Hundreds of competitors will be in action in Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club's young athletes open meeting which is being staged at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre for the 31st time on Sunday, April 1st.
In addition being a curtain-raiser to the summer track and field season, the Hercules Wimbledon meeting has proved a valuable stepping-stone for aspiring internationals. Past winners include Olympic sprinter Montell Douglas, who holds the women's under 17 100 and 200 metres records set in 2002 while another Olympic athlete Emeka Udechuku holds the men's under 17 shot and discus records he set in 1995. Olympic marathon runner Mark Steinle still holds the boys under 13 1500m record set back in 1987.
Last year the programme was expanded with the inclusion of under 20 events including two mile races with £100 prize money for the men's and women's winners. Both the 2011 mile winners are entered again. Kieran Reilly, who went on to win the South of England junior men's 1500m title after winning the Crystal Palace event in 4 minutes 27.7 seconds, returns to defend his men's mile title. His main challengers include Ben Waterman who took the 1500m silver medal in the South of England indoor championships last month and Michael Callegari, winner of the bronze medals in both the South of England and UK Inter-Counties cross country championships. Katie Snowden, the UK Inter-Counties senior 800m champion, who won the women's mile at Crystal Palace last year also defends her title.
This year, the under 20 events have been extended to include the Brenda Bedford women's discus with a first prize of £100. Bedford competed at international level at both discus and shot between 1961 and 1974. She represented England at three Commonwealth Games (Jamaica in 1966, Edinburgh in 1970 and Christchurch, New Zealand in 1974); and competed for Great Britain in the European Championships in Athens in 1969 and Helsinki in 1971. Brenda still tops the Hercules Wimbledon all-time women's rankings in both discus and shot, and it is hoped that the Brenda Bedford Discus will help to encourage a new generation of women in this event.
Over the years the Young Athletes Meeting has also reflected the Hercules Wimbledon's proud tradition of exchanges with clubs from around the world. This year a contingent of young athletes from the Czech Republic will be taking part. The youngsters are from the TJ Liaz club in Jablonec. The meeting starts at 11am with the girls and boys under 13 1500m races and the girls under 13 and under 15 shot, the boys under 15 long jump and the girls under 15 high jump. It runs through till the men's under 20 200m at around 5pm.
Hercules Wimbledon qualified for the England 12-stage road relay championships at Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, on April 14th with a solid performance in the South of England championships at Milton Keynes on Sunday. Alex Robinson got the team off to a good start handing over in 13th place with the fastest long stage run of 24:38. Joe Toomey posted the fastest club time of 16:49 for the short stage in moving through from 22nd to 19th on the sixth leg. Overall, the team finished 18th out of 36 complete teams.
Hercules Wimbledon's former English cross country champion Dave Clarke continued his preparations for next month's Virgin London marathon with a fine run in the Fleet half-marathon on Sunday. He was first veteran over 50 finisher and 36th out of more than 2250 runners in 1:16:46, breaking the Hercules Wimbledon club record for the age group. His time broke the record set by Steve Badgery at Wimbledon in 1998 of 1:17:01. Also at Fleet, Stewart Bond was 124th in 1:25:11 and Vikki Filsell was fourth woman veteran over 40 in 1:33:43.
Hercules Wimbledon's Dan Pescod was ninth out of almost 350 runners in the Audi Wimbledon 10km race on Sunday in 37:18. New Hercules Wimbledon signing Dominque Geoffroy was 24th in 39:19.
Stuart Fraser was first veteran over 45 in the Self Transcendence10km road race in Battersea Park on Saturday finishing seventh out of almost 200 runners in 35:04. Frank Wood was third over 45 veteran finisher in a personal best of 38:31. Maurice Sharp was third over 60 veteran in 46:26.