A terrific team performance coupled with some late cancellations due to torrential rain saw Woodford Green with Essex Ladies win the final UK women’s athletics league fixture of the season at Wigan and with it the division one title. The team had come into the match lying in third place in the division, but with a gap of three points to the top two moving up the table appeared unlikely and dependent on weak performances from not only hosts Wigan and District Harriers but also Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers. Ultimately Woodford won the match, 6.5 points ahead of Southampton who had gone into the match behind WGEL only on countback, with Swansea 3rd and Wigan 4th. Wigan’s fourth place meant they finished second in the division on countback, while SBH’s sixth dropped them back to mid division. Crawley finished seventh in the match ahead of Harrow who, like SBH, faded as the season went on having finished ahead of Woodford in the opening fixture.
Final league table (subject to scrutiny)
1 WGEL 19 553.5
2 Wigan 19 551
3 Southampton 18 533
4 SBH 17 524
5 Swansea 14 479.5
6 Harrow 9 421
7 Herts Phoenix 7 383
8 Crawley 5 381
Anna Clark: won both the 800m and 1500m
On paper the team did not look especially strong, with no new faces for the third match and a couple of notable absences leaving some gaps, but the basis of victory was set early on with a string of wins. Lucy Marshall dominated the hammer from the start, with nobody coming close to her 60.43 season’s best opener while Chiara Okereke backed up with second in the B string (46.50). By contrast Kitty Eleyae took a very narrow win only on her final attempt in the long jump, with her 5.81 moving just 1cm ahead of two others, while Amy Richards won the B string with a 5.57 season’s best. Anna Nelson was third in the 400m hurdles, in 59.53, while Taygan Henry was always in control of the B race with a season’s best 64.75 performance. Anna Clark was a dominant winner of the 800m, 2:10.70, with Amy Richards ensuring B points didn’t go to waste in 7th.
A strong start was not unexpected, but points then became harder to come by. Gabriella Ade-Onojobi was not at full fitness but still able to finish 5th in the 100m, with Eloise Lewis 6th B string in a tight finish. Moe Sasegbon was fourth equal in the high jump with Amelia Macdonald 5th. Zoe Watson was 6th in the 3000m (11:46.37) and with no B string Southampton closed down the lead, catching up with their strong discus despite solid 3rd places by both Precious Hamilton and Lucy Marshall.
The match lead was regained in the sprint hurdles, with Gabriella Ade-Onojobi and U20 Jane Davidson both taking controlled second places despite difficult headwinds. Denesha Rocastle progressed with almost every attempt in the triple jump, ending with a PB of 11.39 for third place, with Kitty Eleyae 5th in the B (10.47w). However with Gabriella looking unlikely to be able to compete in the remaining events she was scheduled for and gaps looming elsewhere a match win appeared a long shot, with a division victory a distant prospect despite the team reaching top spot on live scoring.
Anna Nelson finished 3rd in the 400 A string in a season’s best of 56.99 with Joanne Ryan 3rd in the B string as conditions started to become more challenging. By the time of the 1500m heavy rain had become a significant feature, with those javelin throwers who had not achieved strong early marks struggling as the runway became increasingly waterlogged. Our Portuguese duo of Silvia Cruz and Marlene Araujo took second and first in the javelin (44.44 and 41.46) and while they didn’t gain any points on Southampton this took the 2 teams well clear of the rest and strengthened the aggregate league position which was still dependent on countback. Meanwhile in the 1500, Anna Clark started conservatively and looked destined for second before realising the runaway leader was fading on the final bend. Anna came through strongly for her second victory in 4:38.29 and as she was finishing the rain started to change from heavy to torrential. Zoe Watson had stepped into the B string and took 5th but was not relishing a third distance event in the steeplechase. However as the track started to resemble a water jump in numerous places, most worryingly the inside lanes on the bends, the womens teams agreed to cancel the remaining track events.
Moe Sasegbon: 2nd in the shot with a season's best
A somewhat chaotic ending to the day saw some races continue, mainly in the BAL fixture but including a women’s steeplechase that was designated non-scoring and had only 2 athletes finish, but even after no rain in the final hour and the match ending in bright sunlight the waterlogged inside lane saw the men’s 4x400m cancelled. However the result of the match came down to a final, delayed shot put competition that began with still treacherous underfoot conditions with the top 4 division positions still to play for. Almost all those who progressed beyond the cut where those who were effective standing putters. Chiara Okereke was among several who suffered badly from the slippery circle, but still managed to finish 4th in the B string. While distances began to improve notably in the final three rounds as the circle dried, it was Moe Sasegbon who was able to benefit most, going out to a season’s best of 12.45 to secure second place in the competition and team success both in the match and the division.
Overall it was a very successful end to a season that had started with a frustrating fifth place in the first match with a similar team to that which was victorious in the final fixture. While a relatively small squad was used, 24 athletes across the entire season, the team ethic was such that there were only a handful of gaps in total. What is to come is unclear, with the status of the joint National Athletics League for next season still to be confirmed though this result lifts the club to 4th in the final combined standings, but if this was the last ever UKWAL fixture then what a way for the Woodford Green with Essex Ladies team to sign-off. Congratulations to team manager Keith Newton and all who contributed.