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SAL - Close second not quite enough

Woodford finished a close second in the fourth SAL of the season at Hemel Hempstead, behind Basildon but ahead of Harlow. Watford, who had gone into the match as highest placed in the division (4th) could finish only fourth ahead of the Enfield&Haringey/Hawcs team and hosts Vale of Aylesbury. While WGEL won a third of the events contested, the almost complete team sheet of Basildon proved just too much to overcome.

Hugh Williams was the first Woodford winner of the day (12.43SP) on a very busy day in which he scored in the HJ and TJ as well as the DT and JT. Devon Douglas took the discus (46.16) as well as the B string shot, with Peter Clarke taking the HT in 56.32 and M50 Fergus Harford winning the B. In the womens throws, top scorer Eike Vardja was backed up by U17s Victoria Cuthbert and Temi Olusesan to ensure the events were covered. Eike also had to step up in the LJ and TJ, taking the B event in the latter behind U17 Denesha Rocastle who was having her first attempt at the event. U20 Phoebe Fuhr won the pole vault and then came second in her first  100m hurdles. She was the only A string jumps winner on the day, as while Christman Ihuoma’s 13.28 TJ would have won the vast majority of SAL matches he was almost 2 metres behind the new division record set by Lawrence Davis of E&H.

Our short sprinters dominated, with Adrian Stamp the A 100 winner before sustaining a hamstring injury in the long jump. Katie Skelding narrowly missed out on an A string sprint double in the 200, while Eloise Lewis comfortably taking both B strings (with 26.56 in the 200 a legal PB into a -1.1 wind). Jos Farquharson eased to the 200 A string after taking the 100B, with U17 Zac Islam-Moore winning the B 200 (having already run the 400 A string). Olaoluwa Abiodun took the 400m B string, while at 800 Anna Clark and Sophie Riches won both strings in the women, and Alan Danagher took the B 800 behind a fourth consecutive PB by M40 Pete Caton. Pete narrowly lost out in the A 1500, as the tactical race ended his PB streak.

Hot conditions made the distance races tough, in particular the womens 5000m, where conservative early pacing led to a double win by W40 Kat Gundersen and W45 Alex Wardle (who outsprinted Jenny Thomas at the end of a race long private battle). At 3k former SAL team manager Paul Manson made a welcome return to league racing behind Dan Steel, who returned shortly after to win the B 1500, enabling David Danagher to switch to cover the steeplechase. Dan’s example was followed by Zoe Watson and Susan Edwards, who chose to come back for the 1500 steeplechase having already run the same distance on the flat. W50 Susan won the B string, while Zoe came out immediately afterwards to anchor the 4x400 squad as the match neared a tight conclusion, albeit she had covered least distance of the squad on the day as the others had all done the 5k. Rounding out the day the mens 4x400 team took victory, with Zac Islam-Moore bringing the baton home in front despite being a boxed-in third into the home straight, having been set up by Olaoluwa Abiodun, Pete Caton and Alan Danagher.

Having gone into the fixture only ranked fourth team in the match, it was a fine performance to go close to victory. However, while winning would have enabled WGEL to leapfrog their competitors, second place leaves the club where they were, just behind 3 of the day’s opponents, in eighth overall. Lying just one point behind 4th leaves plenty of room to move up in table in the final fixture, but with a top 3 place and promotion tantalisingly just out of reach. The last match is at Peterborough, on Saturday 19 August. This fixture will be challenging as it is the day before the final BAL match of the year, but if the team spirit evident at Hemel Hempstead is repeated team manager Alan James in confident of success against teams that are lower down the division