Roy Langford - Article No.7 (02/04/2012)

August 1959 and another busy track season was again drawing to a close, but I still had four track meetings lines up for me during this month and had no intention of doing any football training with my mates down the Vono Sports Club until my athletic season was over.

The first of these was the 'Express and Star ' trophy meeting on Holiday Monday 3rd August 1959 at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton, an Inter-club contest between six top class teams which were: Birchfield Harriers, Crewe Harriers, Tipton Harriers, North Staff and tone Harriers, City of Stoke AC and host club Wolverhampton Harriers.

I made my own way there via public transport which was my first visit to this great sports centre, nestled very close to Dunstall Park Race Course.

I was very impressed at my first sighting of this stadium, as I then joined the crowd entering the complex and was eager as ever to purchase my athletic programme because I never got out of the thrill of seeing my name entered in these programmes and the honour of running for Tipton Harriers.

With nervous anticipation my fingers flicked through the pages to reveal that I was entered for 4 events – 100 yards sprint, Javelin, Long Jump and Mile Medley Relay Race. I was in for a busy and interesting afternoon's athletics. But before they took effect I gave myself a self guided tour, to get myself acquainted with my surroundings around the complex, which had top class changing rooms an shower block amenities for both men and women and attached to these facilities was an impressive wooden grandstand which at the moment was rapidly filling up with enthusiastic spectators and athletes alike for a grand view of the afternoon's sport.

But for me the main feature was the superb 8 lane cinder athletic track which circled the whole athletic ground, and was home to Wolverhampton Wheelers cycling club and for me it was a new and exciting prospect to run at this meeting.

'Express and Star' trophy meeting

This meeting was due to get underway at 2.30 pm and I could already feel the nervous excitement starting to bubble up inside me as I changed into my running gear. Then I went through the routine of collecting my vest number which was No. 8 from match steward Mr G Hudson, our club representative was yet again the indomitable Jim Bedford, aided by club captain Ken Rickhuss.

My first event was in heat two of the Men's 100 yards Scratch race, my warm up preparation went well, and I liked the firm feel of the cinder track under my feet, there were six participants in my race and I felt in great form.

The starter was Sid Hodson, who called us to get down on our starting blocks, and get set, the pistol fired and away we sped, it was a close run race and I lost the lead as I just faded in the last few yards to be passed just before the winning line by John Hodson (Birchfield) we both clocked 10.5 seconds but was happy with the result, I had made it to the final.

The Final

I was like a cat on hot bricks as we lined up for the final. After a couple of false starts Sid eventually got us away to a clean break. All six of us ran abreast of one another but I faltered again over the last 20 yards and no match on the day for the first three past the winning line. I finished in fourth place in 10.4 seconds; the winner was the great City of Stoke sprinter M. Fitt in 10.2 seconds.

Javelin and Long Jump Finals

Two of my other events that day were the long jump and javelin. Both these finals started at 3.40 pm, so I was quite busy for the next hour or so going from one event to the next. It was a new experience for me tackling the long jump in open competition for the first time, but I was up for the challenge and finished in 4th place with 19 ft 9¾ inches, the winner was John Morbey (Birchfield) with 20 ft 7 inches.

I also really enjoyed my performance in the javelin event where I had a personal best every legal throw of 144 ft 9 inches which made my day, but still only finished up in 3rd place, winning throw was 168 ft 3¾ inches by J Garner (City of Stoke AC)

Great Mile Finish

One of the best performances of the meeting was without doubt the Men's One Mile race won in great style by Bert Harbach (Tipton Harriers) he really set the cinder track alight with a brilliant spring finish to pass McAllister (Birchfield) and Ken Rickhuss (Tipton) in the home straight and won my about 30 yards in 4 min 18.2 seconds a great time for any club athlete.

Treble for Young Wolverhampton Athlete

One of Wolverhampton young rising stars 16 year old Geoff Reynolds, showed great versatility in winning the youth 100 yards and half mile races at this meeting. He also qualified for the 220 yards youth final that was before officials discovered he was in

Three track events which are forbidden under A.A.A. rules.

Geoff was promptly pitchforked into the long jump competition which he won with a winning leap of 17 ft 1½ inches.

For those brilliant performances Mr G Davey Wolverhampton Harriers chairman presented Geoff with a plaque in recognition of his afternoon's outstanding achievements.

A Glutton for Punishment

Bert Harbach Tipton's seasoned runner was always a glutton for punishment. After his great win in the One Mile event and just over an hour's rest he laced up his running shoes again to take his position on the starting line for the 3 mile Race. Not surprising he didn't win the race but gave a good account of himself by finishing a close third, behind two good Midland athletes, P Thomson (Birchfield) and Roy Fowler (North Staff & Stone A.C.) winning time 14 minutes 37.2 seconds.

Tipton's Young Gifted School Athlete

At this meeting was Denise Pheasant a new local addition to the female athletes at Tipton Harriers in her first competitive season with the club, she was a young 14 years old slip of a schoolgirl when she competed at this meeting in the long jump and high jump and was pitched against young ladies a few years her senior, but for one so young she was very mature and focussed on each event she competed in. Denise finished third in the high jump her favourite event, beaten by C Garnham (North Staff & Stone) and Glynnis Gray (City of Stoke who would soon be a member of Tipton Harriers) winning height 4 ft 6 inches. Denise again performed well by again getting third spot in the long jump, winner A Lawson (City of Stoke) winning leap 14 ft 6 inches. Being a Tipton Harrier at these events was almost a thankless task, no real encouragement from club officials or any training facilities for such technical events, that is why so many gifted young athletes who are the life and blood of any club would just drift away and join clubs like Birchfield and Wolverhampton Harriers who had ample training and coaching facilities. But Denise at this moment in time was happy and enjoying her time at Tipton Harriers and had the willpower to succeed in her chosen sport.

The Mile Medley Race

It was now almost three hours into this 'Express and Star' trophy meeting. The crowd had been great all afternoon, but I was now tired and hungry and wanted to pack up and go home, but one more event still had to be dealt with the One Mile Medley Relay Race. Our Club representative Jim Bedford picked our quartet of lead man Ken Rickhuss 880 yards, Brian Boyce and myself to each run 220 yards and dependable Stuart Williams 440 yards our anchor man. Only three team again bothered to register a relay team, good news for us, but one of those teams was the talented Birchfield Harriers, past masters at the event, because they had almost the pick of the best athletes in the Midlands. Needless to say when Sid Hodson the starter got the teams underway our team I'm sorry to say just went through the motions of running this relay with no hope of beating Birchfield who of course won the race, but we were no par with Wolverhampton on all our relay legs and only in the last 50 years did Stuart buckle under the pressure and was beaten by a couple of yards a disappointing race but we had better days to come.

Winning time for Birchfield 3 mins 36.1 seconds. To their credit Birchfield had a great team performance at this meeting and duly received the 'Express and Star' trophy.

1st Birchfield Harriers 123 points

2nd City of Stoke 99 points

3rd Wolverhampton 51 points

4th North Staff & Stone 37 points

5th Tipton Harriers 32 points

6th Crewe 31 points

With this meeting over looking forward to running at Halesowen Manor Abbey ground tomorrow. Tuesday 4th August 1959 their tenth Annual Sports Day.