Newham and Essex's Ben Snaith is unbeaten in the NAL this year. Photo: Daniel Rees

Shaftesbury Barnet boost promotion campaign with another strong match

Written by Daniel Rees

NAL Championship East Round 3 – Stevenage

Results on OpenTrack

Shaftesbury Barnet made it three wins from three to keep alive their hopes of an instant return to the Premiership next season.

Particularly strong showings in 400m hurdles gave the north London side a strong start – but they were made to work for their victory by Havering, who could have snatched top spot had they stronger performances in the hurdles and steeplechase.

Herne Hill Harriers relied on their women’s team to gather much of their points tally to take third, whilst hosts Herts Phoenix produced consistent scores all round to place fourth.

Chelmsford’s middle-distance runners helped them avoid a bottom-place finish, which went to Newham and Essex Beagles despite their dominance in the men’s sprints.

Fortunately for Shaftesbury, the first two events of the day also happen to be the club’s strongest suits.

Training partners Steven Garrett and Hayley McLean both won the A-string 400m hurdles, whilst Amy Clemens won the women’s hammer with a throw of 47.73m in the opening round.

Shaftesbury’s Steve Garrett fights for position. Photo: Daniel Rees

Their teammate Reese Robinson’s 5.04m in the long jump was enough to take second behind Havering’s Alicia Fairmaner.

The conditions, which flicked from torrential rain to glorious sunshine and back again, added an additional challenge for the competitors.

Herne Hill, struggling after failing to score points in the women’s hammer and men’s 400m hurdles, then catapulted themselves into mid-table, courtesy of victories from Sophie Tooley and Lucy Jones in the women’s 800m.

Newham too had ground to gain, and their 100m runners made the best of the good conditions with wins from Ben Snaith in 10.70sec and a second-place finish for Marlon Hogg-Williams in 11.30sec.

In the women’s 100m, Herne Hill came to the fore again as former GB Junior Kristal Awuah ran 12.10sec and Ella Rennie 12.50sec for the pair to take a maximum of 22 points.

Chelmsford gained much-needed points in the 110m hurdles as Rhys Collings and Luke Keteleers negotiated their barriers the smoother to edge out the opposition.

By the time of the first downpour, Shaftesbury had established a commanding lead, but then came the race of the day. In the men’s 1500m, Shaftesbury Thomas Butler produced a gripping battle with a Newham athlete in the rain, coming out on top by 0.01sec following a spectacular sprint finish.

Niamh Emerson is a Commonwealth bronze medallist and European indoor silver medallist. Photo: Daniel Rees

Despite Newham’s strugglers, there was a bright spot in the form of Niamh Emerson’s return to competition. The former World under-20 heptathlon champion opened her outdoor season with a 40.48 throw to take third in the javelin, and gave a similarly strong performance in the shot put as coach Ashley Bryant watched on.

There was also a double victory in the men’s 200m as Ben Snaith and Marlon Hogg-Williams worked to bump up their side’s points tally.

The same could be said of Awuah and Rennie for Herne Hill in the women’s 200m, who again combined to take full points. Herts Phoenix’s Jessica Astill and Serena Thomas both took second place in the same event.

By the time the mixed relays came round, the weather had improved again and it was Shaftesbury who won both strings to set up a captivating promotion match in Bedford next month.