Molly Caudery
Molly Caudery. Photo: Patrick Anthonisz

National Athletics League, Premier, London South, Eton. 7/8/21 – Pat Calnan

Thames Valley Harriers made it three wins out of three as they were too strong for the opposition at the Premier London South match at Eton. They finished over a hundred points clear of hosts Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow and, on an afternoon of mixed weather, provided a league record in the 400m hurdles during the worst conditions of the day, courtesy of Nicole Kendall.

This is the second time that Kendall has broken the record this season, having timed a best of 56.32 at the opening fixture at Norman Park. She had run quicker three times since but her chances of doing so again seemed unlikely as just seconds before her race there was a torrential downpour. “I wasn’t sure when I was in the blocks whether the starter would hold the race,” said the 25-year-old. He didn’t, and this uncertainty may have contributed to her going into the first hurdle on her right rather than left leg. Nevertheless, she kept her composure to break 56 seconds for the first time with 55.93, over five seconds clear of the field. Not only was it a personal best, it was also inside the England Athletics qualifying standard for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Going into the season, her best was 57.46 and her aim was to run under 57 consistently. She’s done that and some. “It’s only my second proper season of 400 hurdling,” she said, 2020 having been a write-off because of injury. Prior to 2019 she competed in a whole range of events including pole vault. The biggest difference this season has been in her mental approach. “If I was competing on a Saturday I would spend the previous three days worrying about the race and getting on the start line mentally tired. I had to tell myself that I don’t get stressed on a Friday when I‘m doing a tough session on the Monday so why do it for races?” The results have brought added confidence. “I don’t have an elite exemption to compete abroad but I love competing in the NAL.” To prove it, she then set a new best of 53.49 in winning the B string 400. 

It was a good day for the Marina Armstrong coaching group as, in the men’s A-string race, Chris McAlister (TVH) ran his fastest ever 400m hurdles in the National Athletics League as he won in 49.70 from Tyri Donovan (WSEH), whose 50.83 was just six hundredths off his best. McAlister’s previous League best of 50.63 was also set at Eton in 2019. The UK number one and England champion said: “I’m pleased with that. I’m in the best form of my life. I won’t be finishing my season yet and will race into September. I’ll be doing the last match. I like the new mixed format”.  The League record of 49.40 is under threat.

Another whose season is set to continue is pole vaulter Molly Caudery (TVH), her silver medal at the European Under 23 Championships in Talinn and her personal best of 4.51m set at the Diamond League in Gateshead, opening doors to more competitions. At Eton she cleared 4.25m but was pleased with her performance. “Things have been a bit hectic recently and are just settling down. I competed off a shorter run up and shorter pole today and was close to clearing 4.35m”, she said of what would have been a league Record. “I enjoy competing for TVH.” For the second match in a row she cleared higher than all the competitors in the men’s contest.

Joel Khan, a team-mate in Tallinn and club mate at Eton, had a good afternoon He soared over 2.20m to win the men’s high jump, just one centimetre off his outdoor best. Lionel Owona (WSEH), who had recently cleared 2.14m to go second in this year’s UK under-20 rankings, went over 2.10m for second. TVH also supplied the women’s winner in Pippa Rogan (1.75m), and the team won 14 out of 16 of the A and B-string jumps. These included a useful pairing of Jude Bright Davies and Sam Trigg Petrovic in the men’s triple jump with distances of 15.55m and 15.07m respectively; and a win in the women’s event from Montana Jackson with 12.46m despite originally only being down to compete as a guest.  

Rogan’s victory means she remains unbeaten in the league this season, as is Kendall. Also with 100% records are clubmates Rachel Miller in the 100m, who secured victory in 11.91, and javelin thrower Gavin Johnson Assoon. The 38-year-old, who has thrown furthest in the league this season, won with a distance of 63.74m and will probably only compete once more this year, at the NAL, of course. He has been troubled by Achilles tendonitis in recent weeks. “I am managing it but I haven’t been able to train properly. I’m winding down the season.” Looking to next season, he feels the Commonwealth Games qualifying of 77.00m is a possibility.

For hammer thrower Bailey Campbell, the season is now over. Watched by his brothers Ainsley and Taylor, who was just back from Tokyo. He won with a distance of 62.08m. He now heads back to the States where he began his season in March. “I’m pleased with the distance as I’m winding down,” he said. He and Taylor are both looking forward to next season. “The target for the season was to get to the Olympics,” said Taylor “It was an interesting experience in Tokyo and I think I have learned from it.”

Elsewhere in the throws, Southern champion Amy Holder (WSEH) won the women’s discus with 50.92m; Southampton AC won the women’s hammer with under-20 Anna Merrit’s 50.84m and clubmate Chris Scott was a class apart in the discus winning by over six metres with 53.27m.

The South coast club also enjoyed track success with Daniel Offiah taking the men’s 100m in a very useful 10.55, albeit with a 2.7 metre per second tailwind. Alex Haydock-Wilson (WSEH) took advantage of a favourable, but legal, wind to go under 21 seconds for the first time with 20.89, and Jess Tappin won the women’s race in 24.45 to add to her earlier excellent 57.69 in the B 400m hurdles. The in-form Megan Marrs (WSEH) took the women’s short hurdles in 13.51 and Samuel Clarke (TVH) made an improvement of over a tenth of a second in winning the men’s 110m hurdles in 14.69.    

There was a new best also for Sam Reardon (Blackheath & Bromley), who continued his outstanding season with a win in the 400m in 47.03. The European junior 4x400m gold medallist then ran his fastest ever relay split with a 45.9 on leg two. “I am aiming to go under 47 and today showed that I am not far from it”. Clubmate Dan Putnam won the B-string in a seasons best of 47.58. He also took the B 100m and 200m races in 10.69 and 21.64.

For the second match in a row, B&B won an A-string in the National League with an under 17-athlete. English Schools Iintermediate girls’ 800m champion Amarisa Sibley ran away from the field to finish in 2:10.90. “I’m not a natural front-runner so I’m pleased with that,” said the 16-year-old, whose weekly trips to Brighton to link up with coach Jon Bigg are paying dividends.

Her team manager, Niamh Bridson Hubbard, made it a middle-distance double for the club as she enjoyed a nice “sit and kick” race to take the 1500m. This was in contrast to the 3000m she ran earlier where TVH’s Dani Chattenton pulled away to win in 9:27.94 in her first track race in two years. Pick of the men’s middle distance was the 3000m, where Myles Edwards (TVH) prevailed in a last-lap burn-up with clubmate Antonio Silva to win in 8:32.65

The relays provided more entertainment with B&B just pipping TVH in the women’s 4x100m before a rousing finale in the men’s 4×400 as Luke Lennon-Ford held off Alex Haydock-Wilson to give TVH victory over WSEH – 3:09.63 to 3:09.75, impressive times.

So all look forward to the final meeting at the same venue on August 28, not just for some top class athletics, but also for connoisseurs of trackside cuisine, the delights at the trackside canteen. Some more league records would be the icing on the cake.