Two Biggleswade Athletic Club multi-eventers lined up against formidable opponents in the shape of two Dutch internationals at the recent Surrey Combined Events Championships. Dan Steel was competing in his last decathlon in a BAC vest, while Darren Janssen was competing in his first.
Steel said: “This was my chance to have a crack at the outdoor club record from 2015, after breaking the indoor record in January. There was a buzz around the athletes with Trystan de Weerdt and Niels Mijnsbergen in our event – the standard was going to be high. They would be in every single one of my races!”
Day one consisted of the 100m, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m. Immediately the class of the Dutch athletes told. Steel said: “The 100m went almost as expected – a solid start but I was left for dead by Trystan. Not my quickest time this year, but OK: 12.27sec.”
Janssen was glad of the company from his clubmate. “This was the most nervous I had been for an athletic competition. I started the first of two days cautiously as I battled the nerves, but after the first event was over I soon settled in and started to just enjoy the day.” He put in a solid time of 13.11, while De Weerdt and Mijnsbergen finished in 11.36 and 11.51 respectively.
The long jump saw the BAC pair start to find their form. “I started to feed off the energy that the Dutch were giving out,” said Steel. “But 6.12m was still down on my PB from 2015.” Janssen, meanwhile, posted a personal best 5.21m in the event. Then came the shot, and “things started to unravel” for Steel, with 9.03m his worst effort of the season, a metre down on his PB. Janssen was just 4cm further back, with 8.99m.
Steel was concerned with his knee during the high jump, an area that had troubled him earlier in the season. He found himself using valuable energy needing three attempts to clear heights that were within him, but rallied to finish with a clearance of 1.68m. Janssen managed 1.50m while the Dutch pair both cleared 1.86m.
The 400m rounded out day one, and any doubts of the class of the opposition were dispelled as Mijnsbergen crossed the line in 51.43, with De Weerdt finishing in 52.72. “After 150m I was chasing thin air and my time suffered as a result,” said Steel, who finished in 57.44, while Janssen lamented his “poorly executed” performance as his “low point” of the day, as he finished outside 63 seconds.
The pair regrouped for day two, with Steel 117 points back from where he hoped to be in order to take on the BAC record. “Not an impossible task, but difficult.” Janssen was managing a “minor niggling hip injury”, but felt well-rested for the competition ahead,
First up was the 110m hurdles. “I had a bad race,” said Steel. “But my time was my third-fastest ever – I’m really not sure how!” His 19.38 and Janssen’s 21.09 were once again thrown into sharp relief by the class around them, as both Dutchmen went well below 16 seconds.
Steel’s run at the club record was almost derailed entirely after two fouls in the discus. “This was very nearly a disaster – two throws outside the sector, one very safe final attempt of 23.04m.” Janssen took the opportunity to get one over on his clubmate, and did so in fine style: “I was able to set a new personal best, finally breaking the 30m mark!” His best effort went out to 30.94m, just 1cm down on Mijnbergen’s mark.
Janssen continued his resurgence in the pole vault, equalling his PB in the pole vault with a fine effort of 2.60m. Steel was struggling with his knee but rallied to clear 3.10m and suddenly found himself ahead of schedule in his record chase.
The penultimate event was the javelin, and Steel “was desperate to create a gap knowing my final event wasn’t going to be quick – so I was hitting the Jav with everything I had”. He sent his best effort out to a fine 37.10m, with Janssen managing 32.19m.
Now all eyes were on Steel’s own club record of 4610 points. “My javelin meant anything under 5:24.5 in the 1500m would do it. I tried staying in touch with the leaders early on but again got isolated. Luckily one of my rivals passed me with 250m to go and it kicked me back into gear. 5:18.53. It was also quick enough to stay ahead of my rival overall Mark Andrews of Holland Sports by five points, he’s beaten me for the last two years so I was delighted to get one back!”
Janssen said he was “let down by my overall fitness and stamina coming into the final event”. “As a result, I was only able to muster a poor performance in the 1500m as a dragged myself round.” His time of 6:32.52 gave him plenty to build on, and he remarked: “It was a disappointing way to end, and I felt deflated. However, I am determined to use this negative as motivation to improve my overall fitness across the winter months.”
Steel’s final tally was 4641 points. “After 3 years of disappointment trying to break the club record again, it was good to prove to myself that I could get back to the results of 2015.”
Janssen said of his first experience of decathlon: “The overall event was really challenging, but really fun, and I’m looking forward to competing in another one. I’d like to thank Daniel for mentoring and motivating me, the club coaches – especially Alison Ridley – for helping train me, and BAC for making me feel welcome when I first joined the club. If anyone wants to give athletics a try, it does not matter about age or ability, it’s all about having fun and I encourage anyone to come to Biggleswade AC and give it a go.”
England international high jumper Leonie Brunning was another in multi-event action, competing at the English Schools’ Combined Events Championships in Bedford. In the intermediate girls’ heptathlon, she managed 13.41sec in the 80m hurdles, 1.65m in the high jump, 8.94m in the shot, 29.88sec in the 200m, 4.71m in the long jump, 25.69m in the javelin and 2:49.78 in the 800m. This gave her a score of 3,790 points for a creditable 26th place overall.
Brunning joined Steel at the Eastern Combined Events in Peterborough last weekend. Dan was disappointed to have to withdraw early on due to injury, but Brunning came second in the under-17s womens competition, which took in five events. She managed 13.24sec in the 80m hurdles, 9.35m in the shot, 1.59m in the high jump, 5.08m in the long jump and 2:51.82 in the 800m.
Teagan Blake, competing in her first multi-events competition, lined up in the under-15s field and came an fine 10th with a points total of 1,870. Her performances consisted of 3.55m in the long jump, 14.30sec in the 75m hurdles, 7.24m in the shot, 1.33m in the high jump and 2:54.63.