South) and is the league directly below the British League (which consists of 2 divisions). All 1st claim members of Serpentine are eligible to compete and are encouraged to do so. Whatever level you are, from never having thrown a discus to being able to pole vault 3m there is a place for you! So listen out for the Start-of-Season Social next year and come and be part of the growing squad (Both men and women: – our women’s team came a respectable mid-table in their first year of competing). Can’t wait until then? Come along to the End-of-Season Social to find out more about the fast-approaching X-country season. All welcome – watch out for the time and venue in the Serpie Homepage News.

Submitted: 7 September 2008