After last month’s long trip to historic Hastings, LCAC went into battle a bit closer to home for SAL Match 2, in leafy Wimbledon.
A short distance away, Venus Williams, John McEnroe and Lleyton Hewitt were serving up an exhibition match to celebrate Court Number 1’s new retractable roof. (And rest assured this intrepid reporter won’t ‘let’ the opportunity to shoe-horn in some tennis references slip by). However, the main event was at Wimbledon Park Athletics Track, as the LCAC team ran, jumped and threw their way to another very successful meet. One team member (*cough* Mike Harwood) even managed all three simultaneously…but more of that later.
First, hammer time. In the women’s competition, after some close line calls and deliberations worthy of Hawk-Eye, Dee Strang’s strong hammer debut of 11.48m saw her claim 3rd place in the B group, while Rachael Collins’ outstanding throw of 18.63m (breaking her own LCAC club record) took 3rd place in the A group. Ally Stanley – who had decided to limit himself to just the 10 events in Wimbledon due to an injury – got his programme underway in the men’s event with a powerful throw of 26.18m for 3rd place in the A.
Next up, women’s shot put, and Court 1’s new roof might have come in handy as the heavens opened just as competition got underway. However, athletes are made of stronger stuff than tennis players (or perhaps just have a lower tolerance for Cliff Richard’s singing) and rain didn’t stop play. Rachael Collins threw an excellent 8.13m with her first throw before deciding to retire from the competition. Reports that Rachael took coaching tips from Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ (“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance”) are, as yet, unconfirmed. Either way, her one shot was good enough for 2nd place in the A and Lisa Geary’s solid throw of 5.96m took 3rd in the B.
In the men’s high jump, Ally Stanley was reaping the rewards of his comparatively leisurely schedule and soared over 1.73m to take 2nd place in the A. He then sped off for the 400m hurdles, winning the A race comfortably in a very quick 57.7 – more than 9 seconds ahead of his closest rival. Long-term LCAC supporters will know that Nick Androulidakis has ‘previous’ in claiming some dubiously quick times on the track. And Nick (*coincidentally* former club record holder over the 400m hurdles!) was up to his old tricks in Wimbledon, managing to get himself announced as winner of the event on the day. While rightful order was restored in the official results, much credit goes to the Wimbledon stadium announcer for his faultless Greek pronunciation!
There was much less controversy in the next track event – the men’s 800m – where the rain poured down for the second time. LCAC was represented by Olly Bellamy and Simon Brown, each competing in multiple track events. Both men performed strongly and finished very well in the wet conditions, with Olly taking 2nd in the A in 2:14 and Simon 2nd in the B in 2:23, to keep the points rolling in for LCAC.
Next up was the first of the sprint events – the women’s and men’s 100m. And LCAC’s sprinters showed that their storming season-opener in Hastings wasn’t a one-off. In the women’s competition, Lisi Freeman-Alarconput in an impressive runtaking 4th place in the A in a time of 14.8, while Kirsty Benhamclocked a speedy 14.5 to take 4th place in the B. In the men’s competition, LCAC’s sole representative Mike Harwood powered home in a time of 12.4 to take 4th in the A. Mike then teamed up with Ally Stanley (by now up to his 4th event on the day) for the men’s shot put. In a quality field, both bettered their throws from Hastings and contributed valuable points to LCAC’s total, Ally picking up 3rd place in the A with a throw of 10.15m and Mike taking 3rd in the B with 9.80m.
Over in the women’s javelin, Rachael Collins continued an impressive all-round throws performance, winning the A competition with a throw of 23.44m. LCAC’s Dee Strang who was officiating the javelin competition may ask for danger money next time, as she came perilously close to being speared by some of Rachael’s long looping throws! Lisa Geary on her javelin debut didn’t cause the same level of worry for Dee, but did manage 3rd place in the B with a throw of 12.34m. Meanwhile, in the long jump competition, LCAC’s sole representative in the sand pit, Nick Androulidakis, showed that his technique is coming on in leaps and bounds with a jump of 4.32m for 4th place in the A.
Back to the track for the 400m. In the women’s event Kirsty Benham continued to shine, taking 2nd place in the B with a powerful run of 66.0. In the men’s, Olly Bellamy was back for the A event but, based on the photo below, was possibly regretting his decision to sign up after a few pints earlier in the week! Nevertheless, he dug deep to take 4th place with a quick time of 59.0. Nick Androulidakis was (unsurprisingly) unable to maintain “his” blistering speed from the 400m hurdles earlier in the day, but still powered home in 64.1 for 4th in the B.
