Athletics: Brave Harlow AC just miss out on promotion

Athletics / Tue 22nd Aug 2023 at 07:53am

ON a weekend where football fans of England experienced narrow defeat, Harlow AC endured its own ‘what could have been’ moment. Harlow competed in their final Southern Athletics League Division Three fixture, hosted by Herts Phoenix, at Ware.

The match brought together six of the top seven teams, with only second-placed Cambridge missing as their final fixture was at Colchester. The equation became, finish in the top two and promotion was assured. Finish in the top three and there was a chance of promotion. 

For the latter scenario to come to fruition, Harlow required Northampton to finish in fifth place.  Harlow’s athletes did as much as they could by finishing third. Northampton finished fourth, meaning that they edged out Harlow by a single point.

With most of the top teams in the division at this match, the quality of the fixture was higher, and, in truth, the result was a fair reflection of the season. Harlow’s strong showing over the year had been built on having more competitors out than opposition teams, then picking up some good performances along the way. On this occasion, the team again had more competitors out than other clubs. However, with stronger teams in attendance, Harlow could not manufacture enough top three finishes to make a significant difference to the points.

Far from being disappointed, the club can take great pride in what has been accomplished this season.

The decathlon and heptathlon versatility of Glen and Carl Paxman, and Bethany Harryman have been put to the test once more. The willingness of Sharon Wright, Eilidh Malcolm and Seamus O’Brien to dig deep and do more on track has been inspirational. Seeing the lengths that all these athletes have gone to has encouraged younger and less experienced athletes to do the same. These senior athletes have been supported by second-claim members, Adam Beaumont and Steven Osman, who have both run as many long-distance events as they could at each match.

Over the course of the season thirty-five of forty-three eligible athletes, seventeen men and eighteen women, aged from U17 to veterans have competed. The lengths that some have gone to has to be admired also: Millie Upton, returning from university at weekends and moving shifts at work, Alfred Corrigan taking trains, buses, and taxis from London to wherever a match was whenever he could, and Jo Willard breaking into house moving and wedding preparation all deserve mention.

There have been very few ever-present athletes but Sonnie Mowatt, one of the youngest athletes eligible, has been to every match to run a strenuous double of 400m and 800m. Other positives at the younger end of the competitive spectrum have been the emergence of Jack Ring at 400m – he still has another two years at U20 and very nearly broke the age-group club record this year; Sam Dawson and Natalia Asemota-Lopez have shown as versatile sprinter/jumpers; three promising sprinters Nissi Onofowokan, Ugo Nwachi-Udor and Summer Toppin have come to the fore. And there have been great cameos by Abigail Dawson and Ellie Marklew in field events, and Hayden Garrett and Conor McKewan on track.

Samson Brichieri-Colombi continues to make great strides with the javelin and has been invited to apply to the Youth Talent Programme. The same is true for Rhiana Drew with the hammer, who put the exclamation mark on her season by putting the 4kg hammer out to 30.61m at this match; the first time that she has gone over the thirty-metre mark with the heaviest women’s implement. We wish them well as they both await the selection outcome, announced in September.

Drew has been joined in caged events by Bebe Jackson who has enjoyed a superlative season. Of course, her own drive and talent earned the call up to the Commonwealth Youth Games, and silver medal performance in the discus, but regular competition at SAL matches allowed her to hone her craft.

Whilst no-one is writing Dave Bauer’s athletic obituary, he has taken a small step back from throwing everything to concentrate on shot, hammer and coaching Jackson and Drew. His fledgling coaching career certainly has got off to a good start! For the record, on the day he threw 10.03m in the shot, the first time he has broken 10m all season with the heavy shot.

The club can reflect on a good season and look forward with optimism. Several of this year’s victorious U15 cross country girls make the jump to U17 for next season and should strengthen the middle-distance events and there are some very promising sprinters also in the pipeline.

Final match result:

Herts Phoenix 244.5, Ilford 222.5, HARLOW 189.5, Northampton 164, Luton 123, City of Southend 100.5

Final Division Three (top five)

Cambridge 21 pts, Herts Phoenix 21 pts, Ilford 19 pts, Northampton 19 pts, Harlow 18 pts

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