BY TOM POLLAK
While some of Hercules Wimbledon’s runners competing in this month’s Virgin Money London Marathon are spending a week altitude training in Morocco, the next generation of athletes were in action in the annual Hercules Wimbledon Young Athletes Open Meeting being staged for the 38th time at Wimbledon Park Athletics Stadium.
More than 200 youngsters took part in this long-standing annual curtain-raiser to the season, staged at Crystal Palace for many years, which took on a new look in 2019.
Instead of athletes being put into events according to their age, they were seeded into races according to their ability. As it was, one of the best contests, on a gloomy, overcast day, was the girls high jump where last year’s top ranked U15 jumper came up against an athlete likely to be challenging for that position in 2019.
London Schools Champion Mabel Smith from Herne Hill, now an U17, equalled her year’s best with a winning 1.65m leap, although this was some way short of her 1.73m personal best set last year which ranked her top UK U15 jumper.
Lucy Fellows (St Mary’s Richmond), a second year U15, who has made a great start this year winning her first England title in clearing 1.62m at the Sheffield indoor championships in February, was second with 1.60m. She cleared a higher 1.65m at Lee Valley in March which puts her second in this year’s U15 rankings.
Hercules Wimbledon’s Mabel Rose-Scales, the UK’s top-ranked U13 high jumper and the youngest of the trio, competing in her first outdoor competition of the year, was third with 1.50m, just below her 1.55m lifetime best set in winning the Surrey indoor title in February.
On the track, last year’s England U15 champion Felix Vaughan (South London Harriers), now U17, posted the fastest 1,500m time of 4:15.
The only record set at the four-hour meeting was by Fryer Ella (St Mary’s Richmond) in the U17 women’s 400m with a 58.96 eclipsing the time set in 2016.
Hercules Wimbledon’s youngsters found wins hard to come by against strong opposition. Teenage sprinter Efe Peters posted two lifetime bests in winning his 100m and 200m races in 11.96 and 24.65. Josie Hughes won her U11 600m race in 2:03.00 while Morgan Rennie was the fastest of 36 800m runners winning his race in 2:03.00, more than seven seconds faster than his PB set at Wimbledon Park in September. Teenager Daniel Clarke won his 1,500m race in 4:40.00 after finishing 20th out of 1,304 runners in the Bushy Park 5km parkrun the previous day in a personal best of 18:20.
Belal Ahmed, who will be aiming to improve on his best marathon time of 2:23:11 set in Berlin last year, was among those fine-tuning their preparations for London with a week’s altitude training in Morocco. He will be contesting London for the second time after finishing in the top 100 in 2017.
Also in Morocco is Dimos Evangelidis, who will be racing in the London event for the fourth time. His best London race was last year when he clocked 2:27:39 in finishing fourth in the over-40 category.
He has a best marathon time of 2:25:38 set when finishing fourth in Manchester in 2016.
Another Hercules Wimbledon athlete warming up for London is over-50 veteran Tom Cheetham. He was third in his age category in the Self Transcendence 10km road race in Battersea Park on Saturday in 41:09. He will be racing in the London marathon for the 10th time. His best effort was 2:59:37 in 2015. His Hercules Wimbledon club mate Mick Leigh was top over-75 finisher in 60:31.
Hercules Wimbledon runners led the 339-strong field home in Saturday’s Kingston 5km parkrun. Fred Slemeck won in 16:09, beating club mate Jonny Earl by four seconds on his debut appearance in the event. Ross Franks was third out of 390 runners in Dulwich Park in 15:47, also competing in the event for the first time. Andrew Penney was runner-up out of 789 runners on Clapham Common in 15:10, just three seconds behind the winner with Finn Johnson fourth in 16:39.
Henry Silverstein was the best of 15 Hercules Wimbledon runners in the Wimbledon Common 5km parkrun on Saturday. He was runner-up out of 570 runners in a personal best of 17:00 slicing three seconds off his previous best time set last June. His Hercules Wimbledon club-mate Kieran White was also runner-up out of 434 runners on his debut in the Brighton & Hove parkrun in 16:46, posting the top age-graded performance of the day.
This weekend, Hercules Wimbledon’s senior athletes open their track and field season with a Southern Athletics League match at Norman Park, Bromley, on Saturday.