Meanwhile, Maria Butylina was following one of the lesser-known tapering plans for her impending marathon and had signed up for long, middle and sprint distance events on the track. First up was the women’s 5000m where a very well-timed run by Maria in 23:50 took 2nd in the A competition and some very valuable points for the team.
The next field event – and a first for the club – was the men’s pole vault. And what a debut for LCAC! While a new LCAC club record was already guaranteed, Ally Stanley soared over the bar at 3.00m to win the A competition, a full 40cm ahead of 2nd place. Ally also brought a Diamond League feel to the event by urging the crowd (the competitors in the nearby women’s discus!) to join in an encouraging slow clap which built to a crescendo as he cleared the bar.
Back in the women’s discus (once the pole vault excitement had died down) the club continued its excellent throws performance. Rachael Collins capped a fine individual display with another LCAC club record in the A event – a storming throw of 20.43m taking 2nd in the A competition, while Lisa Geary’s throw of 15.40m topped the B group. In the men’s javelin, Ally sprinted round the track from the pole vault competition to grab 2nd place in the A with a formidable throw of 43.61m. And Raúl Montoliu on his LCAC debut showed the club’s strength in depth, taking 4th place in the B with a throw of 14.27m.
On to the middle distance events, with Tim Sherman and Simon Brown lining up for LCAC in the 3000m. Round these parts, it’s traditional for tall, well-mannered men called Tim to have physical structures named after them. Henman had his Hill, so what does Sherman get? A stand, perhaps? Sherman Stand…nah, that’ll never catch on! Nevertheless, Tim put in an excellent performance in the A, taking 2nd in a pleasingly round number of 10:00.00 with Simon closely behind in 10:08 for 2nd place in the B. Meanwhile, back in Sherman Stand, the raucous LCAC support was bolstered by the arrival of Marie Duignan, Andy Melrose and Tommy Rushton, fresh from some cracking PBs in the nearby Sutton 10k.
Ally took a short break from his field heroics for the 110m hurdles – and powered home to another first place finish in a rapid 17.0. The 200m races also saw some noteworthy performances from the LCAC sprint squad, with Kirsty Benham clocking 29.7 and Mike Harwood 25.6 to take 4th in their respective A races.
Next up was the middle distance part of Maria Butylina’s madcap marathon taper plan – aka the 1500m – and Maria put in an excellent run of 6:45 for 4th in the A race. George Ashdown took 2nd place in the men’s A event with a quick time of 4:43 while Olly Bellamy notched up his third quality performance of the day, with 2nd in the B in 4:51.
And then it was time for the relays. The well-drilled men’s 4 x 100m quartet of Nick, Ally, Olly and Mike saw the baton safely round in a very quick 50.2 to take 3rd place. And after his lead-off leg, Nick continued to sprint round the track to the sandpit to register a triple jump of 7.66m, taking 4th in the A competition.
The 4 x 400m relay was the final track event of the day. For the first time in SAL history it was a mixed event and LCAC had assembled a crack squad of Kirsty, Maria, Mike and Ally. Kirsty started quickly on lap 1 and Maria maintained position strongly on lap 2 – ticking off the last part of that marathon taper plan. On lap 3 veteran Mike didn’t quite manage to run the full lap due to a dramatic calf injury in the last few metres of the home straight, but a hobble, a triple jump and a javelin throw of the baton to Ally kept the LCAC show on the road. As Mike crawled away from the action in a manner last seen in a Vietnam war movie, Ally set off on a blisteringly quick final lap, seeing the team home in 4:23 and 4th in the A race.
The final event of the day was the men’s discus. Ally completed his SAL decathlon with a fine throw of 33.73m to take 3rd in the A group and Raúl took 3rd in the B group with a strong 19.43m effort. By now, Mike was back on his feet (through a combination of ice pack, Haribo and not wanting to listen to any more age-related ‘banter’ from Olly) and was able to hobble to the pub with the rest of the LCAC crew to celebrate another great day out.
Overall,a fantastic showing by the LCAC squad: strong debuts, impressive multi-event performances, three new club records, and the club soaring to new heights in its first ever pole vault competition. Special mention to Ally and Rachaelfor being ranked amongst the top 10 ‘Athletes of the Day’ for their performances in the 400m hurdles and javelin respectively.
A big thank you to Hercules Wimbledon AC for a very enjoyable and well-organised meet. We finished in 4th place, running East Grinstead close for 3rd and remain well ahead of the club’s points total at this stage last year.
Next up: Match 3 in Guildford on 15 June. See you there!