AN UNPRECEDENTED six Stratford Athletic Club senior athletes helped the Midlands team to glory in the annual England Masters Inter-Area match held at the Lee Valley Indoor Track and Field Centre.
The Midlands competed against five other teams – Welsh Masters, Southern Counties, Eastern Vets, South West Vets and Veterans AC – the latter based in London.
This enabled all six Stratford athletes to test their early-season form against the nation’s best Masters athletes. Points are earned in each race and the team with the most points across all events takes the trophy and honour of claiming to be the best regional Masters athletics team at indoor athletics for the year.
First to compete was seasoned professional and club legend Paula Williams who competed in the W35 age group for the day – a full age group lower than normal.
This was not a problem at all for Paula who initially had to balance competing in the 60m hurdles and the shot put simultaneously, before later taking on the challenge of the high jump.
Paula finished second in the hurdles in a time of 9.72s and then followed this with a huge personal best of 11.33m to win the shot put with compelling ease.
She later competed in the high jump, deftly scaling 1.30m to finish in third place.
David Jones, with one eye on the European Indoor Championships later in the month, stretched his legs in the M70 1,500m. A composed, even-paced race enabled David to finish fourth in a time of 5.49.91 – his quickest for almost three years.
David really pushed himself in the closing stages, digging in to almost take third place, but was eased out on the last bend. His time was also only 0.4s outside the age group club record, giving him a great platform to make further progress over the year.
David also competed in an exhilarating M70 800m race. He tracked the early leader and was not flustered when the Southern Counties runner passed by to take the lead. Having kept something back to kick at the final bend, David took first place with aplomb in a time of 3.00.15.
Representing the Midland Masters for the first time were Elaine Ledden, David Wilson, Paul Hawkins and the author of this piece Brian Gravelsons.
Elaine took on the tough challenge of the W60 400m – two laps of the tight track. While other athletes pushed the fast pace in the early stages, Elaine kept calm and steady and caught up as the race unwound, managing to take third place in an excellent time of 77.30s.
Elaine went on to finish third in the long jump with a massive personal best jump of 3.38m.
David Wilson has been relatively injury-free for the first time in a while during winter training and this has set him up for an exciting summer season, which was underlined in the M50 200m in which he ran a superb lap in 27.08 to finish sixth.
Paul Hawkins was due to compete in the M50 2km walk in a younger age group than his actual years but, in a last-minute decision to enable a full team to be fielded and hence potential for a few extra points, the Midland Masters team manager asked if Paul would be prepared to drop a few more age groups and compete in the M35 age category.
He was more than happy to oblige and competently finished first in a time of 12.30.47. This was Paul’s first indoor walk and he was delighted with his time and being able to cope with the tight bends, ensuring disqualification was not a risk.
Brian Gravelsons competed in the M50 4x200m relay – taking the third leg and looking assured in helping the team finish second in a time of 1.53.24.
David Wilson helped the M35 relay team finish second in a time of 1.46.96 and David Jones took the anchor leg to bring the M70 team home in first place in a time of 2.12.83.
Paula helped the W35 relay time finishfirst in a time of 1.55.35 and Elaine capped a fantastic day by helping the W60 4x200m relay team win in 2.21.24.
Overall, Midland Masters earned 167 points in the women’s match to finish in first place and earned 207 points in the men’s match to finish in first place, which translated into overall victory in the England Inter-Area Indoors – the first time the Midlands have won this event.