SAL, Stevenage

Article text
NVH went into Saturday 15 August 2015's final SAL fixture at Stevenage in second place just 15 match points behind the league leaders, Crawley who were competing at Blackheath and Bromley. The team travelled down knowing that this would be a tough fixture but with only a few gaps in the team due to unavailable athletes. In all cases those gaps were filled by athletes stating their wish to compete, a team managers dream. It was soon evident that this would be an extremely tough match to win, two international heptathletes identified early on, two top ten UK ranked throwers also spotted all before the meeting even commenced.

Nene Valley won their match with a good 224.5 points, 45.5 points ahead of second placed Milton Keynes, a very impressive display of teamwork and support as much as individual performance. Hearing later that Crawley had been pipped into second place in their match led to celebrations with their first Southern Athletics League title. This was no mean feat, the club have won every match this season except for the first fixture in which they came second by a single point, it could not have been nearer to a perfect season. Although this does not make up for the disappointment of relegation from Division 2 in the British Athletics League for the men, having achieved third place in this league previously and the belief that we could do better, this was a magnificent achievement.

Over the season, we have had several under 17 athletes experience the league for the first time and were given the opportunity to compete and move their own performances forward. Many of these athletes have now become key members of the team and develop their own careers. There is no way that this report is going to highlight all the results which are shown in the attached file but hopefully gives an insight into the great day the club experienced.

There was a tense atmosphere amount the clubs members at the start of the meeting. Rosie Jacobs, who has only dropped 3 points all season in the 400m hurdles won the event again and was followed in by new comer to that event, Devon Spencer with her second successive B string win - the ladies calming nerves and setting a winning expectation. Sean Reidy and Phil Wilson followed their example and dominated the men's event with maximum points. These two races got the NVH athletes off to a high and every competitor was cheered on by their team mates whether on track or in the field.

The 800m races brought the meeting to life and demonstrated how tight this fixture was going to be, the ladies had either moved up from non-scoring to A string or stepped in so that there was no gaps, Emma Penniston and vet Yvonne Scarrott and picked up three points. Ollie Bowling, an under 17 athlete came into the side and smashed his personal best by 2 seconds running a strong race to finish in 2:02.69 and was supported by his A string compatriot James Vernau also picking up three points.

Lily Hughes showed dominance in her 100m winning once more, having won every 100m she has raced in the league this season and then repeated the feat in the 200m later in the day. She has only missed one league meeting due to National Championships and dropped just one point in the eight individual races a key factor to the clubs success. Tash Segal also won both the B strings events, Rosie Jacobs winning both the long and short hurdles, Emily Maltby winning the sprint hurdles Georgie Ivens winning the 400m flat race and Megan Pusey runner up in the 400m meant that the ladies only dropped two points in the sprint and hurdles events including the relays.

The 400m was strong again for the club, alongside the ladies, Daz Holding and Max Butler both recorded wins in their 400m flat race meaning that the club dropped only two points over the distance including hurdles and relays. Most of these athletes have developed over the last few years by using this league as a foundation and showing the progression.

Similarly Martin Tinkler has proven a key scorer for the club over the while season. His throws have been reliable and he was rewarded again on Saturday finishing second in the man of the match competition. He has been a regular in the man of the match rankings this season and has also there supporting fellow competitors and team mates. Martin won both the shot and discus A string competitions and was duplicated by vet Ken Baker winning the B string competitions.

Issac Huskisson and Sam Wilson dominated the men's hammer taking maximum points and Becki Hall, Kelly Lawrence and Lydia Church all scored well in the ladies throws.

As well as team success on the day special mention needs to be made of two club records achieved. Ellie Mae Stokes has been breaking the clubs under 20 and senior javelin record on a regular basis this season and achieved this once more with her 36.33 throw. The biggest record breaking margin has to be handed to Rosie Fresen who has not only scored well in the pole vault (2nd with 2.80m) for the club this season but she ran a strong 9:03.96 in the 2,000m steeplechase. Rosie was clearing hurdles throughout most of the race and despite suffering tiredness over the last 500m she still knocked over 50 seconds off the under 17 club record and was only marginally outside the under 20 record. Rosie had never run the steeplechase before the first league fixture of the season at Colchester when she decided to 'jog round for points'.

The results over the league season have shown a good strength in depth for the club and truly demonstrates that we are not just a track or distance club, we use the opportunity of league matches to improve athletes and it is a chance for the athletes to be part of a team rather than individual competitors. Although a few were unable to attend due to competing at the World Masters in Lyon and the Northern and Southern under 17 Championships it gave some other athletes the chance to score for the club.

It was a great privilege for Fidge and I to be team managers on the day and a shame we could not celebrate with Tim who has been the men's team manager all season.

Well done to all.