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SAL success at Thurrock

Woodford took maximum league points from the second SAL fixture of the season at a wind-swept Thurrock. While the team finished just behind the hosts, the two teams were not scoring against each other at this match having been paired for the season. Four teams were closely matched throughout and prior to officials points provisionally only 8 points separated 4 clubs. Kent AC and Bexley AC picked up 10 fewer points for officials than the maximum to end up third and fourth respectively and hence 3 league points apiece compared to 5 for WGEL and Thurrock. Cambridge and Coleridge edged out Ryston Runners for fifth.

It was a difficult start to the match as travel delays meant several Woodford athletes were unable to make their events. Arriving in the nick of time Kyra White earned the female performance of the match in convincingly winning the 400m in 57.31, but it was in the shorter sprints where WGEL really dominated despite the unhelpful conditions. Shona Vincent took second in the 100m but otherwise there was a clean sweep, with Benie Massembo winning the B and Lakhesia Adams Poku and Tito Adeleye taking the women's 200m. Tito's wind reading of -5.1m/s was more representative of the conditions than some seemingly benign reading stemming from the wind gauge being in the wind shadow of the stand. Moyin Odeniran and Merveilles Massembo comfortably won their respective 100s, though Matthew Adum-Yeboah ran slightly quicker than Merveilles non-scoring ahead of a welcome return to club competition for Laolu Abiodun who ran a marginal PB. Matthew convincingly won the 200m in 22.39 despite the cross wind being worse than the -3.4 recorded, with U17 Chiji Nwankwo stepping up for 2nd in the B. Merveilles returned shortly after the 100 to take second in the 400m, with M50 Salvatore Passerini 3rd in the B in 57.25 the fastest since his return to the track.

U17 Isabelle Kyson stepped up to the 400m hurdles for the first time but found the extra hundred metres challenging having built a huge lead onto the home straight and only just held on for second. U17M Joseph Arnold similarly struggled with his stride pattern in the wind in the men's equivalent. Emily Caton and U17 Anaand Tratt were dominant winners of their respective 800m races but frustrated that they didn't get the chance to work together to battle the wind. In the men's A race Hugo Massa came close to an unexpected win after the clear leader was struck heavily on the knee by a flying umbrella which brought him to a standstill just before the final straight. Points were harder to come by in the longer distances with none higher than third until Aoibheann Pearce's late win in the 1500m steeplechase, though Katie Olert not only ran her first ever 5000m on the track, which featured a spectacular storm in the middle of it, but came back to ensure there were no gaps in the 1500m.

For the second match running the WGEL highlight in jumps was a double first from U17W pole vaulters Keira Palmer and Amber Higgs-Smith. Kitty Eleyae-Tennant took full points in the long jump (despite being just behind Thurrock) and third in the triple jump and Merveilles Massembo third in the men's triple jump (before double relay duty among his 5 events) but elsewhere it was mainly U17s fresh from the end of their GCSEs picking up valuable points, including Leo Everitt  in the B long jump (2nd) and high jump and Lilly Spong in the high jump and B triple jump.

Despite some late withdrawals there was strong scoring in the men's throws, headlined by a double first in the men's discus for whom the wind could occasionally be very helpful for the better throwers. Chirstopher Linque was a clear winner in 43.51, a slight improvement on the distance that won him Southern bronze the previous Saturday and his furthest in 2 years, with Hugh Williams second overall in 37.94, his second best ever competition. Hugh was the team's highest individual points scorer including an A string win in the shot, 12.09, second in the B hammer and also scoring in the javelin alongside M55 Fergus Harford who also scored in the B shot alongside his 3rd in the A hammer. In contrast to match 1 where WGELs women throwers were dominant, Woodford had only one established thrower in Kirsty Bateman Foley who won the javelin in difficult conditions. She was ably supported by U17 Amber Higgs-Smith, who ended as the top female points scorer. Her second place in the B with 20.33 in her first competition with a senior implement exceeded anything she has thrown with the lighter weight. Kirsty and Amber also picked up valuable points in the discus, as did Temi Olusesan and Zahara Malcolm in the shot.

While scores were tight, hopes were high going into the relays given the success of WGELs sprinters. The 4x100m women (Tito Adeleye, Shona Vincent, Lakhesia Adam Poku and Benie Massembo) were as expected well clear of the next team in 49.48, but the men's quartet saw a dropped baton after the second change-over when well ahead, but with other teams also failing to get round were able to jog home for third placed points. Knowing how close the match was the whole quartet then volunteered for the 2 mixed 4x400m teams, much to the relief of the team manager and others who would otherwise have been running. The A quartet of Merveilles Massembo, Kyra White, Lakhesia Adams Poku and Matthew Adum-Yeboah led every leg but despite Kyra's 58.6 establishing a solid lead had to wait for Matthew's home straight kick to look decisive (3:46.69). The B team (Chiji Nwankwo, Zahara Malcolm, Rebecca Scanlan and Moyin Odeniran) also led most of the way but Moyin still had to work hard to pull away on the home straight in his first attempt at the distance.

Overall it was a battling performance from a team that was a good blend of athletes from U17s, such as Joshua Ssempiira in his first appearance for the senior team, through to athletes who have been stalwarts of the team for many years such as Pete Caton, Harold Wyber and Simon Beedell. The result (if confirmed given how tight positions were) leaves WGEL already safe in the division at the half-way point of the season and close enough to see the top of the table, though points difference means that a top-2 promotion would not be in the team's control. A win in the next fixture, at Mile End on Sunday 14 July is the minimum to keep the team in the hunt for before a home match finale.