Small team manage 3rd in final SAL

Woodford finished third in the fourth and final Southern Athletics League match of the season at Thurrock on Saturday 11 September. The overall league table for this year only is based on the best performance by each club, and hosts Thurrock were the only team that attempted to improve their position. Their (provisional) final score of 301.6 is well short of the best results of WGEL and Havering earlier in the season (with WGEL ending the season on 360.2 just 0.3 ahead of Havering), but sufficient to win the match with Havering on 280.0. Despite fielding the smallest SAL team in several years and the smallest men’s team ever Woodford (144.9) finished just ahead of Ilford with Newham and Essex Beagles again propping up the local division.

A September league date has long been debated for the SAL before being imposed by circumstances this year, and the late summer weather was certainly much warmer than the traditional mid-April league fixture, but turnout was clearly lower than normal across the board. Woodford had far more gaps than athletes but still picked up some good points in the traditionally strong throws. The top points scorer for the men was Hugh Williams, who won the shot put with a season's best of 12.36 (the highest single event score for the team), took 2nd in the discus in 35.22 and also threw the javelin. Thomas Finch scored almost as many points overall as he ensured all 4 mens throws were covered, including a B string hammer win, while Fergus Harford was 2nd overall in the hammer.

Claudia Reid was the team’s top points scorer overall, running the 400m for the first time and setting PBs in the javelin and discus while placing 2nd in the A string shot. Abigail Allen’s 36.84 hammer was the only A string win and top individual score for the women. The only WGEL jumper at the match was U17W Kharina Partridge, who was second in the triple jump in 10.38.

The first track athletes for Woodford both achieved PBs, in the men’s 800m. Jimmy Geller (2:01.52 for 3rd A string) has improved his best by over 7 seconds in the last week, while fellow U17 Reuben Fabien ran 2:06.67. Winfred Hakeem took 2nd in the mens 100m with Evion Hackett making his league debut in the B, but Winfred unfortunately picked up a hamstring injury in the 200m which meant there could be no men's 4x100m relay team. U17 Ashleigh Simmonds held on for victory in the women's B 100m in 13.38PB but hit the ground hard just after the finish line. Levania Ugonna-Mba won the B 200m, though times in the event were modest due to extremely unfavourable winds.

Jess Adams finished 2nd in the women's 1500m before attention turned to the relays, with all but one of the Woodford teams U17s. The women's 4x100 team, of Temi Olusesan, Kharina Partridge, Levania Ugonna-Mba and Tiya Canning-Lawrence finished 3rd in 52.62. The final event was a mixed 4x400m, with the quartet of Ben Richards (55.4), Kezia Beeton (62.5), Temi Olusesan (67.9) and Reuben Fabian (57.2) taking 3rd out of the 6 quartets in 4:02.97. The match concludes an unusual and hopefully not to be repeated league season in which all matches in even the NAL were local, with the SAL set to return to its usual format in 2022.