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Winning start for senior men

Saturday 11 May 2013

Cardiff's British Athletics League team got off to a perfect start by winning the opening match of the season, held today at Cardiff International Sports Stadium.

Fresh from his European leading time a few days earlier, European Champion Rhys Williams led by example and won the opening track event, the 400m hurdles, in 50.03, an excellent time in the difficult conditions; a very strong headwind in the home straight and no meaningful opposition. Paul Bennett matched his team mate by winning the 400m hurdles B race.

Cardiff win followed Cardiff win and the final result was a clear win by 12 points from demoted Premiership team City of Liverpool.

Especially noteworthy was the number of junior members of the team who responded to the challenge of senior competition with outstanding fighting spirit and excellent results.

Jubilant team manager James Williams writes.

Cardiff AAC's senior men team kicked off its 2013 BAL campaign in style by winning the first match by 12 points with a huge overall total of 358 points at a blustery and at some points gale force Cardiff International Sports Stadium.

The team, featuring lots of new faces making their debuts, led from start to finish to set the team up for another stab at promotion back to the Premiership.

In the field, the day started with a surprise 2nd place for multi eventer David Guest in the Discus - a pb of 43.21m, with fellow multi eventer and training partner Curtis Mathews also hitting a  personal bets to win the B event with 42.68m. The throws continued to provide strong points for the team with new recruit Mathew Richards throwing 60.04m for 3rd in the Hammer, backed up superbly with Ashley Andrews throwing a PB to finish 2nd the B event with 51.91m. David Guest returned in the shot throwing 12.37m for 2nd in the B event, while Mathew Field was happy with his throw of 14.11m for 3rd in A after struggling with injury in the past couple of weeks. The Javelin was the final event of the day with Ryan Leonard finishing 2nd with 56.48m, while 3rd overall and winning the B was Bradley Cole with 56.29m.

The start of the track events showed the club's intent as they won the first 3 events. Rhys Williams, fresh from his Commonwealth and World qualifier a few days previously, won easily in 50.03, impressive considering the windy conditions. Making a succesful debut for his new club, Paul Bennett battled hard in lane 1 to win the B event in 54.14. Next on track was the 800m - and, racing for the first time this season, Elliot Slade battled hard down the home straight to win in 1.53.81, while Joe Maynard led for 798m in the B event, just being caught on the line, but still a season's best in 1.51.43 for 2nd .

Young sprinters Dewi Hammond and Anax Da Silva battled a strong headwind for 4th and 3rd respectively in the 100m, while Anax returned for the 200m, and battled hard in lane 1 for 4th in 22.29 against a very strong headwind. Lemarl Freckelton  ran a strong race to finish 3rd in the B event - the strong wind emphasised by the fact that his time was a second and half slower than the time he ran at BUCS the week earlier. There would be disappointment however in the sprint relay; the team of Dewi Hammond, Sam Gordon, Rhys Knapman and Anax Da Silva looked on course for a comfortable victory when Anax pulled up with a hamstring injury in the final metres. Anax bravely battled to cross the line before collapsing in pain, still managing to finish 6th and ahead of close rivals Liverpool. All of Cardiff AC hopes Anax makes a speedy recovery from his injury and that he can continue on with his impressive season.

In the long sprint, Ryan Lee, another debutant, ran a huge PB of 48.30 for 3rd in the A race - the performance was enough to  make him Cardiff's athlete of the match. BAL stalwart Gareth Hopkins once again rose to the occasion and won the B 400 in a season's best of 49.03. Gareth would also be the lead off man in the 4x400. The team of Gareth, Paul Bennett, Elliot Slade and Olympian Gareth Warburton would battle hard in the wind for 3rd place in a time of 3.16.60.

In the distance events, Joe Thomas used his blistering speed to sprint away in the final 200m to easily win the 1500m, while finishing fast behind him was Michael Ward. The youngster is having a great 2013 and easily won the B event (3rd overall) on his BAL debut. His training partner Matthew Edwards ran his first 3,000m steeplechase - and the Paul Darney coached athlete broke 10min for the first time for 3rd in 9.54.9, following in the footsteps of another Darney coached athlete, Christian Stephenson. In the 5,000m Carwyn Jones battled hard for 5th in the A race, while another BAL stalwart James Mills had a bit of over distance work to finish 3rd in the B event.

In the sprint hurdles, Fran Baker battled the horrendous headwind for 3rd in the A event, and he will make his Welsh debut over the same distance next weekend in Loughborough. In the B event, running the distance for the first time, Stephen Guest ran a superb 95m before losing momentum over the last hurdle; his time of 17.20 seconds was not a fair reflection on what was a superb run - surely he can go several seconds faster this year with a decent wind and a few more races under his belt.

In the jumps, another athlete making his debut, David Omeragie, jumped superbly to hit 6.94m to finish 5th in the A event, while Fran Baker, battlingh the elements once again, produced a couple of no jumps which meant that he needed to get a safe 6.65m to ensure points in the B event for 4th. The pole vault saw another debutant, Emyr Jones, have a solid day for 5th in 4m, while youngster David Callan had a couple of near misses on the same height - ending with a best of 3.80 for third in the B. David Guest returned again in the high Jump, clearing 1.80m for 4th in the B, while Jonathan Bailey jumped 1.85m for 4th in the A. The final jumps event of the day was the triple jump. Adam Williams jumped 13.89m for 3rd in the A in difficult conditions, while  Adrian Lawrence, another athlete making his debut, jumped 11.43m for 5th in the B event.

After a long, nervous wait the points scores showed that Cardiff had taken victory in the first match - and the young team can hopefully use this as a spring board to push for promotion back to the premiership. The result was the best one yet under James Williams' team manager tenure. Even when the club secured promotion in 2010, they did not win a match, and the overall points total showed how well the team did as a whole.

A special mention must go to Debbie Bull and her team who worked tirelessly throughout the day to ensure everything went smoothly; all team managers and officials commented on how well the event was run. Thank you from all of the BAL team for your hard work.

On to London now for match 2 in early June.

The match result was:

1.  Cardiff AAC (358 points)
2.  City of Liverpool (346.5)
3.  Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow AC (317)
4.  Kent AC (264.5)
5.  Glasgow City (257)
6.  Thames Valley Harriers (240.5)
7.  Southend AC (209)
8.  Basingstoke & Mid Hants AC (188.5) 

To view the full results click RESULTS.