A year after double relegation from Group A, Great Britain celebrated double glory in Group B of the European Champion Clubs Cup in Leiria on Saturday as Birchfield Harriers won the men’s event and Thames Valley Harriers triumphed in the women’s competition.
Even though they won only three individual events - the 400m, high jump and 4x400m - Birchfield finished top of the table with 158 points from Belgium’s Royal Excelsior Brussels with 139 and Slovakia’s AD Mass Ljubljana with 136.50, who also earn promotion to next year's Group A events.
Seven points separated the top two in the women’s cup, with Thames Valley scoring seven wins in their 89.50 to beat AD Mass who joined them in promotion. Ireland’s Dundrum South Dublin AC finished third with 70 points.
It means both British teams are back in the top division after City of Manchester, in the men's, and Edinburgh, in the women's, suffered the fate of relegation 12 months ago in Mersin.
As so often in these type of exciting team competitions, it is not all about winning events. It is about the points accumulated throughout the day which can be so important, as Birchfield Harriers proved as they had six second places along with their three victories.
Sadam Koumir was their sole individual track champion as he took the 400m (45.98) with a fine success in heat one, beating Denis Danac, of AC Stavbar Nitra (47.35), and AD Mass Ljubljana’s Jernej Jeras (47.72).
In the end, the high jump became a duel between Birchfield’s Mike Edwards and Tampereen Pyrinto's Jussi Viita, which the Briton won with 2.15m from his rival’s 2.12m.
Birchfield then combined to take the 4x400m relay in 3:09.80, their second heat being the quickest as they finished in front of Royal Excelsior Brussels (3:11.61) and Ljubljana (3:11.82).
Nitra’s Jan Volko had a fine afternoon in the sprints, banking maximum points in both the 100m and 200m.
He won his heats in 10.42 and 20.69 respectively as Birchfield’s Leon Reid won his races in 10.51 and 20.83 to earn nine points on both occasions.
Along with Reid, teammate Paul Byrne also achieved nine points from finishing first in his heat of the 400m hurdles in 51.68 as Royal Excelsior’s Arnaud Ghislain (50.28) achieved the maximum 10 from race one (50.28).
Chris Shorthouse (hammer, 68.66m), Jack Phipps (pole vault, 4.95m) and Najee Fox (discus, 50.51m) were Birchfield’s other ‘nine pointers’.
1. Birchfield Harriers (GBR) 158 points
2. Royal Excelsior Brussels (BEL) 139
3. AD Mass Ljubljana (SLO) 136.5
4. IK Tjalve (NOR) 119.5
5. Haag Atletik (NED) 114
6. Tampereen Pyrinto (FIN) 110
7. Clonliffe Harriers (IRL) 109
8. AC Stavbar Nitra (SVK) 108
9. C.S. Luxembourg (LUX) 61
10. StG Kreis Limburg-Wielburg (GER) 40
Thames Valley Harriers were in seventh heaven as they booked their spot for Britain back in Group A.
After some good finishers in the earlier events, Clieo Stephenson then led the spree of seven victories as she won the 100m (11.86) from Yiff’at Zelikovitz, of Israel Maccabi Rishon Le-Zion (12.18) and AD Mass Ljubljana’s Kaja Debevec (12.27), before Montene Speight won the 400m (53.26) ahead of Dundrum South Dublin AC's Sinead Denny (53.63) and Ljubljana’s Anita Horvat (54.45).
Quickly to follow was another victory for the British team, this time in the 100m hurdles as Angie Broadbelt-Blake in 14.22 beat Ljubljana’s Laura Strajnar (14.84) and Maccabi’s Noa Levi (15.03).
Emma O’Hara led all the way in the hammer, though she had to raise her game after the second round. Having thrown a first round 52.66m, the Thames Valley athlete saw Israel’s Yevgeniya Zabolotniy throw 52.56m.
After 52.73m with her second effort, O’Hara then increased her advantage in the final two rounds of the four, throwing 56.72m and 57.26m.
Thames Valley’s final individual win came in the shot put as Danielle Opara (13.64m) triumphed from Maccabi’s Inbal Cohen (12.10m) before they won both the relays.
Thames took the 4x100m in 47.30 from Ljubljana (47.41) and Maccabi (47.69) and the 4x400m in 3:42.17 from Dundrum (3:50.36) and Ljubljana (3:54.58).
The women’s 1500m saw a great win for Dundrum’s experienced senior international Maria McCambridge, who triumphed in 4:31.86 at the age of 40, while Ljubljana’s Tina Sutej, a finallist at world and European championships, won the pole vault with 3.50m.
1. Thames Valley Harriers (GBR) 89.5
2. AD Mass Ljubljana (SLO) 82.5
3. Dundrum South Dublin AC (IRL) 70
4. Israel Maccabi Rishon Le-Zion (ISR) 66
5. Turn Urheiluliitto (FIN) 63
6. StG Kreis Limburg-Wielburg (GER) 40