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UK Athletics

Frost rises to Challenge again – BAL highlights, results

UK Challenge champion Andy Frost (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) earned the Man of the Match Award at the opening British League Premiership match of the new season at Copthall Barnet Stadium on Saturday 5 May – but could not stop City of Manchester (aka Sale Harriers) romping to victory.


‘Frosty’ – aptly named for a day on which the chill wind dominated until sun emerged for the last half hour – hurled the hammer 70.00m precisely to earn 195 points in his pursuit of Challenge prizes that include an Alfa Romeo car … something that would come in mighty useful now that he is based in Scotland.


His Challenge points return was equalled as the sun made its belated appearance by Glen Comish, who front-ran to victory in the 3000m steeplechase in 8:42.37. It means he is the second UK ‘chaser this new season to beat the Power of 10 National standard of 8:44.00 as UK Athletics – which organises the UK Challenge series – and its governing partners campaign to improve standards in every event in every region on the way to London 2012.


Comish’s effort, a PB by more than 11 seconds, took him to second in the rankings behind USA-based Andrew Lemoncello (Fife) and helped to propel City of Manchester to a match victory that erased the memory of 12 months ago, when they travelled to the first fixture with high hopes and placed a bewildered seventh.


Amazingly they had only two other A event winners. Nick Gayle snatched the 110m hurdles in 14.30 seconds, four-hundredths ahead of Norwich Union GB&NI international William Sharman (Belgrave Harriers), who made an encouraging return from a long injury lay-off. And Dorel Greta threw the javelin 69.79m for another Manchester maximum.


But what most pleased manager Dean Hardman was that “a lot of people stepped up and exceeded expectations” on a day when most teams were depleted by BUSA calls and by many athletes still being abroad warm weather training.


One exception to this trend was Alex Nelson, who made his Manchester debut before flying out to Monte Gordo, Portugal, on Monday 7 May to begin preparing in earnest for a campaign that he hopes will end with a medal or two at the European Junior Championships in Hengelo in July.


Nelson clocked a hand-timed 10.5 seconds in the 100m for second place, a tenth of a second behind Tim Abeyie, who powered to an impressive double for Woodford. The UWIC-based giant clocked 10.4 in the 100m and 21.10 in the 200m (wind speed: +0.4 metres per second) against quality opposition – two more triumphs for Malcolm Arnold’s coaching group.


The B sprints were also noteworthy: Chris Tomlinson (Newham and Essex Beagles) edged-out his fellow long jumper Nathan Morgan (Birchfield) with both hand-timed at 10.7 in the 100m.


But maybe, just maybe, the most significant jumping involved Ben Challenger finishing second to high jump ‘discovery’ of the winter Samson Oni. Which Oni cleared 2.15m for Belgrave’s severely depleted champions, Challenger got over 2.10m on his debut for Woodford.


It earned him only 140 Challenge points but was a massive step up. “It’s 14 months since I last jumped seriously,” said Challenger, who has battled a stress fracture in an ankle since he competed at last year’s Commonwealth Games. “It’s nice to come out, be injury free and begin work on what is a very important year for me. It’s the earliest I’ve ever opened the season and it’s good to get the cobwebs out.”


Acknowledging the arrival of Germaine Mason and the improvements of Martyn Bernard in particular – plus Tom Parsons and Oni – since he’s been out of action, Challenger added: “It would be nice to get three of us to the World Champs in Osaka … It would be nice to have a World Trial that I don’t win at 2.20, which has been known to happen!”


By coincidence, Adam Scarr (Enfield and Haringey) cleared 2.20m for victory in BAL National One at Cardiff. The home team’s GB international Jimmy Watkins won the 800m in 1:49.99, ahead of Jermaine Mays (Kent AC), the reigning UK Challenge champion at 1500m and steeplechase.


Mays won the 1500m A race in 3:50.07 while James Thie completed an 800m / 1500m double in B races, clocking 1:55.67 and 3:50.69 in an early start to a season he aims to end at the Worlds in Osaka.


In a blast from the past, persevering Curtis Robb (Liverpool Harriers) won the National Two 800m A race in 1:53.55, inches ahead of 20-year-old Ryan Stephenson (Gateshead).


All the match results…


Premiership: 1 City of Manchester 331; 2 Woodford Green with Essex Ladies 321; 3 Birchfield Harriers 290; 4 Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers 265; 5 Newham and Essex Beagles 267; 6 City of Sheffield AC 235; 7 Belgrave Harriers 228; 8 Trafford AC 220.


National One: 1 Enfield and Haringey 323; 2 Kent AC 299; 3 Border Harriers 298; 4 Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC 296; 5 Harrow AC 276; 6 Cardiff AAC 268; 7 Blackheath and Bromley 212; 8 Thames Valley Harriers 193.


National Two: 1 Liverpool Harriers 336; 2 Gateshead Harriers 328; 3 Swansea Harriers 321.5; 4 Derby AC 273; 5 Southend AC 261; 6 Herne Hill Harriers 258; 7 Bedford and County AC 207; 8 City of Edinburgh AC 172.5.


National Three: 1 Basingstoke and Mid Hants AC 374; 2 Kingston and Poly 303.5; 3 Crawley AC 282; 4 Notts AC 273; 5 Medway and Maidstone AC 268; 6 City of Stoke AC 257; 7 City of Southampton 254.5; 8 Rugby and Northampton AC 174.