Woodford fielded a full slate of 8 4x100m relay teams for the UKA ClubConnect/LICC fixture at Lee Valley on Saturday 5 September. The event is the only relay fixture of the season and replaced the usual ClubConnect age group relays that happen in conjunction with the British Diamond League events. With limited notice and even less time allowed to practice baton changes all teams acquitted themselves well, with three of the women’s age groups recording their fastest times in over a decade.
First up were the under-13 teams. The U13 boys team of Leo Everitt, Jean-Marc Harriott, Cassius Lowe and Alex Foster finished second in their heat in 56.74, but struggled with injury and baton problems in the final (64.26). The under-13 girls team, Demi Salako, Rebecca Wright, Caitlin Hancock and Isabelle Kyson began with a very comfortable heat win in an impressive 54.16, the fastest time by a WGEL team in 15 years and as it turned out the fastest time of the day. The final was not quite so smooth but the team remained in contention throughout and in a tight finish came 2nd in 54.48 behind Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, who having arranged the fixture had had notably more relay preparation.
The under 15 boys team of Kayode Alaba, Ismail Mustaq, Ben Richards and Ethan Franklin were 7th in 50.03 in a tough heat in where all the teams in front of them ran faster than the other heat. They got to run again in the B final, finishing 2nd in 50.94. Ciara Falola-Cook, Kharina Partridge, Kirsten Pacey and Tiya Canning-Lawrence finished 5th in their U15 girls heat in 55.26, and ran slightly faster in the B final to finish second in 55.16.
Next to run were our U20 teams. While generally more experienced, the opening leg of the U20M 4x100 was taken by Richmond John in his first ever track race. The other team members, Tolani Alaba, Joey O’Neill and Akwasi Banahen have all tasted significant relay success in recent years, but this was the first time Akwasi has competed in a Woodford team. The lack of specific relay preparation was evident as the team placed 4th in their heat in 44.62, before improving somewhat to finish 5th in the final in 44.17. The under-20 women were more consistent, and placed second in the first round in 48.84. The team of Denesha Rocastle, Kyra Boyce, Nicole Alves and Yemi Mary John were slightly slower in the final 49.71, but Mary still came through on the final leg to take second behind Croydon who, as with their under 20 men, had athletes who chose to focus on this event despite having been invited to the senior British championships.
Our U17 men came third in their heat in 44.36. The team of Roshaun Edwards, Moyin Odeniran, Aiden Fernando and Kaiden Chambers were slightly faster in the final, 44.29, for fifth behind Shaftesbury Barnet (who matched Croydon overall with 3 wins). The U17 team womens team of Sophie Anderson, Shona Vincent, Zahara Malcolm was another to run the fastest by a WGEL quartet in over ten years as they qualified 3rd in their heat in 50.17. The team started aggressively in the final, but a failed baton change led to a did-not-finish in a race won by a Gateshead team who underlined that the event had been an unofficial English relay championships for a very unusual year.
Several hours after narrowly failing to overhaul SBH and win the U13 girls relay, Isabelle Kyson raced in the U15 girls 75m hurdles event. Despite still being an under-13, Isabelle’s time of 12.34 was as fast as any club member had run over the distance since 2006, but in the very next race Maia Fisher went quicker in 12.19 to cap an excellent day for Woodford’s young athletes.