3 September 2017 - U17/20 Final - Birmingham
Congratulations! They won the overall final. Girls
came 1st and Boys 1st
Photos start here...
11.00pm on the evening of Saturday 2nd September, the team managers, several
coaches and supporters sat chatting in the bar at the Holiday Inn in
Birmingham. Some 50 or so B&B junior men and a similar number of their
female teammates were mostly settling down to sleep in their rooms upstairs.
The Austridge corridor patrol was out looking for wayward athletes but only
encountered some of Edinburgh opposition (who were staying at the same
hotel)… the young men and women of Blackheath and Bromley knew they had a
job to do.
years earlier things had been rather different – just 23 junior men
represented the club in the 2015 final, most of who are still competing. Not
surprisingly, with 68 spaces on the team sheet to fill, despite some heroics
on the day the boys were last of the eight teams competing that year.
Nevertheless we knew we had the ingredients to emulate our illustrious
female counterparts who had shown what could be achieved. It was time to
awaken the sleeping giant.
months later a plan was hatched. The goals were simple: Win the Southern
Premier League, win the National Final and finish as the top placed boys
team to go on a represent Great Britain in Europe. How long it would take to
achieve nobody knew, but the response from the athletes was immense. The
next season in 2016, the team captained by Shamar Thomas Campbell made great
strides – the first two goals were accomplished. But when it came to the
final we were outclassed, Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers teaching us a harsh
lesson in what it takes to get to Europe.
clock forward to the start of the 2017 season and the goals remained the
same, the squad on the other hand was getting stronger. A hugely impressive
crop of first year under 17s had come through complemented by a large
handful of talented new joiners, English Schools’ medalists amongst them.
Nothing could be taken for granted however – Perhaps spurred on by our 2016
resurgence, our Shaftesbury nemesis were looking ominously strong, new
athletes from as far afield as Scotland and Jersey were suddenly lining up
in the famous black and white stripes – we knew we had a fight on our hands!
At last the
final day had come. It was a cool, dampish morning in Birmingham but the
athletes were up early and the buzz of anticipation was palpable as we
prepared to leave the hotel at 8:15. On arriving at the stadium, once team
photos were out of the way the thong of athletes, parents, coaches and other
supporters ensconced themselves in the stand just past the finish line. The
stage was set.
was the 400m hurdles. Rumours were reaching us that Shaftesbury’s 1-ranked
U17 athlete was missing! We knew to beat them we might need some luck, was
this to be the first such blessing? A lot would depend on whether Coleman
Corry could capitalize. First up were the under 20 races though. Ed Adams,
buoyed on by a 58 second PB the week before, went out hard but then crashed
into the first barrier. His rhythm was gone and he struggled home 6th
finisher, some 3 seconds outside his PB. In the B string we took our first
medal of the day courtesy of Frankie Scrivener. Not only that but it was the
first PB of the day too. Next it was the turn of Coleman in the U17 A string
and he ran a composed race to storm away from the field for the first win of
the day and by over 3 seconds, much to the jubilation of the on looking B&B
supporters. Caelan Raju was in the first close battle with an SBH athlete,
just being pipped for silver by less than a tenth!
Over at the
hammer cage the B&B lads were high-fiving. Charlie Short had just pulled out
a huge PB of over 41m, enough to give him the B string win. Contrast to a
year ago when Charlie also PB’d in the final but then his 31m effort was
only enough for 5th place in the B string – quite some progress! In the A
string James Lancaster put his injury problems behind him to make it a fine
double win for the U17 lads. His winning effort of just under 55m whilst
short of his own high expectations was still enough for James to win the
event by over 10m. In the under 20 string, Dylan Reeves-Fellows also just
back from injury was slipping and sliding in the now wet conditions and with
two no throws already on the sheet any sort of mark was needed. But no, it
was another foul – poor Dylan was devastated.
Back on the
track the 1500s were underway and the first of two head to heads between
Ricky Lutakome (ES 800m winner) and SBH’s Hamza Kadir (ES 1500 winner).
