Woodford’s men’s team contested the fourth and final round of the BAL Premiership at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium on Saturday. A stronger team (but far from full strength) performed at their best level for this BAL season to finish a more than solid fourth on the day, with 298 points, behind Birchfield on 396, Newham 342, Shaftsbury 319, and ahead of Sheffield 251, Harrow 246, Blackheath 190 and Cardiff 116. That meant holders Birchfield again won the Premiership title with 31 points from Newham 29, Shaftesbury 21, Harrow 19, Woodford 16, Sheffield 14, Blackheath and Cardiff each on 7. Three weeks ahead of the British Championships and at the same venue, the standard across the board was high, with Woodford performances led by “A” string wins for Youcef Zatat, Cameron Fillery and Will Grimsey, who also set a new personal best.
Will Grimsey: a PB of 2.22m took him to 3rd on the UK ranking
Youcef Zatat’s win came in the shot, where in a good competition the current UK No.2 won with a put of 17.85m. Earlier, in the discus Youcef had thrown a season’s best of 47.80m to place 4th in that ‘A” competition and where in the “B” Chris Linque threw 43.69m for 2nd. Backing up Youcef in the shot was veteran javelin specialist Simon Bennett whose 10.82m placed 5th in the “B”. Later, Simon was 3rd in the “B” javelin with 51.58m and in that “A” competition Bonne Buwembo marginally improved his season’s best to 66.60m to place 2nd. In the other throwing event the hammer and after two no-throws Andy Frost had to settle for a very safe third effort of 51.44m which placed him 4th in the “B” and meant that the nominal “B” string man Peter Clarke was elevated to the ‘A” where his 51.57m was 6th.
In the Pole Vault, Dan Gardner, still progressing back to being fully competitive after a serious achilles injury, nevertheless cleared 4.60m for useful 6th place points in the “A” and Ryan McKinlay’s 2.20m was also 6th in the “B”. Dan also covered the “B” long jump where his 6.57m (+0.8) was 3rd, with Calum Henderson placing 5th in the “A” with 7.03m (+0.1). The triple jump was of a very good standard competition with many of the top UK jumpers competing. Former Commonwealth Games champion and London 2012 Olympics 7th placer Tosin Oke finished 4th in the “A” with a season’s best of 16.09m (+0.4), whilst in the “B” Lawrence Davis also recorded a legal season’s best of 15.62m for 2nd in the “B”. It was in the high jump where Will Grimsey set his personal best. Will has enjoyed a very good season having started it with a p.b. of 2.14m and had improved to 2.20m to gain selection for the World University Games where he placed 6th. At Birmingham, Will improved further to 2.22m to win the “A” event and leading into those British Championships now ranks 3rd on this year’s UK rankings. In the “B” event Robert Wolski, now a V35, and whose own personal best, a world class 2.31m dates back to 2006, cleared 2.00m to ensure a “B” string win, then withdrawing protecting an ankle injury picked up in the previous BAL at Sheffield.
Cameron Fillery, another who has improved markedly this season recorded his win over 110mH, where after a tentative start moved through well to claim the win in 13.79 secs (-0.7). Cameron, currently 3rd ranked in the UK, and the recent bronze medallist at the European U/23 Championships has been rewarded with selection for the GB & NI team for the up-coming European Team Championships. Cameron also covered the “B” 200m where his 22.16 secs (-1.3) into a strong headwind placed 4th. Backing up Cameron in the 110mH was 400mH specialist Jack Lawrie who was close to his p.b. as he took 2nd with 14.51 secs (-0.1). Jack had earlier not been quite at his best in his specialist event where after a strong first 300m he recorded 52.63 secs easing down when safe for 2nd in that “A” race. In the “B” and missing another specialist, Tomaz Plibersek now coaching rather than competing gained unlikely but valuable 5th place points with 65.15 secs. Jack was also in action in the flat 400m where in a very high class race he recorded 49.31 secs for 7th and Paul Scanlan was 5th in the “B” with 50.16 secs.
Over 800m, Ewan Dyer who is proving a very competitive racer over 800m was a close 2nd in that “A” race with 1m51.92 secs, with Ryan McKinlay covering the ”B” with 2m01.68 secs for 7th. Phil Norman whose priority so far this season has been to achieve the World Championship qualifying mark for the steeplechase of 8m29.00 secs and whose season’s best of 8m29.37 secs is so close, raced again over the ‘chase on the Friday evening at a BMC organised meeting at the Birmingham University track and again was frustratingly close to that mark where he won with 8m30.43secs. Eighteen hours or so later Phil took on the “A” 1500m where perhaps currently lacking a little sharpness over the shorter distances and with a high standard s/ch in his legs, couldn’t quite match the pace over a fast last lap but nevertheless was 5th in the “A” with 3m49.02 secs. Missing another specialist, Josh Entwistle covered the “B” where his 4m24.57 secs was 8th, but that was after Josh had made his BAL debut in the 3000m s/ch where he placed a good 5th with 10m04.63 secs. In the “B” Angus Holford who a week ago had made significant progress over 5000m with a 15m08.66 secs p.b. at Milton Keynes placed 4th with 10m22.34 secs. In the 5000m event and missing others, stalwarts Darren Southcott and more of a marathon specialist and BAL debutant Dan Steel covered and gained valuable points, placing 8th and 5th respectively in ‘A” and “B” with 16m23.14secs and 16m34.75 secs. The sprints as always were of a good standard and Chris Stone covered both “A” strings and placed a good 4th in each, recording 10.69 secs (0.0) over 100m and into a strong wind from lane two 21.62 secs (-1.5). The “B” string 100m saw Olumide Isaac back in BAL action and his solid 10.75 secs (-0.7) was also 4th.
The intended 4x100m squad had to be shuffled after an injury to Matthew Adum-Yeboah in a non-scoring 100m, with 400m specialist Ellis Greatrex coming in to the first leg, to combine with two U17’s (Tolanai Alaba and Sikiru Onigbanjo) with Chris Stone on last, recording a very solid 41.23 secs to place 3rd. The 4x400m squad of Paul Scanlan (50.4 secs), Greatrex (47.3 secs), Stone (48.5 secs) and Ewan Dyer (49.7 secs) combing to record 3m15.90 secs for 5th.
With the BAL season now at a close, and the format for next season currently not certain, team manager Gladys Bird was pleased to conclude this part of the season on a positive note. With this season generally focussed a little later in the year due to the late World Championships in Doha not commencing until September 28th for many of the better domestic athletes their attention will now be turned to the British Championships, also in Birmingham in three weeks’ time.