Woodford’s BAL team faced a tough battle in the first Premiership fixture of the season at Leigh. Missing several athletes to the British Universities (BUCS) Championships as well as several others through injury or other factors, the team ended up 6thon the day in what proved a very tight result, with many other Clubs also affected by the BUCS clash. All of Woodford’s athletes performed admirably, led by a notable 3km Steeplechase and 1500m double from Phil Norman, a high jump win for Robert Wolski and a triple jump double from debutant Lawrence Davis and Peter Kirabo, but also notable for the way the athletes rallied round, some filling unfamiliar events to plug the gaps. There were other Woodford BAL debuts for Chris Stone, George Vaughan and Frank Moore. Scores on the day were, Birchfield 345, Sheffield 318, Cardiff 280, Shaftesbury 259, TVH 250, Woodford 246, Newham 242, and Swansea 236.
Early events got Woodford off to a good start, such that the team was in an early lead overall, the triple jump saw Woodford debutant Lawrence Davis win with 15.35m w (+4.5) with Peter Kirabo taking the “B” with 14.01 w (+2.4). Missing all of the specialist long-jumpers, both Lawrence and Peter also filled those slots later, Lawrence placing 4thwith 6.77m, and Peter unfortunately recording three no-jumps. Peter did however also pick up valuable “B” high jump points where he placed 4th with 1.65m. In the “A” however there was a good win for former 2.31m man, Robert Wolski who cleared 2.10m and was very close to 2.15m. Without any pole vaulters available, veteran but former international decathlete Paul Howard was called into action and he cleared a nominal 2.20 to ensure 8thplace “A” string points. Paul also competed in the discus where his 31.45m was 6thin the “B” (with Chris Linque 7thin the “A” with 37.48m), in the shot with 10.70m for 6th “B" and in the javelin with 45.15m for 7th“A”, as U/20 Frank Moore made his BAL debut and was close to his best ever with 45.00m for 5thin the “B”. In that shot competition Paul was just beaten by hammer specialist Andy Frost, also filling in in the absence of specialists and his 11.08m was 8th in the ‘A”. Earlier, Andy was pleased with his last round effort in the hammer where he reached 62.19m for2nd, with Fergus Harford filling ‘B” string duty with 31.44m for 7th.
The first middle distance win of Phil Norman's double came in the 3000m s/ch where he front ran to a comfortable victory in 9m00.89 secs. Phil was backed up by Ryan McKinlay who was 4thin the “B” with 10m 42.49 secs, having earlier placed 8thin the “B” 800m with 2m01.81 secs. Phil’s second victory came an hour and a half after the steeplechase when he had a fine run over 1500m; always in contention he moved up on the last lap and finished very strongly with a 56 secs last lap to take the win with 3m52.52 secs. Tom Phillips, like many of those who were pleased to help the team was a long way from full fitness but still picked up 7thin the “B” with 4m15.22 secs. The “A” 800m saw former 400m Hurdler Ewan Dyer make his BAL debut over the distance and he had a good run, always in contention in a relatively tactical race and finished strongly to place 4thwith 1m54.04 secs, a personal best. Ed Shepherd, who has been in very good winter form of late, did all he could to shake off a strong field in the 3000m. Taking up the running at around half way, he built up the pressure to break up the field to just four leading contenders, but unfortunately it was he who just lost out over the last 150m, but nevertheless was a good 4thwith 8m22.94 secs. Angus Holford picked up useful “B” string points with 6thfor 9m16.96 secs.
Another debutant, Chris Stone, ran both “A” string sprints, and both were good quality races into headwinds. Over 100m Chris placed 3rdwith 10.64 secs (-1.4), and over 200m Chris was 5thwith 21.53 secs (-0.5). In the “B” events Shayne Dewar was 8thover 100m with 11.16 secs (-1.7), and a good 4thover 200m from the inside lane with 22.10 secs (+0.8). In the 400m Alex Bell had a solid run in a good quality “A” race where he placed 5thwith 49.39 secs, with Adrian Richards also 5thin the “B” with 51.36 secs. Over 400mH George Vaughan was also making his debut, and plunged into unexpected “A” string duty he acquitted himself well placing 5thwith 55.59 secs, and George later placed a good 3d in the 110mH with a hand-timed 14.9 secs (-1.9). Missing other specialist hurdlers, another Vet, and SAL team manager Alan James stepped in and gained valuable “B” points with 69.76 secs for 8thin the 400mH and later placed 7thin the 110mH. The meeting rounded off with two solid 5thplaces in the relays with the 4x100m team (Joss Farquharson, Chris Stone, Tom Holligan and Shayne Dewar) recording 42.38 secs, and the 4x400 team (Alex Bell, Ewan Dyer, Jos Farquharson and Adrian Richards) recording 3m24.18 secs.
Whilst the 6thplace finish was far from ideal, it wasn’t unexpected in the circumstances and the team spirit shown by all athletes to plug gaps was admirable. With the next match at Cardiff on June 2ndteam manager Gladys Bird is hopeful of being able to put out a much stronger team that will be contending towards the top in that fixture