30/07/2009: One medal, and so close to another…

23-26th July – European Junior Championships, Novi Sad, Serbia

There were probably more congenial, and certainly cooler, places to have a major international meeting than Novi Sad; Kevin Gardiner,in his e-mail report, talks of daytime temperatures rising into the 40s (and that’s centigrade!), athletes needing to be cooled between or during events by medics with ice-packs, and people keeling over in the Decathlon 1500. The two Leeds City competitors who qualified for the Championships managed to cope with that, and such delights as being woken at 7.30 a.m. for a random drugs test, and both put up meritorious performances, with one difference; in one case a medal looked possible until overwhelming opposition took over, while in the other flirtation with disaster was followed by totally unexpected success. Both stories deserve telling.

JAMES WILKINSON – LIVING DANGEROUSLY AND COMING UP SILVER

The fact that James was on the starting line for the 3000m Steeplechase Final on Sunday was only achieved after a severe case of jangling nerves. In spite of having the advantage of going in the second semi-final and knowing what was needed, he came a little too close for his own comfort to making a pig’s ear of it, only qualifying as a fastest loser by fractions of a second (9.08.01) and being the slowest of the twelve qualifiers. In his own words (from the UKA website) “I wasn’t pleased with the semi; I had a long think about it and worked out I’d done a bit too much work, which took it out of me, For the Final my plan was to sit in and let other guys do all the work.”

It was probably an advantage that Sunday evening was a good bit cooler than the Friday (for once the heats were appropriately named), but in any case James stuck to his plan and “wasn’t worried about “letting the Spanish guy go (Antonio Abadia, who won in 8.47.45) as I didn’t want to lose a medal trying to chase him down.” In the later part of the race he was in a three-handed contest with Jeroen D’Hoedt (Belgium) and Abelaftif Hadjam (France), but going into the last lap “it looked as though (he) was going to come a valiant fourth; however, James reckons “I’ve always had a good water jump, and I have done lots of work doing it at speed,” and “he accelerated into the final water jump, taking two or three metres out of his rivals” to come home in a time (8.51.54) seven seconds faster than his fortnight-old Club record. He did admit to one bit of luck (“as I went round the bend in the approach I thought I would have to move out, but then they both did and the inside was clear for me”), but luck only does so much – the rest is personal effort. All the first three set new personal marks, and the first seven broke nine minutes.

The time is the fourth-fastest in Club history at any age, placing Wilko ahead of no less a figure than Martin Roscoe in the rankings; the only ones ahead are David Parish (who spent most of his short membership in America), Wayne Aylesbury (who’s still occasionally seen around), and the almost mythical British-born but South African apartheid-dodger Julian Marsay, whose record has now stood for just over thirty years. James has a bit to go yet, but ……

DAN GARDINER – UP THERE UNTIL THE NINTH

The Scribe usually waits for the parental account of Dan’s performances; on this occasion it was different. On Thursday Steve Linsell appeared to have spent much of his working day following the Decathlon the internet, especially after the early events, and sent The Scribe no less than four e-mails reporting progress; on Friday The Scribe himself was hanging over the computer doing likewise. Decathlons can get you like that, rather like the long road relays; there are so many twists and turns to the story. There were plenty of those in Dan’s tale; the bits in quotes are from Kevin’s report.

The Decathlon opened the Championships, and Dan started with a bang. Drawn in the second heat of the 100m, he won it with 10.97 into a headwind, making it his best ‘legal’ time; third overall with 867 points was an excellent start. It was likely to get better in the next two events; the Long Jump is arguably his strongest and “when he opened with 7.33, equalling his PB, he could relax and jump big.” He did just that, following up with 7.45 and then finally a competition-winning 7.47 (927pts) in a following wind of 0.2, the longest jump recorded by a British Under-20 this season. As if that wasn’t a good enough start the Shot came next, and here Dan proceeded to smash his own Club record with of 15.07 (794pts), again the best of the competition, and move into first place.

