Holly Mills Cardiff NAL javelin 2

Top performances in the opening round of NAL matches

Holly Mills, Kevin Metzger, Joel Clarke-Khan, Scott Lincoln and Jacob Paul were among those to shine in the first set of matches in this year’s league yesterday as clubs began battle for this season’s honours.

The excitement of the athletes to return to more traditional-style club competition after last year’s pandemic-affected season was evident. Premiership matches took place in Manchester and Cardiff, while the Championship clubs competed in Kingston upon Thames and Chelmsford. The six National 1 clubs also fought it out in Milton Keynes.

Team scores were still to be made official at the time of publication but, subject to scrutiny, Blackheath & Bromley won narrowly at the live-streamed Manchester match, with Shaftesbury and Trafford second and third respectively. The result in Cardiff currently appears more clear-cut as Thames Valley Harrier head the standings by a bigger margin. Harrow are second and Woodford Green with Essex Ladies are third.

In Manchester, a pair of great 400m hurdles performances started off the track events. First, Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow’s Jacob Paul won the men’s A race with 49.89, his fastest time for three years. Then Hayley McLean marginally improved on her season’s best with 57.22 to comfortably win the women’s event.

Olympian Scott Lincoln took the expected maximum points for Shaftesbury Barnet as he easily won the shot with 19.73m.

In the flat 400m, Sale’s Kevin Metzger produced another of the top performances of the day. The time of 46.40 is the third fastest of his career.

Last year’s UK hammer No.1, Jessica Mayho (Birchfield), did not need to be close to her best for the win, recording a best of 64.51m.

Shaftesbury Barnet’s Nick Percy won the discus at all four NAL matches last season and here the UK No.2 continued the streak with 61.28m.

The London club also took top points on the women’s side through Shadine Duquemin, who threw 53.47m to beat WSEH’s Amy Holder.

Another strong event was the men’s javelin where Joe Dunderdale took the win with 69.58m. Staying with the throws, Birchfield’s Craig Murch began his season with a winning 70.52m.

Kelechi Aguocha (Blackheath & Bromley) set an outdoor PB in the high jump as he won with 2.14m.

In the sprints, Birchfield’s Leon Reid and B&B’s Jeriel Quianoo had a pair of close tussles. First, Commonwealth 200m bronze medallist Leon Reid won the 100m as both were given the same time of 10.48. Then Quianoo reversed the result in the half-lap

2012 Olympic marathoner Scott Overall proved he still has the speed to win at top club level, coming home in 14:35.44 for top points in the 5000m for Blackheath & Bromley.

Meanwhile, in Cardiff, Harrow heptathlete Holly Mills had a busier day than even she is used to, competing in five events within five hours.

The athlete who was fourth in the World Athletics Indoor Championships pentathlon in March began with 1.75m in the high jump to finish second alongside Cardiff’ Lauren Evans, with TVH’s Pippa Rogan taking the win – all three at the same height. She then won the 100m hurdles with 13.58 (-1.8). In the javelin, she threw 35.77m – her third best ever. In the shot she recorded 13.45m for second and then had to rush straight to the start line to run the first leg of the 4x400m.

“It’s really good for my first proper season-opener. I’m pleased with it all,” she said. “There’s not been any outstanding performances. All of them were quite average but they were all good average.”

Joel Clarke-Khan produced arguably the performance of the day for TVH. His 2.25m in the high jump not only gave him an England Commonwealth qualifier, but it was a 2cm outright PB. He went on to attempt 2.27m, just 3cm short of the historic national league record.

Champions Thames Valley Harriers began the day well on the track, thanks to their dependable one-lap hurdlers. Chris McAlister, last year’s UK No.1, opened his season with a 50.41 win, having to pull away in the home straight from Jack Lawrie (50.69), who challenged him all the way. Nicole Kendall was similarly pushed as she clocked 58.21. She was neck and neck with Swansea’s Caryl Granville (58.68) most of the way before pulling clear on the home straight.

TVH’s Amelia Strickler, who competed for Britain at the World Indoors last winter, was disappointed with her 17.34m but it was enough for victory despite four fouls.

Harrow’s Owen Heard prevailed in a close pole vault, clearing a best of 5.27m at his third attempt for a 27cm improvement on his PB. Only two British athletes went higher last year. Swansea’s Thomas Walley and TVH’s Rubem Miranda shared second with 5.10m.

In the hammer, Newham & Essex Beagles’ Katie Head continued her good form. Having improved recently to over 69m for second on the UK rankings, here she had her fourth best ever throw of 66.94m.

Commonwealth bronze medallist Mark Dry (WG&EL) continued on the comeback trail with victory in the men’s event with 68.38m, putting him 39cm in front of runner-up Jac Palmer (Card).

Ieuan Thomas NAL steeplechase Cardiff
Ieuan Thomas ran 8:51.28 in his last-minute bid for a Commonwealth time

Ieuan Thomas (Cardiff) won the 3000m steeplechase in 8:51.28 but his goal had been the Wales Commonwealth Games standard of 8:34.50, with the deadline the next day. Later he thanked rival Woodford Green’s Adam Kirk-Smith for volunteering to pace him some of the way.

Swansea’s Patrick Swan was similarly short of the Wales mark required for Birmingham but improved his PB by 15cm to 17.60m, taking the scalp of last year’s UK No.2 Youcef Zatat (17.49m).

Jeremiah Azu enjoyed home advantage as he clocked 10.46 for 100m despite a 1.4m/s headwind. Later he led off the 4x100m team to a superb 40.17. Their winning time was was just 0.37s outside the hand-timed league record and within half a second of the club record. Sam Gordon, Dewi Hammond and Arron Owen took the second to fourth legs.

TVH’s Mohamud Aadan and Swansea’s Dewi Griffiths fought out the 5000m for most of the race before the former pulled away over the final laps for a 14:25.56 clocking.

Harrow’s Jade Spencer-Smith set a PB to win the pole vault, the height of 4.10m shared by second-placed Jade Spencer-Smith (WG&EL). The favourite, Molly Caudery (TVH) came in at that height and failed.

At the Championship match at Kingston, Crawley are the provisional winners.

Among the highlights, Charlotte Payne added nearly a metre to her PB in the hammer with 67.68m – also a world deaf record. The Reading AC athlete has made it a record six UK women over 67m already this season.

Tonbridge’s top decathletes were in action too. England champion Lewis Church threw 51.91m in the javelin. England silver medallist Harry Kendall had 6.72m in the long jump, 15.3 in the 110m hurdles and 1.90m in the high jump behind the 2.00m of Sale’s Chris Baker

Scoring big for Sale, England under-17 200m champion Success Eduan, now a first-year under-20, sprinted to a double victory, clocking 11.8 and 24.4.

In the Championship match at Chelmsford, the host club were the provisional winners. Liverpool Harriers’ James Kelly was one of the top field performances with 16.73m in the shot.

Under-20 Omolola Kuponiyi won the women’s event with 13.40m from Paralympian Lydia Church (PANVAC), who threw 11.84m.

In the National 1 match at Milton Keynes, Belgrave look to be the winning team.

Host club athlete Kayleigh Presswell improved on her PB with 65.11m to win the hammer. Ben Wells (Yate) won the 400m in 48.43 and clubmate Adam Brooks (Yate) cleared 2.09m to win the high jump.

Results: https://data.opentrack.run/en-gb/s/nal/2022/
More info: https://www.nationalathleticsleague.org.uk/