The WGEL UK Women’s Athletics League team placed a battling second in the second division 1 fixture of the year in Stevenage, to take the team up to third in the division. In a less tight fixture than the first match, the top three teams separated themselves from the rest early in the match, with Wigan and District ending up victorious ahead of Woodford and first match winner Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers. This leaves Wigan just ahead of SBH overall, with WGEL 3 points behind in third, moving ahead of Southampton on countback, 3 clear of Swansea and Harrow with Herts Phoenix and Crawley adrift at the bottom of the table.
Lucy Marshall: a dominant performance
Lucy Marshall started the day for Woodford strongly with a 59.86 season’s best first round effort to dominate the women’s hammer. Chiara Okereke just failed to win the B string, with 47.38 in her first UKWAL appearance. Lucy followed up with 31.65 for 3rd in the B discus, behind Precious Hamilton who was 5th in the A in a 37.61SB. Lucy and Chiara teamed up again in the SP, but neither will have been content with their distances, 10.55 and 9.23 respectively, for 5th and 7th. In the javelin Marlene Araujo beat her compatriot and team mate Silvia Cruz for the first time, the younger Portuguese overcoming the national record holder 45.24 to 45.16 as they placed 3rd in the A versus 1st in the B string respectively.
High points-scorer Anna Nelson was as committed as ever (photo: Alex Wardle)
While there were no event wins outside of the throws, the consistency of the team was admirable. In the first two hours of the match every athlete finished third or higher, with seconds and thirds remaining the norm throughout the afternoon. Anna Nelson as usual set the tone on the track, with 2nd in the 400m hurdles (60.08), she came back for 5th in the A string 400m (57.03). Closest to victory came Gabriella Ade-Onojobi who was edged out in a competitive 100m hurdles (13.85 -1.2 m/s). Gabriella also finished 3rd in the A 100 (12.33 -2.2m/s) and 4th in the 200 (25.10). HCA Jane Davidson had an eventful Woodford debut, tripping into the final barrier in the 100m hurdles B race and dragging it almost to the finish line but somehow managing to avoid touching the barrier with her hands so avoiding disqualification and finishing 5th. Amy Richards was another HCA on debut, and immediately after a fine 2nd in the B long jump (5.45) behind A string runner up Kitty Eleyae (5.74) was surprised to find herself one of only 3 lining up for the B 400m hurdles where she was thus able to coast round before going straight into the high jump, where she tied with Amelia MacDonald as both cleared 1.50. Kitty also took 2nd in the B string triple jump (10.43), behind Denesha Rocastle’s 10.76 (which was 7th in the deepest quality A string seen in this division).
3rd A in the 800m, 4th A in the 1500m: Anna Clark (photo: Alex Wardle)
Anna Clark was unable to repeat her victory from the first match in a high-quality 800m, but was just 0.02 seconds off her PB in 2:09.16 in finishing third. Chloe Bradley took 2nd in the B in 2:12.17. Anna then went on to finish 4th in the 1500, 4:44.65 ahead of fast finishing Alicia McArdell who came through to grab 2nd in the B string on a photo in a PB of 4:54.00. Alicia’s performance highlighted the improved team showing from the initial UKWAL match, at which she had been forced to drop out on the penultimate lap. Another to progress strongly having struggled in the first fixture was Eloise Lewis, 3rd in the B string 100m in a season’s best of 12.75. Injury had forced Joanne Ryan to watch the previous match from the stands and while still short of race fitness she finished 5th in the B 400m and again in the B 200m.
The only gaps for the WGEL team were in the pole vault, but these allowed SBH to close up for the second spot before Woodford’s greater consistency told. The 4x100m team of Jane Davidson, Gabriella Ade-Onojobi, Denesha Rocastle and Eloise Lewis were third in 49.3. More than a third of the 19 woman in the team did 3 or more events, including all of those in the 4x400m relay. However the athlete covering most ground for Woodford was Zoe Watson, who came back from 6th in the 3000m (in 11:39.27 ahead of 5th placed B string Georgina Warren in 12:01.08) to take 5th in the penultimate event, the 2000m steeplechase (8:39.4). Zoe’s result took the pressure off the final relay, with 2nd place overall already assured, but the team were competitive nonetheless. Joanne Ryan, Eloise Lewis and Anna Clark set up Anna Nelson in 4th place and despite a terrific 55.3 final leg split the team was just edged out of 3rd on the line in 3:58.5.
While a top 2 position in the division is not solely in control of the team given the gaps into the final match at Wigan on Sunday 6th August, the improved showing strengthens the overall position of Woodford if as now seems likely there is only one more round of national league fixtures left before the UKWAL and BAL merge (with Saturday’s results taking WGEL 6th overall in combined league scoring from 7th).