Nonetheless “it was clear it was going to be a close competition,” and the High Jump made the point. Taking place “for a few hours in the heat” it saw Dan only marginally below his PB with 1.89 (705pts), but that was only good enough for joint 15th of 25 in a competition in which eventual winner Thomas van der Plaetsen (Belgium) jumped 2.13! Finally after “he had now been at the track for 12 hours (with) the GB medics keeping a close eye on (him) and his team mates Ashley Bryant and David Guest to make sure that they were not dehydrating,” he came to “the final event of the day – a nice easy 400. (He) ran a steady first 200 and then pulled a number of people back to finish second in his heat in a time of 50.82 (777pts) and end the day second overall.”

“Friday was another boiling day,” and Dan was pretty well aware that his second day isn’t usually as strong as his first; but he started with conviction, setting his third PB of the competition in the Hurdles with a wind-assisted (+2.5m/s) 14.61 (897pts) “despite hitting a couple of hurdles hard towards the end.” Now lying third, Dan was faced with “competing for four hours in Discus and Pole Vault during the hottest part of the day;” well might Kevin comment that “Mad dogs and decathletes go out in the midday sun! The Discus just didn’t go right for him; his first throw just got over 30 and then his second went out to 41.77 (701pts, fifth best of the contest). His brought him to the closest point to leading of the day, two points behind the leader but knowing that several athletes “had stronger events to come.” In spite of having “to get the doctor out to cool his body temperature down with ice packs” during the Vault he “still went on to clear 4.30 (and had a very close attempt at 4.40 which would have been a PB,” but with other going to 4.90 he was up against it.

Even at this stage he was still in a medal position, but most decathletes have one ‘soft’ event, and with Dan it’s the Javelin. While the leading contenders were all throwing in the middle to high 50-metre area (Ashley Bryant won it with 64.21) Dan could only manage 45.15 (517pts), about four metres down on his best. “This saw him drop to 5th, the first time he had been out of the top three, (and left him “needing to make up over 100 points on the two Germans lying third and fourth – and it just wasn’t going to happen. He started steadily and gradually moved up the field, passing one of the Germans but finishing just behind the other” in 4.49.52 (622pts). “He finished 5th, 120 points behind third and 250 short of Gold,” with a score of 7509, 58 points below his Club record.

Dan summed up his efforts well he said he had “had an average second day and at this level you can’t do that.” It’s the sort of performance which the tabloid press would undoubtedly describe as “failing to get a medal;” but it included three personal bests, a Club record, a top national performance and a threatened sunstroke, and to paraphrase Ian Hislop’s famous comment, “If that’s failing, I’m an avocado!” The only slight sense of disappointment could be that Dan was the only one of the first six not to set a PB, and then only by the narrowest of margins. There was one final touch, as Kevin reports; “The nicest thing about Decathlons is that even at the end of two days trying to beat each other they all do a lap of honour and all took a bow in front of the grandstand.”

26th July – National Junior League, Pennine Division, Cleckheaton

A GOOD FINISH IN MOSTLY MALE PARTS

The contrast between the two gender halves of the team at Cleckheaton on Sunday was striking; while only five girls turned out, the men had a virtually full team, though there were some people doing extremely unaccustomed events. On the other hand, with the exception of winners Middlesbrough, all the other teams seemed to consist principally of ‘holes,’ as a result of which Leeds City had its third second-placing (details on the Results Page), although the fourth position in the first match effectively precluded an appearance in the Promotion Meeting in September. With the current imbalance of the team it’s probably as well.