Tactically Ricky appeared to have got it right, slowing up the pack from the
front in a Mo Farah like way. Perhaps sensing the danger Hamza charged into
the lead with a lap to go and held off Ricky to take the win. Oscar Hussey
grabbed a solid 3rd in the B string but with another SBH athlete taking the
win the pendulum seemed to be swinging away from B&B.
situation called for a response from the U17 lads and Angus Harrington and
Matthew Francis stepped forward. Angus, ordinarily an 800 runner was up
against a Shaftesbury athlete who on paper was 12 seconds quicker than him.
It was a steady race until the last lap when the brakes came off and the B&B
boys who had been comfortable in the lead group suddenly looked in danger of
being left behind. Angus then responded, pulling up on the shoulder of the
leader and with 150 to go he kicked to the front and never relinquished the
lead, taking a fine win in a new PB. Matthew, still another year in the age
group, backed up superbly taking a good bronze in the B string.
jump was divided into two pools based on starting height and despite all of
three athletes being U17s, they all selected to start in the more
competitive pool where the medals would be contested. Conditions were far
from ideal with dampness underfoot and a cool, stiff breeze blowing across
the Alexander Stadium. Nevertheless all three lads progressed to 1.80m. For
Kelechi Aguocha, jumping up an age group, that equaled his PB and was enough
for U20 A string bronze. Harrison too bowed out at the same height to take
an U17 B string gold. That left Pedro Gleadall with one attempt left at
1.85m to equal the A string leader (SBH of course). To great jubilation from
the crowd he went clear! Nobody went higher including the U20 athletes
although Pedro eventually came away with a great silver medal on count back.
the first results were going up and there was another sign that lady luck
was smiling on us when we saw that the Shaftesbury U20 hurdles runner had
been DQd - pushing Ed up to 5th and meaning “null points” for our foes.
There was more excitement for the B&B supporters when it emerged that after
19 events we had taken a narrow 30 point lead over SBH with Edinburgh lying
Calnan spotted Luc Durant putting the shot at an indoor schools event early
last season he saw a gentle giant with loads of raw ability but plenty of
room to grow in terms of technique and athleticism. Roll the clock forward
18 months and Luc has become quite some athlete – with a 15.40m PB, 4th on
the UK rankings and an ES medal in his collection. It was no surprise to see
him take the U20 gold on the day despite not being quite at his imperious
best. In the B string Dele Aladese was equal in distance with the second
placed Glasgow athlete but eventually had to settle for third based on
second best throws. An injury to Theo Adesina meant Rico Cottell answered
the late call to arms for the points in the U17 event. Not surprisingly he
was a little rusty but still managed a solid put for 6th.
Back on the
track the sprinters were in action for the 100m with Camron Lyttle first up
in the U20 A string. B&B hearts were in mouths when there was a false start
and we waited anxiously to see who it was. There was a collective sigh of
relief when we saw the Rugby athlete being led away from the start line.
Eventually they were underway and Camron was in a photo finish with
Edinburgh for the win. Ultimately just 1 hundredth separated the two
athletes with Camron just missing out on gold. It was a great silver medal
too for Rhys Francis in the B string although he was disappointed not to
have beaten SBH who took the win. The U17 races were similarly positive from
a Blackheath perspective with Kyle Reynolds-Warmington obeying management
instructions to finish in front of the SBH athlete which he accomplished
with a great second place. Jed Hamilton had been due to run the B string but
was one of several injured athletes who despite not being able to compete
still came along to support his team mates. That opened the door for Chizute
Ogbedeh our first reserve who eagerly accepted the managers’ invitation to
step up on the day. Zute responded brilliantly taking third to ensure all 4
sprinters were in the medals and took a great points haul in the process.
