Improved Southampton Still In The Hunt

Southampton’s men turned in an improved performance to finish 6th in their latest British Athletics League Premiership match at Lee Valley, London on Saturday 2nd June.

It was very much a match of two halves with an extremely strong track contingent proving that on their day the team are more than a match for any other club whereas in the field, last minute injuries and non-availability thwarted the drive for a top four finish.

A traditional flying start saw dynamic 400m hurdles duo James Forman (51.40 sec) and Sean Adams (52.84 sec) grab a brace of 2nd places with seasons best times. The hurdlers’ performances provided the momentum for Southampton to dominate proceedings on the oval circuit, eventually amassing 181.5 track points with only reigning Premiership champions, mighty Birchfield getting anywhere near close with 164 points.

Half-milers Harry Fisher, a winner in the A string with 1:50. and Abdi Mahamed , 4th with a personal best 1:54.97 in the B ran tactically astute races. Steeplechaser Chris Hilton (also deputising in the High Jump with 3 minutes notice due to injury) improved his seasons best to 9:44.28 minutes in 4th while Max Costley made his seasons BAL debut and excelled with 2nd in the B string with a personal best 9:55.25 min.

Sprint hurdler Jack Major equalled his seasons best of 14.52 seconds in a desperately close finish. It was a busy day for Major, who had earlier run 10.94 seconds in the A 100 metres and was later to combine with Matthew Hewitt, Ryan ( who had earlier run a 100 metres B string seasons best 11.12 sec) Coles and Sean Foord as the sprint relay team combined for a seasons best of 42.60 sec in 4th.

The jumpers found the going tough due to injuries. Depleted long Jump performances illustrated that at the Premiership level nothing short of Southampton’s best is required to keep the red and whites on terms. Junior, Adam Jones cleared a seasons best of 2.03 metres to place 7th equal in the A string after colleague Matt Watson injured his hamstring in warm-up and needed to withdraw.

Jones returned to secure B string 4th place in the triple jump with 12.79 metres matching the performance of A string Chuko Cribb , 14.71 metres.

In the Pole Vault, perennial A string Sam Bass-Cooper secured 4th place with 4.53 metres and BAL debutant, 17 year old Kieran Apps handled the pressure very well, soaring to 3.83 metres in B string 4th.

Back on the track, 1500 metre runner Jonny Roberts destroyed his personal best with 3:49.79 seconds for a fighting A string 4th while cross country international Alex Teuten enjoyed a useful speed workout with 3:52.96 min in 3rd.

In the sprints, GB Junior international  tuned up for next week’s European Under 20 championships 100metre trial with a 21.51 seconds 200 metre outing. Training partner Alex Beechey was just outside his seasons best with 21.60 for runners-up spot in the B string.

In the longest race of the day, the 5000 metres, fit-again Matt Revier made a welcome return to BAL action with 14:59.68 min, supported by Alex Wall-Clarke with B string second in 15:03.34 min.

The youngest member of the team, Lynden Olowe, propelled himself into the UK Junior 400 metres Top 10 with a massive personal best of 48.51 sec in the B string. For 5th, matching the placing of wing-man Ben Claridge with 47.54 sec in the A string.

In the throws, again missing key first choice athletes through injury, the strength of the larger teams told. Prolific Patrick Swan coped well with a 9 hour journey from his Truro home the previous day to throw consistently in the Shot, Discus and Hammer to hold the Southampton effort on course. Into the team for the first time this season, discus thrower Matt Callaway (38.54 metres) and hammer thrower Kevin Acraman heaving a personal best 43.48 metres provided great back-up.

On a day where all the Javelin throwers found conditions difficult to deal with, Dominic Allen (53.21m) and James Bougourd (51.46) were unfortunate not to place higher.

Southampton trailed significantly behind the opposition in the field overall but with the return of their big guns in throws and jumps there is every prospect of a truly competitive showing at the next match.

Fittingly, after such a dominant track display, the men in red and white left their best til last. The 4 x 400 metres quartet of Ben Claridge (47.7 sec), James Forman (47.3 sec), Harry Fisher (47.7 sec) and anchor Sean Adams (48.7 sec) excelled to chop a massive 4.5 seconds from the club record a slightly different team had set at the previous match with 3:11.31 min when finishing a close second to a Thames Valley team packed with international standard runners.

With the team getting stronger all the time, the third match at Bedford on 15th July provides every prospect of continued progress toward the tough goal of Premiership survival.

Match Result

Gary Gray

Match Points

1.    Birchfield Harriers                                  308
2.    Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers                304
3.    Woodford Green & Essex Ladies AC    277
4.      Thames Valley Harriers                        276
5.      Newham & Essex Beagles                  274
6.      Southampton AC                                 259.5
7.      Sheffield & Dearne  AC                        248.5
8.    City of Liverpool                                    209

Standings after 2 matches.

1.    Birchfield Harriers                                  16
2.    Newham & Essex Beagles                     11
3.    Woodford Green & Essex Ladies AC    11
4.     Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers                 10.5
5.      Thames Valley Harriers                         8.5
6.      Sheffield & Dearne  AC                           8
7.       Southampton AC                                     5
8.    City of Liverpool                                         2

Left to right: Sean Adams, James Forman, Harry Fisher, Ben Claridge.