However, this isn’t top belittle the efforts of the girls who turned out. They were able only to cover twelve individual events and both relays, but of those they recorded five wins and some interesting performances. Two athletes provided the wins; Kadena Cox ran and won an event in all three sprints and both relays (thereby leaving herself little energy to throw) and managed a PB in the 400 (62.1), while Rosie Trudgen took the High Jump and extended her Long Jump PB to 4.99. Agonisingly, both girls were one tenth/centimetre off making the Senior List in each event. Rachael Speight, who’s had injury problems, took on the 400 and both relays, Stacey Evenden turned out effectively in her usual three throws (as an Under-17 she couldn’t do the other one) and was over 30 metres again with the Hammer, and Jodie Gregorczyk, besides her usual 1500, picked up a couple of implements and chucked them. Much more couldn’t have been asked of the quintet.

On the Men’s side there was a fair bit of tactical running to lick up maximum points; the times done by Mike Salter, Michael Wood and Will Plastow bear little resemblance to their recent Bests, but as the object of the exercise was to gain the larges number of points, and in each case the opposition was either non-existent or well behind, why kill yourself? Danny Davies ran close to his 3000 Best, but in the Steeplechase appeared to be more concerned about escorting Rob Torch (who’d strolled an earlier 800 win) over his first longer race. There were also some decided ‘oddities’ in events; The Scribe (who was otherwise occupied) feels he missed a real spectacle in not seeing Kyle Jeffrey (who more seriously won the 200) and Bradley Robinson tackle the High Hurdles, and mark Fuszard, who did a couple of more anticipated performances in the Vault and Long Jump, had a not unreasonable shot at 400 Hurdles. Most intriguing performer was Sam Lowrey, who after a solid 100 (he was leaving the 400 to others) was press-ganged into doing the 1500 as there were no other B-runners, and though the words of Doctor Johnson spring to mind (“It is not done well – but the wonder is it is done at all!”) it was, as Sam himself pointed out, nine points for old rope.

Where opposition was offered, however, it was challenged well. Tom Mosley was involved (successfully) in two three-man blanket finishes in the sprints, Tom Roberts equalled his season’s best 400, and only needs a solid winter now to be back punching his weight next year, and Danny Brownbill is going from strength to strength. Out in the field Jake Armstrong picked up the heavier implements and despatched them to winning distances, breaking 40 with the 1.75k Discus for the first time, Wesley Walker took a weekend off work and slung a mean Javelin (and not a bad Hammer), and both Stephen Coles and Matt Wagner set new marks in the High Jump. Karl Evenden added to his considerable tally of points, while Brad Robinson surmounted a small Everest (well, Great Gable) of his own by Long-jumping five metres. At the end of the meeting there was a feisty 4×400 performance from Tom R, Stephen, Danny and Sam. Team Manager Steve Mosley’s comment was that it was “a good, gutsy overall team performance,” and that sums it up nicely.

AMY ONLY HALF-WAY TO INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS

There was very nearly another international performance to note at the weekend, but unfortunately Amy Marchant’s long-running saga of injuries continued to plague her, and after a storming first day in the Under-20 Combined Events International at Watford she wasn’t able to take part on the second day. At the end of Saturday she was lying third, with an impressive 2929 points, and an on-form performance in the three remaining events could well have seen a PB. Starting out with 15.10 in the Hurdles, she had then produced a 1.67 High Jump, both good marks on interrupted training, and then set a new PB in the Shot with 10.94 before finishing with a 27.24 200. The problem (as revealed to The Scribe in Tuesday) appears to be a couple of slightly displaced foot bones affecting a nerve; probably They have The Technology to do something about it.

HOW HIGH CAN ESSEX MAN GO?

If The Scribe had the time he could compile a short book entitled “The Adventures of Gavin Chatterton;” certainly he seems to get around and try things, even on holiday in the U.S.A. An e-mail report describes how he “gave Leeds City some international representation” on Sunday morning “by finishing (or rather crawling to the line) in 28th place at the Colorado Springs Grand Prix Classic 10k. The time was 34.32, just over 2mins outside my “sea level” PB, which wasn’t great; but given the race was held at 6,200ft and at 7am with 80% humidity, and I’d arrived only three days before, it probably wasn’t a terrible effort – it just felt like that. The first half felt OK, but I had gone off too quick and died a hideous death in the second half. My legs felt fine, but my lungs were effectively trying to work at maximum aerobic capacity while breathing through a straw.”

