Chris McAlister. Photo: James Rhodes

Terrific Thames Valley record back-to-back NAL Premiership wins

Written by Daniel Rees

Premiership Division Fixture 2A – Nottingham

Full results on OpenTrack

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Thames Valley Harriers scored a comfortable victory as they surpassed the 600-point mark to consign their rivals to the minor placings in the National Athletics League second round.

Saturday’s match in Nottingham was played out in changeable weather conditions, with rain briefly suspending competition early on and returning later in the day to soak any athletes who omitted to pack waterproofs for their trip to the East Midlands.

In a competition that started at 9.30am and continued until close to 6pm, Thames Valley Harriers’ sky blue vests were an ever-present as the west London club scored maximum points in no less than six events.

Kayleigh Presswell, third at the UK Championships last week, threw the hammer past the 60-meter mark four times to win the A-string, whilst teammate Pippa Wingate threw 55.04m for the team to take full points.

From there, last season’s league winners rarely looked back, although City of Sheffield and Dearne’s George Heppinstall did claim a valuable win in the pole vault after clearing 5.11m – and Harrow AC’s Owen Heard – who enjoyed an outstanding 2022 season, made his long-awaited season’s debut by vaulting 4.41m to finish 3rd.

In the first track event of the day, training partners Chris McAlister (TVH) and Jacob Paul (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) battled it out in the 400m hurdles as the two UK Championship finalists from last week ran 50.74s and 51.37 respectively. City of Sheffield’s Ben Schofield ran an outstanding PB of 51.95 in poor conditions to take third in the A-race.

Jessica Tappin and Nicole Kendall won their respective 400m hurdles races by huge margins as Thames Valley took maximum points in three out of the first six events.

In the discus, UK champion Jade Lally (TVH) threw 57.17m, whilst Windsor gained 20 points through Phoebe Dowson and Amy Holder’s best throws, both of which surpassed 50 metres.

The 100m saw some athletes better known for the 400m take on the shorter distance, as UK Champion Alex Haydock-Wilson ran 10.86sec into a -2.4m/s headwind whilst Lee Thompson (Sheffield) ran 10.95 in even tougher conditions, with the track-side wind gauge measuring the wind speed at -3.3m/s. A resurgent Bianca Williams (TVH) won the women’s 100m in 10.77.

While the likes of Thames Valley, Harrow, and Windsor were able to field UK champions and British internationals in a host of events, some of the league’s smaller clubs fought gamely over the course of the day as athletes took on several disciplines to squeeze out as many points as possible.

Trafford, who went onto finish 6th, managed full points in the women’s high jump courtesy of Emily Madden Forman and Halle Ferguson, who cleared 1.66m and 1.76m respectively.

Chelmsford, newly promoted to the Premiership, put together a decent points tally in the women’s 2,000m steeplechase courtesy of Hannah Bolton and Molly Drane, whilst the discus also saw the Essex club score highly thanks to Kevin Wilson – who managed to throw 43.68m – and Duane Jibunoh, who threw 42.11m.

Crawley, who were without star athlete and Tokyo Olympian Niclas Baker, faced gaps in the team for the men’s 110m hurdles and women’s pole vault. There were positives for the Sussex based outfit, however, as Molly Swingler came second in the 400m hurdles A-string with 62.85, with under-20 athlete Isabelle Humphreys taking four points in the B-string with a time of 71.94. Iain Botting and Matthew Lasis also picked up valuable points in the hammer throw, which was won by UK Champion Jake Norris with a mark of 70.70m.

Match hosts Notts, meanwhile, saw their steeplechasers come to the fore on home turf courtesy of Milan Campion and Merhawi Tkue, with Oxford University student Campion losing out to Cambridge rival (and Harrow athlete) Terry Fawden. The field events proved to be the Midlands club’s strongest suit, however, as Notts came close to scoring full points in both the women’s hammer and the women’s pole vault. Club stalwart and former English age-group title winner Emma Lyons cleared 3.41m, as did teammate Isla Cameri, as the team finished 5th.

Closing the day, the relays saw the top scores spread slightly more evenly. Thames Valley’s men won the 4x100m comfortably before Harrow’s women scored full points in the same event. In the men’s 4x400m, City of Sheffield’s training partners Lewis Thorn, Hakan Dalbal, James Greenhalgh, and Lee Thompson combined to take the win, whilst Harrow’s women pulled ahead in the final leg to take full points.

Eventual victors Thames Valley finished the day on 638 points ahead of Harrow on 592.50, whilst Windsor, Sheffield, Notts, Trafford, Chelmsford, and Crawley completed the final standings in ascending order.