When the British Athletics League was founded in 1969, Brighton & Hove AC was one of the original members of the top flight. Unfortunately, in the late 1980s, we were forced to drop out of the league. After nearly 30 years, the club finally made its return to the national league at Derby on the 7th of May 2016.
The team that went was smaller than hoped, due to injury, clashes with other competitions and with some of our best athletes overseas. Nonetheless, a small dedicated team, led ably by Howard Bristow and Matt Hewitt, travelled to Derby determined to do the club proud. Individually and as a team, they did not disappoint.
On his club debut, higher claim athlete Joe Morris (coach: Barry Morris) put in a series of excellent performances. An unfortunate late injury meant that Joe was thrown into the deep end early, competing in both the Pole Vault and the Hammer at the same time. He vaulted 3.00m (equalling his PB) before rushing over to the Hammer circle to earn 3rd with an 18m throw. Joe managed a PB in the Discus, throwing 36.78m (a 3 metre improvement on his previous best) placing him 4th in the A-string. Later in the day, Joe ran from throwing 11.83 in the Shot (3rd place, A-string) to the Javelin. Joe had been knocking on the door of 50m last year without success, but this time he managed it with 50.66m. Joe also ran in the 4×100 relay.
It was a day for big throws in the Javelin as David Brice (Unattached) also put in a big performance winning the A-string with 55.83m. It is possible if he continues to improve that he may be challenging the 60m mark this year, and with it his own club record.
Club stalwart Paddy Vermes (Bob Willows) also had a good day in the field, covering all throwing events except for Javelin. He earned vital points in the Shot, Hammer and Discus coming 4th, 5th and 3rd respectively.
Also in the field, U20 decathlete Matt Smith (Julia Machin) put in a string of SBs, despite nursing a shin injury. He won the B-string High Jump with 1.75m, jumped 6.17m for 4th in the A-string long jump and joined the 4×400 team at the end of the day. Unfortunately, his injury limited his ability in his preferred event, the triple jump, but a single Jump of 12.14m (in trainers) was enough to place him second.
Horsham’s Jack Milnthorpe (Kim Milnthorpe), like Joe Morris, competed for the club as a higher claim athlete. His value to his new team was underlined with a string of classy performances. Though he earned points in the Triple Jump, Long, Jump, 110H and the Pole Vault, it was his performance in the High Jump and the 400H that really caught the eye. Having jumped 1.85m to win the A-string, Jack had to quickly change his kit and move over to the 400H, missing out on the chance of a PB at 1.90m. He ran a tremendous race to come 2nd along with consolation of a new PB for the 400H.
Ed Yamah (Sulayman Jobe), also on debut but as a full member, ran his first official sub-11 clocking for the club with 10.99 for fourth in the 100m. He also set our 4×100 relay team off, helping them to an excellent 3rd place, the team (Yamah, Morris, Njie and Hewitt) running 44.72, making it the one of the fastest relay teams of recent years for our club.
Another vital cog to this developing relay team was the precocious Pa Abdou Njie (Sulayman Jobe), who also ran a respectable 200m of 23.52, with the promise of faster times as his fitness improves. Abdou also ran in the 4×400 team.
Caleb Purdy (Iain Barton) continued his development as a 400m athlete, running 52.69 (his second fastest time ever) as well as 11.96 in 100m B-string. Sam Parsons (Mike Bazire) cracked out an decent flat 400m, followed by a 400H that placed him 4th.
Matt Hewitt (Trevor Simcox), vice captain for the day, was disappointed with his 110H performance, but still managed a creditable 2nd in the A-string race. His 200m run gave him a new PB of 23.23, while he also ran the 4×100 relay.
Due to some unfortunate absences, Howard Bristow (Alison Benton) and Graham Godden (Alison Benton), our experienced 3000m runners, were called upon to run both the 800m and the 1500m in addition to their preferred events. Both put in creditable performances, gaining points we otherwise would not have had. In the 3000m, Howard and Graham ran storming races coming 1st A-string and 3rd B-string. All this on top of Howard organising the team on the day (with Matt Hewitt) in the absence of a team manager.
A special mention also for Joe Duala (Iain Barton), who ran a huge PB in the non-scoring race of 11.81, putting himself into the frame for outright selection for future matches.
Each athlete did more than was expected of them, gaining huge PBs, going from one event to the next in short order and winning points galore. Through their efforts we managed a creditable 4th place.
With the return of several key athletes for the next match (in Bedford on the 4th June), filling the middle distance and steeplechase events with competitive athletes, we will look very much like challengers for promotion. These are bright days for the senior men’s team, and they look to be getting brighter.