Gavin outlined, for coach Phil Townsend’s benefit, his mile splits, and they make interesting reading; “mile 1, 5.01 (massive and fatal error); mile 2, 10.20; mile 3, 15.49; mile 4, 21.18; mile 5, 26.59; mile 6, 33.12 (oh dear oh dear oh dear…..); finish, 34.32.” He also states that he’s learned the following “lessons learnt racing at altitude – 1, don’t, and 2, only race against people who haven’t done it either rather than those that live there,”

ATHLETIC SHORTS

The Club’ sole participant in the UKA Jumps and Throws Festival at Birmingham at the weekend was Matt Barton, and he very nearly had One Of those Days before getting better with one of the other sort. For the first five rounds of the Triple Jump he appeared to be having a nightmare; then he pulled out 14.88 on the last round to finish second to an Indian athlete in a good field. He probably wasn’t pleased with the distance, but as the event was on the Sunday when for most of the country it was Sweltering ’em in Cheltenham (copyright, R. Barker) it may have been weather-affected.

There wasn’t as big a turn-pout of Club members at the most recent Ingrams’ League meeting at York on July 12th, so there weren’t the same number of noteworthy performances; the most striking was by Hannah Riley, who’s obviously searching everywhere for competition to get back to her previous fitness levels and took on the 300m Hurdles – resulting in the sixth-fastest run in Club history with 47.7. At a rather younger level Nicola Sawyer took her best 800 down to 2.44.9, equalled her best Shot with 6.53, and found time to clear 1.15 in the High Jump – not a bad afternoon’s work. Louie Hurley had a pretty sound Shot (6.50) and Hurdles (15.9), Liam Braithwaite ran his usual sprints (13.6 and 25.3) and then explored new territory with a 400 (61.3), and Hannah Ukandu, on the principle of try-anything-once, experimented with the Discus (16.34).

On Sunday there was quite a bit of Harrier activity in the Harrogate area. Main event was the Harrogate Town Centre 10k, which saw a small but excellently-formed team performance from the Leeds City lads. Mike Burrett, who’s run the race for years (he has to – his company sponsors it!) ran a good race to finish 6th (32.45, almost a minute ahead of Aidan Adams (33.37), who was one place behind him on a comparatively rare turn-out (he’s a busy lad these days!) However, the pair were bounced out of the limelight when Darran Bilton showed up, finished third (31.24) in a good field, and as usual took the Elder Gentleman’s Award.

A mere 10k on tarmac, however, was too much of a soft option for Trevor Wilks; he headed up into Wensleydale for the James Heriot Trail Run over about 14 kilometres of assorted scenery and terrain around Castle Bolton, and finished third in 55.41. The Scribe suggests there may have been another attraction; he recalls a rather nice pub in the immediate area ……

Brad Keir seems to have taken to competing; he had a merry time taking part in the Pudsey Pacers’ 10k Challenge on Sunday last, and while 212th (54.49) out of 400 or so isn’t shattering, it has to be remembered that this is no ordinary 10k, involving a considerable section of off-road including the distinctly ‘hairy’ descent of an old pack-horse trail on Bankhouse Hill, and some concomitantly steep climbs to get back. However, the family had its success; for the third successive year Gemma was the first female finisher in the associated Fun Run, and as the second finisher was Nicola Sawyer the Club was well to the fore.

On the Saturday another couple of members were out trailing, or romping as the case may be, in the Rombald’s Romp Trail Race somewhere up on Ilkley Moor. Chris Needham placed 13th in 50.47 (the actual distance wasn’t given, but it was won in just under 44 minutes by Pudsey & Bramley’s Steve Neill, who finishes well up in Yorks. Vets’ races) , while in 73rd place Peter Bates placed 16th among the Over-50s, not bad as he’s at the far end of the ten-year range.