Southampton AC ‘s British Men’s Athletics League team consolidated their division 1 status at the halfway mark of the 4- Match 2018 series at Portsmouth on Saturday 2nd JuneS. The team’s 3rd at the first fixture at Eton in early May could just as easily have been 6th, so tightly bunched were the teams. By contrast, an improved Southampton team fielding a handful of internationals came within 6 points of runners-up Blackheath as the top 3 in the division started to show their class.
The field contingent have been depleted due to injury and unavailability in the early part of the season and so it proved at Portsmouth. While amassing more points on the track than any other club with 201 points, two thirds of the total team score, the field men languished down in 6th with several athletes covering multiple events. Nevertheless, the talent on show was impressive. England Discus international Chris Scott continued his unbeaten start to the league season, winging the 2KG Disc out to 53.44 metres in unhelpful wind conditions. There was a 1-2 in the High Jump, recently retired Matt Watson reprising his role as comeback kid by snatching 2nd spot in the A string. Watson actually upstaged protégé Adam Jones, who nevertheless jumped an identical 1.98m to his Coach in winning the B string. Javelin throwers Sonny Nash (55.10m) and debutant Graham Lay (43.65m) notched up a brace of 4th places.
Onto the track, the speed men were back with a vengeance. First up, Great Britain international Eden Davis tuned up for the world junior championships trials with a 10.55 100 metres clocking, 2nd in the A string. Not to be outdone, Welsh international Cameron Starr blitzed to B string victory in a lifetime best 10.61 sec. Starting the fearless battle of attrition which characterises the club’s distance runners’ approach, Chris Hilton put months of injury aside to secure 3rd place in the 3000m steeplechase, 10:20.71 min. B stringer Tom Cully backed Hilton up superbly with another 3rd, 10:31.16 min. It was a case of ‘second verse- same as the first’ for Under 20 400m runners Lynden Olowe (48.97) and Jack Higgins (49.45) , repeating their 4th and 2nd places from the Eton match.
The metric mile featured another touch of class as European cross country championships representative Alex Teuten found the finishing pace a little hot after a sedate beginning. Racing way below his best distance Teuten nevertheless recorded 3:55.76 min in third. Back to the sprints, Alex Beechey tuned up for the forthcoming Cypriot championships with his fastest ever seasons opener, 21.69 sec. A real head turner was another personal best in the non-scoring 200 metres , 21.61 sec for the rapidly improving Cameron Starr.
So often the backbone of the team, the distance boys contributed massively to the attempt to pull back a significant Blackheath lead in 2nd as Southampton began to run out of events. Jonny Roberts was perfectly positioned for most of the 5000m, just missing out in a last lap tear-up to finish 2nd in 15:10.94 min. Team mate Matt Revier completed the brace of 2nd places, touching out a 15:32.10 min.
Coming into the relays, the task in the quest for 2nd place in the match was simple and daunting; not only beat sprint powerhouses Blackheath but finish as far ahead as possible. First up, the 4 x 100m team. Daniel Offiah rocketed out of the blocks to edge a narrow advantage, handing off seamlessly to Josh Parry who ran a destructive back straight to extend the advantage at halfway. Cameron Starr glided around the 3rd leg bend to slap the baton into the waiting hand of Eden Davis. Accustomed to anchoring the GB team, Davis never faltered, bringing the team home to a clear victory in a season’s best 41.66 sec. Ominously, Blackheath hung on to finish 2nd. Onto the 4 x 400m relay, a great performance by the red and whites accompanied by a relatively poor run by Blackheath could still have swung things in favour of Southampton. As it was, the quartet of Owen Lawrence with an impressive 48.9 opening leg, Alex Beechey (51.6, stepping in with 10 minutes notice and no warm up), Harry Fisher (49.6) and Sean Adams (49.5) battled all the way to the line, finishing second to Liverpool. Frustratingly, Blackheath clung on grimly for third and thus secure the runners-up spot in the match behind Harrow.
Team Manager Gary MacDonald-Gray reflected on the performance : “for a team only firing at 80% power, this result shows our potential and has set up a tight struggle in the final two fixtures. Promotion is still there for the taking but will rely on our finest stepping forward and sticking at it to realise that ambition.’
The next match is the Big Bash at Bedford on 7th July with every one of the 38 BAL teams competing.