Next on the
track it was U17 400m club record-holder, Ethan Brown. Ranked number 1 in
the country for an U17 we asked Ethan to step up to the U20 A string where
the 16 year old would be pitched against the some of the best sprinters in
the country - including Shaftesbury’s 19 year old Matthew Pagan, a current
England U20 international. It was a sensational race in which Ethan appeared
to have met his match until his now customary late surge coming into the
final saw him move from about 3rd to take a remarkable win in a photo finish
with Pagan. It was a massive boost to the team a the cause of great
celebration from the B&B support. Next was Matthew Knight in the B string
who confirmed his ability over the longer distance with another great win,
clear of the field by almost a second to ensure maximum points. The U17
races saw Oscar Heaney Brufal a bit down on his performances earlier in the
summer, perhaps showing the effects of his summer break. Oscar was
disappointed with his 8th place but vowed to come back stronger in the
relays. It was a similar story in the B string, Josh Gbabgo who had cut
short a family holiday in Ghana to get back for the final, went off like a
rocket and looked to be in the lead with 150 to go. From then on though the
lactic kicked in and by the last 20 meters it looked like he was running
through treacle. Eventually finishing 5th, Josh looked devastated but he was
consoled by his team mates and encouraged to channel his disappointment into
the triple jump still to come.
saw a close three-way battle between Dele Aladese, Rugby & Northampton AC
and a Jersey-based Shaftesbury athlete. In the end Dele had to settle for
the Bronze with less than a meter separating all three combatants. It was a
bronze too for Luc in the B string, whilst in the U17 event James Lancaster
did his best for the points, despite not being fully fit eventually
races were a little bit different in that the Scots dominated them – in fact
all four races had first and second places filled by one of the Scottish
athletes. That left us scrapping for the 3rd place and in that we did
brilliantly with three out of our four lads coming away with a bronze medal.
In the U20 race Charlie Davis grabbed a new PB – his first sub-9:30
clocking. Michael Eagling is getting tantalizingly close to the 9 minute
barrier – his 9:05 posting was also a lifetime best. In the B strings, Marco
and Callum were both a bit outside where they wanted to be but nevertheless
completed another excellent event that gave us another big points advantage
Vault was underway at the far end of the stadium, which was a pity for the
B&B supporters as they largely missed a treat courtesy of Lewis Stickings,
George Pope and Pedro Gleadall. With Pedro also a 58m javelin thrower but
coming back from injury, there was a tricky decision for the team managers
(due to a lack of available throwers) as to which event he should compete
in. But after consultation with Pedro’s dad and coach John we stuck with
Pole Vault and Pedro certainly delivered - taking the win with a 3.95m
effort. George Pope equaled his PB with a 3.80m vault, which was easily
enough for the B string win. Meanwhile Lewis was also in the medals taking a
good third despite being asked to compete up an age class – that completed
another points bonanza for the club.
event itself was notable for a fine PB from Femi – his 50.85m effort and
third place coming despite only recently having recovered from injury. Angus
took 4th in U17 A string with a 44m throw whilst multi-eventer Coleman
stepped in to cover the B string where he took an unopposed win.
Over in the
sandpit the long jumpers were underway. Ben Sutton had taken an early lead
in the U17 A string but the normally reliable Myles Xavier had recorded 2 no
jumps and had just a single effort remaining. The pressure was immense. In
the U20 string the injury withdrawal of ES medalist Theo Adesina had meant
multi-eventer Harrison Thorne was called into action. The first year U17
athlete responded magnificently with a big PB for 6.21m to take 4th. In his
final jump, Myles steadied his nerves and jumped a safe 5.84m jump, which
was still good enough for silver in the B string. With A string wins
delivering a high reward in terms of points, it was gut-wrenching when in
virtually the last jump Shaftesbury just stole the lead from Ben by the
merest of margins.
hurdles also produced a fantastic points return thanks to brilliant running
from all four B&B lads. The times weren’t special into a strong headwind
nevertheless Ed Adams made up for his earlier disappointment with a terrific
2nd place in the A string and Femi took the B string in a new PB too. In the
U17 A race, Josh was a good 2nd only beaten by the ES winner from Windsor
whilst Rico, still an U17 next season, stormed away from the B string field
for the win.
jump looks likely to be a strong event for us for a few seasons to come.
Josh Gbabgo, made up for his earlier disappointment with a jump just a few
centimeters short of his 13m PB which gave the first year U17 athlete 5th in
the U20 string. Nana Okwesa produced a great 12.52 PB for 4th in U17 A
string whilst Ben Sutton, new to the event, jumped almost 12m for 2nd in the
were another fantastic event for B&B with all four athletes taking medals,
two of them gold. Camron was first up with 3rd in the U20 A race with Matt
grabbing his 2nd gold medal of the day in the B string. At U17 Ethan also
took another fine win by beating a Scottish athlete who is 2nd on the UK
rankings in the event. Kyle wrapped up a high scoring event with his second
silver medal of the day.
saw Ricky in his second head to head of the day with Shaftesbury's Hamza.
