Firstly, a huge thank you to all the club officials and helpers that made the journey to Basingstoke for the third fixture of the season in what turned out to be challenging weather conditions. The afternoon offered up sun, just a little; rain, quite a lot; and wind, far too much! On behalf of the team, we appreciate your commitment and support.

As to the team results, as the day unfolded it became clear that the opposition had fielded very strong teams, with county champions and South of England medallists everywhere you looked in both the men and women’s teams. The host club Basingstoke were eventual winners ahead of Radley and AFD, with Walton finishing 4th. The overall team result takes nothing away from the fighting spirit of every one of our individual athletes who performed on the day, gaining valuable experience and exposure to other events in some cases where last-minute changes helped to field both ‘A’ and ‘B’ strings to secure the extra points.

With the wind registering minus 3.7m/s for the 200m this gives you the indication that the real value of the day came from both the strong competition and the experience that club representation gives, without the opportunity this time to build on personal best performances.

Walton AC did salvage some glory on the day with Nicola Bell, six times English Schools competitor, being awarded for the second time this season SAL Woman of the Match by the league for her javelin mark of 39.81m. Other highlights and results included: –

Debbie Singleton – top points scorer for the club on the day as B string for Womens Shot, Discus, Javelin and taking 1st place in the Hammer. In addition, key points for acting as a competition official. A great club performance.

Nicola Bell – Womens Shot, Discus, Javelin and Hammer (A string for all). Placing 3rd, 2nd, 1st, and 1st place respectively, rewarded with season’s best in both shot discus despite the weather, totalling 13 points.

Robert A Smith – Also with 13 points; A string in the 400mH, 110mH, long jump, high jump, triple jump and B string 2000m Steeplechase. Consistently strong performances across all events, finishing 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 1st in the respective events.

Lucy Bartlett – now getting back to her very best, Lucy had an excellent day’s competition as Womens A string 100m, 110mH, 400mH and B string 200m with first leg in the 4x100m squad. Edged out of 1st position by just one hundredth of a second in the 100mH with a time of 18.90 into a minus 3.5m/s headwind was impressive, considering her earlier strong 71.20 performance for 2nd in the 400mH.

Jo Locker – showing her experience and steady continuation towards getting back to top level competition, Jo brought her trademark team approach and took on the A string for 400m and B string for 100m, 1500m and high jump, finishing with a solid 2nd leg in the 4x400m squad.

Duncan Woolmer – in one of the races of the day, Duncan found himself up against a former Commonwealth Games Decathlete over the last 150m of a gruelling 800m with a titanic battle down the home straight, and with just metres to go held on to secure 2nd place in a season’s best of 2:00.53. Buoyed by a great result, Duncan ran a strong 5000m in 16:34.9 for 3rd place, A string for both events.

Clare Ridd – Womens A string for both long jump and high jump, Clare opened her season with a solid 4.24m jump for 4th before a very impressive clear win in the high jump with 1.50m, coming very close to clearing her next height of 1.55m.

Matt Reed – teaming up with Duncan as B string in both 800m and 5000m races, Matt ran strongly to record 2:08.9 in his first 800m in over 2 years, followed up with a season’s best of 17:04.9 in the 5000m before running an excellent 55s split in the 4x400m squad.

In other throwing field events, Walton AC were represented by Rob C Smith – first in the Mens Shot before winning the A string Hammer with a throw of 38.43m; Bernhard Jongejan – taking 3rd place in the A string Javelin with 38.05m and a season’s best of 31.16m for 2nd place in the A string Discus; Joe Eastwood throwing 30.97m in the B string Javelin for 3rd; with Martin Willis picking up points in the B string Shot and Discus, as well as an ‘unconventional’ point in the B string 400m. Unable to run through injury he showed great team spirit to nonetheless take to the track for the point. Not the deal breaker this time but it’s commitment like this that can sometimes make the difference to an overall team result.

In the jumps, both Michael Franklin and Jon Ladleyvaulted 2.50m. A frustrating day for Jon due to injury and, able to only take the one jump, his contribution to the team nevertheless continued in his capacity as a trained official for the event. Get well soon Jon. Finally, Sally Mammen continues to jump consistently and achieved 3.86m as the team’s B string long jump.

The sprints were of a high calibre but because of the quite brutal headwind the times are not representative of the actual performance. Nonetheless, Ethan Dray recorded 3rd place in both A string 100m and 200m with 11.96 & 23.84, together with Sean Deane as B string in 12.46 & 25.43 3rd and 4th place respectively. Both showing great form. In the 400m Robbie Prance recorded a season’s best of 58.3 in an exceptionally fast race won in sub 50 seconds despite the conditions, by a trio of U20 400m/800m specialists.

In the middle distance the usual depth of competition was on display and Walton athletes experienced some great racing: on the women’s side, some gutsy running and great determination shown by both – Emma Horsey, in A string 800m before going onto clock 28.6 in the 200m and then running very fine 3rd legs in both 4x100m and 4x400m relays; and – Eloise Williams B string run in the women’s 800m before securing a 3rd place in her first competitive 400m race. Rachel Pharaoh had her hands full in a tough 1500m race in a field that included the U20 county champion but ran strongly as A string for 5:06.0, before running a great lead leg for the 4x400m relay squad. Going longer, Anri Cohen picked up useful points for the club once again as A string in the 3000m, before a personal best of 8:42.4 in the 2000m steeplechase. Ably supported by Kathryn Lovegrove placing 2nd as B string in the 3000m, all the while waving to the crowd lap after lap.

In the middle distance on the men’s side, the competition was equally fierce, and, in the conditions, we saw some of the best individual performances of the day. Both Michael Cottrill and Matt Pharaoh ran 4:16.4 and 4:19.6 in the 1500m for 2nd places in both A & B strings. The performances in the additional non-scoring race by two of our younger athletes’ worthy of special mention; with Tom Jones and Joseph Daws-Tilley racing hard for 4:19.9 and 4:27.4, very much in the mix with the AFD runners – both running consistently at their best, and showing great future promise.

It is perhaps fortunate the 4x100m and 4x400m relays come toward the end of the day as if there has been any prior doubt as to the competition we were up against, it became crystal clear at this point. Hoping to deploy our secret weapon in the form of Lizzie Amos, who we were grateful was able to make the trip specially to boost our relay teams, our original plans and team had to be altered and in fact the declaration of the final team was made at the start itself. Eventually, in the short sprint quartet for the women Lucy handed off to Lani Cardwell for the back straight before handing over to Emma running the 3rd leg bend, and then finally to Lizzie to bring it home. In the longer sprint quartet Rachel ran a brave first leg handing to Jo running another very solid 400m as 2nd leg runner, before Emma chasing the field down for a final handover to Lizzie. A spirited run by all and good enough for 3rd place, in a race that saw the Basingstoke quartet smash the divisional 4x400m record by 4 seconds with 3:53.1.

For the men it was a case of last man standing, but not overawed by the prospect of the more polished sprint relay teams the quartet of Robbie, Rob S, Rob Lovegrove and Matt Reed brought the baton around safely. It was never looking like there was an opportunity to mount any serious challenge with the other three teams headed by Basingstoke in a fast 44.80, all finishing within half a second of each other. Unfortunately, the 4x400m quartet of Robbie, Matt R, Michael and Matt P were disqualified for a technical infringement but nonetheless both Matt Reed and Michael recorded great 55 second split legs. The winning time of 3:31 at the end of the day by Basingstoke secured their overall win of the competition.

Congratulations to all! The next fixture is at Kingston on Saturday 13th July. If ever your team needs you, this is the match.

Chris Ness, Acting SAL Team Manager