This SAL season has been both the hardest and easiest in my (many) years as a team manager but it was fantastic to end it on a high with a fantastic win in the final match at Norman Park and to close with a great club and league record in the mixed 4 x 400 relay but let me explain why!
Back in February and March when the league were planning fixtures, leagues and how we would restart after the missed year due to CoVid we still didn’t know whether we would be in a lockdown or not. The league sensibly took the decision to minimize travel and to set up a series of local leagues. We were given the choice of who we would compete against.
The decision the club made was to try and find the right balance of local matches and the right clubs to compete against. Hopefully we got that right as I think the quality of competition for the SAL has been sufficiently strong for all athletes to be able to enjoy the events they have competed in.
The hardest part for me was to manage matches in a manner which kept you all safe and which minimized the impact of CoVid. I had to miss the second match as I had to self-isolate (a phrase along with social distancing that many of us wouldn’t have recognized the last time we competed in 2019) and I know that several athletes had to miss matches due to a similar situation or because they were ill with the disease.
Part of the challenge was also not knowing how many people would want to compete. We had basically missed a whole year of competition and it must have been incredibly hard, particularly in the technical events, for many of you to have been able to train properly.
The great thing was that all of you responded superbly and filled gaps in a way that we ended up winning all four of the matches we competed in. We also had the situation where we were unable to offer any home matches at the start of the season due to uncertainty around when Norman Park would be available.
Due to the changed track times I also missed the face to face interaction with many of you and your coaches and had to rely on a combination of emails and WhatApp messages to stay in touch. All I can say is a massive thank you to all of you for your responsiveness helping me plan for each match.
The first two matches of the season were on a Sunday and at Erith. I arrived at the venue not quite knowing what to expect but know that Cambridge Harriers set up and ran two events that allowed great competition in a safe environment. It was great meeting athletes who I knew from previous seasons as well as many new faces. This is one of the great things about our sport and the league!
The highlights from the first match was our non-scoring women’s 4 x 100 team missing their scheduled race and being entered into the scoring race. The team ran incredibly well and beat a scoring men’s team into the bargain. I understood that the banter they received from their team mates was impressive!
I wasn’t able to be present for the second match and had a more than capable deputy in Roy Dickens who not only managed the team brilliantly but also racked up the highest points score of the season until match four (and more of that later). I managed to stay in touch with what was going on and was there in spirit rather than in body.
The third match at Erith was probably the toughest of the season. Bexley pulled out all of the stops to try and win their home match but I was so pleased to see some fantastic performances resulting in a great win. My highlight from this match was James Whiteaker throwing a great series of throws in the javelin to win athlete of the match.
On to the final match of the season which we had managed to arrange to be at Norman Park. This was special to me as it will be the final league home match before the track redevelopment started and was going to be my last match before we relocated as a family to North Yorkshire.
The planning for the match started in early August with the intention being to provide as many opportunities for athletes to compete before they moved on to their pre-winter breaks.
As the match day approached we also wanted to try to have a crack at the league and club record for the mixed 4 x 400 which the league have been running for the last few seasons.
The opportunity to have a BBQ and beer tent to help raise additional club funds also resulted in a lot of support coming along to watch the event. As match day dawned, the sun started to shine, the wind dropped and we were treated to almost perfect weather for athletics. Not too hot for the longer events and pleasantly still.
Performances started positively and remained at an exceptionally high standard throughout the afternoon with wins (across A and B strings) in 52 of the 57 events contested – an amazing achievement from everyone who competed and probably a result we will never see again!
Highlights on the track and in the field were too many to call out but there were PBs aplenty as well as a great team ethos from all of those who competed. If I had to call one event out (other than a relay) it would be the men’s 3k chase, partly down to Alex’s new age record but also down to our ability to bribe Tim with several cans of Brew Dog and multiple burgers to add to the 8 miles he had run that morning! Great performances.
As the day drew to a close we moved on to the relays. By this stage the match was won and it was great to see the men’s and women’s 4 x 100 relays being run together with 100% BBHAC representation with some outstanding running by the four squads.
In the 4 x 400 mixed relay we entered three teams and Kent AC one. This race will remain in my memory for many years. An amazing series of runs from Amarisa, Rachel, Sam and Bailey ran the baton round in 3:29.77, 12 seconds quicker than the previous league record and from my understanding 18 seconds quicker than a BBHAC team as run before with the B and C teams not that far behind.
When I originally agreed to manage the SAL teams I set out to do the following:
- Encourage participation from as many athletes as possible
- Help set up a pathway from youth to senior competition for the younger athletes coming through
- Provide a good level of competition for senior athletes to compliment the NAL
- To develop a team spirit
I hope that we have managed to do this and am so grateful to everyone who has competed for the club over the past few seasons.
I also want to say a few thank yous:
- To John Wakeman who asked me to take over from him. He had set a high standard and I hope I have been able to emulate what he put in place for me to follow
- To all of the officials – we cannot compete without them and it is amazing to see the number of people who give up their time to enable this competition
- To our supporters (friends, parents, partners etc.) you add more to the team feel than you can imagine.
- And finally to each and every athlete who has competed – you are a credit to yourselves and your club and I am proud to have had the privilege to work with you!
I may be moving away but will make sure I stay involved in helping the club continue to grow!
Thank you all once again.