Ricky looked as he had no intent of being outfoxed twice in one day, running
a controlled race to secure a deserved victory. With every A string win so
crucial to the points tally, there were some nervous moments for the team
managers immediately after the race when Ricky was spoken to by the referee.
Fortunately it transpired to be nothing more than a minor warning. In the B
string Finlay Brannan was excited to get his first taste of a major
athletics final and he acquitted himself well, taking a solid 4th. In the
U17 event we had two first year athletes in Peter Guy and Robert Suckling.
Peter ran competitively and importantly managed to get himself in front of
Shaftesbury virtually on the line to take bronze. Robert added more points
to the tally with 5th in the B string.
By now it
was becoming clear that the overall win was ours to lose, we had opened up
nearly a 100-point lead over the chasing clubs. What we didn’t know was how
the two girls and boys squads were doing in pursuit of the European prize.
The manager of Shaftesbury was clearly not leaving it to guesswork; he was
spotted taking down the results and disappearing into a back room armed with
a computer every so often.
always produce plenty of excitement and that was certainly case with the U20
4x100. We had Rhys, Matt, Femi and Camron back together - the same quartet
that had set the fastest time by an U20 B&B side since 2012 when they ran in
the Anniversary Games earlier in the season. They ran a great race getting
the baton round in 42.54 and importantly half a second in front of the black
and white stripes. The U17 squad of Josh, Zute, Rico and Kyle had their own
battle with Shaftesbury and they produced a fantastic season’s best of
43.65. That should have been enough for the win but for the fact that the
North London side pulled out a club U17 PB and were worthy winners.
individual track events were the steeplechases which produced quite a shock
– where were the Shaftesbury athletes? In such a close battle for Europe it
was bizarre to see that they only fielded one athlete across all four
strings. Had they been struck down by the norovirus or was their manager so
confident of the win he was already saving them for the trip to the European
Clubs’ Final? In the meantime we were taking no chances and our four
athletes all did brilliantly. Lewis Mills ran a cracking race in the 2000m
event smashing his PB by over 10 seconds for a great silver medal. He was
backed up well by Aaron Enser who also produced a fine piece of chasing to
claim the same position in the b string. In the U17 event English Schools
finalist Matthew Francis took a great 3rd beaten by the ES winner. For the B
string Ben Gardiner, who had travelled as a reserve, was very happy to get
selected on the morning of the final. He fully deserved his selection too,
giving it everything to produce a huge 30 second PB and a fantastic gold
medal - a massive boost to the team.
reached the last event of the day the 4x400 relays. The nerves were jangling
as the U20s lined up knowing that every point was crucial. Our squad of Will
Pope, Coleman, Matt and Ricky produced in what looked like a big seasons
best of something around 3:24 for 3rd place. But wait, the referee wanted to
speak to the B&B team manager. Disaster! The lads were DQd for a technical
infringement that gave them absolutely no advantage whatsoever. We were
gutted, would it cost us our place in Europe – only time would tell. At
least the final race lifted the spirits. The U17s, Oscar, Peter, Angus and
Ethan gradually hauling in a fast Shaftesbury team with Ethan on anchor
executing the “coup de gras” to huge cheers from the B&B supporters.
was over, the results were being read… as expected we retained our title as
National champions and the girls once again secured their place in Europe.
But what about the boys?
place with 418 points, Team Edinburgh. In second place with 450 points…
Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers…” The rest as they say, is history. Shaftesbury,
who have been to the European clubs final every year since 2008, had been
toppled. B&B became the first club ever to have both their boys and girls’
squads represent GB in Europe together.
remains is to thank everyone that made a contribution throughout season: the
athletes who got us to the final, those who won it for us and importantly
the reserves and injured athletes that came along to support on the day; the
parents that supported them in their pursuits this year; the coaches that
have helped them achieve such success and of course to the officials and
others that give their time week after week to make it all happen.
Photos from Jay