SOUTHEND AC’s men’s team have been relegated from division two of the British Athletics League but only after a gallant last-ditch effort to beat the drop.
Lying in the bottom spot of eighth in the division going into the final match in Bath, the Seasiders needed to win or finish second to jump ahead of Derby and Notts.
And for a while the miracle escape looked to be on.
Southend led for most of the match before eventually finishing fourth. It was their best finish of the season but, unfortunately, not enough for survival as they finished seventh overall, ahead of Derby but just behind Notts.
Team manager Keith Palmer said: “It’s a shame we couldn’t start the season now, or at least from match three (of the four match series). We would have been fine then.
“The sad thing is we are worthy of at least a mid-table position. However, problems, mainly in the sprints, with illness, injury, and work commitments meant we finished eighth only by a point or so in both match one and two, then on the return of the sprinters, the team fared much better, finishing fifth in match three and fourth in match four.
“The team in the final match was like a who’s who of top Essex athletes which is why we deserve better but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes and we’ll just have to win our way straight back next year.”
In the match itself, the sprints saw Lee Dollard fifth in the A-string 100m (11.10s) and Jake King third in the B-string (11.30s).
The 200s saw Dollard fourth in the A-string with 22.01s and Oliver Best fifth in the B-string with 23.71s.
One of Southend’s strongest events was the 400m with Jake King (49.21s) and Markus Hunt (48.59s) respectively.
The middle and longer distances saw Adam Hickey show his supreme fitness by completing a trio of events: The 800m (fourth B-string 1m 56.0s), 1,500m (third A-string 3m 57.09s) and 3,000m (third A-string 8m 30.90s).
Tom Frith also had a busy day with the 800m (second A-string 1m 55.10s), and 1,500m (fifth B-string 4m 12.35s), before running the second leg of the 4x400m. David Gibbon, returning from injury, ran in the B-string 3,000m for third in 8m 59.60s.
The hurdles events saw Bradley Reed finish second in the A-string 110m hurdles (15.60s) and seventh in the A-string 400m hurdles (57.83s), with Greg Goodrem fifth in the 110m hurdles B-string and sixth in the 400m hurdles B-string with 17.0s and 62.0s respectively.
The steeplechase saw Roy Scott (fifth A-string, 10m 10.50s) and Rhys Gilllard (third B-string, 10m 41.60s) both achieve season bests.
On the field, the jumps saw under-17 Bradley Barrett clear 3.40m for equal third in the B-string pole vault and 1.70m for fifth in the B-string high jump.
Rob Wood was equal fourth in the A-string pole vault in a season’s best of 4.00m, and Greg Goodrem seventh in the A-string high jump with 1.75m.
In the long jump, Markus Hunt recorded a season’s best with 6.29m for seventh in the A-string with Kevin Brown fourth in the B-string (6.08m).
In the triple jump, Brown was fifth in the A-string with 12.68m and Emmanuel Gbegli fifth in the B-string with 12.10m.
The throws saw a double win in the hammer with James Hamblin first in the A-string with 54.19m and Rob Earle first in the B-string with 51.13m.
Earle was also fourth in the A-string discus with 40.42m while Tariq Martin was second in the B-string with 38.52m.
Martin then threw 11.01m in the shot for third in the B-string with Hamblin eighth in the A-string with 11.28m.
Two season’s best times were recorded in the relays.
The 4x100m quartet of Hunt, King, Best and Dollard ran 43.12s for fourth and the 4x400m team of Best (52.8s), Frith (51.3s), King (50.2s) and Hunt (47.4s) ran the fastest club time for two decades with 3m 21.48s for fourth.
Hunt was voted the team’s athlete of the match for three very impressive performances.
The season ended with Hickey much-deservedly winning the accolade of Track Athlete of the Year and Overall Athlete of the year.
Rob Earle won Field Athlete of the year and Greg Goodrem won the Multi-Event Athlete of the year.