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January 6, 2012: Mel Watman, JC Legend

Mel Watman knew his vocation from the age of twelve. He was going to be an athletics writer, preferably for Athletics Weekly, preferably as its editor. In achieving these ambitions and much more besides, 73-year-old Watman has been the country’s outstanding athletics writer and historian over the last 50 years.

Watman’s passion for athletics was born in 1950 when he was part of a Hackney Downs School trip to the AAA Championships at the White City. Watman recalls, "I saw great athletes like Arthur Wint, McDonald Bailey and Roger Bannister, and I was hooked. I knew what I wanted to do in life."

Watman began submitting articles to Athletics Weekly whilst still at school, and continued whilst training as a journalist at the Hatfield & Potters Bar Gazette. While still a teenager he co-founded the National Union of Track Statisticians with fellow Jewish Grafton AC clubmates Alf Wilkins and Stan Greenberg, and was largely responsible for its first yearbook. He remains a committee member to this day. In 1959 Watman gained his diploma in journalism and in September that year was sent to Turin to report for The Times on the World Student Games.

Watman returned from Turin to begin national service in the RAF. "It was as if one day I was a high-flying national journalist, and the next day I was being bawled at by 18-year-old drill-corporals," Watman reflects. "My two years service were largely a waste of time, though I did get very fit. But I continued to write for Athletics Weekly at weekends and to edit its monthly offshoot ‘World Athletics’. I saved up two weeks’ RAF leave to go to the 1960 Rome Olympics as its youngest accredited reporter, and I have reported on every Olympics since.”

After his demob in 1961 Watman was appointed to Athletics Weekly full-time, and in 1968 he became its editor. He recounts, “It was my pride and joy and I spent inordinate amounts of time on it. But in 1987 it was bought up by EMAP and I didn’t enjoy working under the new management. I quit in 1988 and joined a new rival magazine, Athletics Today, as co-editor.” Unfortunately the market proved to be only large enough for one such magazine, and Athletics Today folded in 1994. Unconnected with its closure, but probably exacerbated by overwork over many years, Watman suffered a heart attack in 1993 and underwent bypass surgery the following year. Since that time he has co-produced the newsletter Athletics International together with fellow journalist Peter Matthews.

Watman has written several books on the history of the sport. These include “The All-Time Greats of British Athletics", five editions of the Encyclopaedia of Athletics, and the recently published “Official History of the Amateur Athletic Association”. He is currently working on three books simultaneously: he is writing the Official History of the Women's Amateur Athletic Association, editing the International Athletic Federation Centenary Book, and updating his own Olympic Track and Field History. He has also worked as athletics statistician for Eurosport and Sky Sports, and occasionally deputised for his friend Stan Greenberg at the BBC. His colleagues have recognised his exceptional achievements by electing him as Honorary President of the British Athletics Writers' Association.

Reflecting on his long career, Watman says "I have been incredibly lucky on two counts. I have spent well over fifty years doing professionally what I would have gladly done as a hobby. And I have had a wife, Pat, who has always supported me completely."
 

March 9, 2012: Sam’s the Man

Sam Shindler-Glass, 15, mastered a gruelling 6 km course to win the Middlesex Schools Under 17 title at Harrow. Shindler-Glass, of Ealing Southall and Middlesex AC, said "Four or five other races had already taken place that day so the course was churned up and muddy. It was made all the more difficult by including two climbs of Harrow Hill. I got into a pack of three at the front of the field, and with 200 m to go put in a final spurt. Luckily nobody was able to respond to it."

Shindler-Glass's racing schedule resumed four days later, with a 44th place in the National cross country championships at Parliament Hill, against runners up to 2 years older than himself. He said, "It was my best ever run at Parliament Hill, so things are looking good for the Inter-counties Championships this weekend and the English Schools' one week later."

Nathan Bloom, 13, returned to competition to place 12th in the Middlesex Schools under 15 Championship.

Nathaniel Lane, of Cardiff AC, placed ninth in the Welsh National Championships despite having battled a persistent cold during the previous month.

March 23, 2012: Goodman’s Dream Ticket

Richard Goodman has secured a coveted athletic scholarship at the University of Oregon, and will take it up this Monday. Oregon University is recognised as a centre of athletic excellence, and its head coach Vin Lananna was also head coach for Team USA at last year's World Athletics Championships. Goodman will be rooming and training with the other current foreign signing, Freddy Ovett, son of former Olympic champion Steve Ovett.

Goodman, 18, said, "I will be taking a four-year degree course. At this stage I think I may major in Human Physiology, but there will be the flexibility to change. Athletics will take priority and I will be able to train twice a day. It is a very exciting prospect."

Goodman has spent most of this year training in Kenya, and has been back in the UK for less than three weeks. He reported, "One sunday I went to Hillingdon for my normal training run and found that the 'Finchley 20' was just about to start. I ran 15 miles of the race in 1:18, without racing shoes or any race preparation, so I know that my strength and endurance is there. Now I just need to focus on the speed I will need for the track season ahead."
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June 22, 2012: Life back in the fast Lane

Nathaniel Lane continued his progress back to full fitness by placing 4th in the Welsh 10 Mile Championship in Llandudno in a time of 54:28. Lane sustained a calf injury in April's Virgin London Marathon, which prevented him from running for three weeks.

Jennifer Simmons, of Manchester Sale Harriers, placed fifth in the England under 23 400 meter hurdles championship in 61.94 s, having set a personal best of 61.61 s in the semi-final.

Three Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers set personal bests in the Young Athletes League match at Harrow. Natan Bloom, 13, reduced his 1500 m time to 4:50.2 while Simon Zeffert, 16, celebrated the end of his GCSE exams with a triple jump best of 11.63 m. Jessica Hurley, 12, cut her 800 m PB to 2:30.3 and gained further valuable points with a long jump of 4.07 m. On the day prior to the match she had placed third in the Hertfordshire Schools under 13 800 m championship.

Greg Hurley, brother of Jessica, won the London Prep Schools under 12 javelin championship at Eton, with a throw of 23.07 m.

13-year-old Anna Barnett, of Blackheath & Bromley AC, set an impressive personal best of 26.63m in the hammer, at her club's open meeting.

Trafford all-rounder Zoe Gibson placed second in the discus at the Greater Manchester Schools Championships, equalling her PB of 19.20 m.

June 29, 2012: Bongart leads javelin field

James Bongart, 16, a pupil of King Solomon High School, outclassed his rivals to win the Essex schools javelin title at Chelmsford. His winning mark, a personal best of 49.52 m, was over 4 m clear of his rivals, and lifted him to 27th in the UK under 17 rankings. Bongart, who competes for Woodford Green AC, took the Essex County title earlier this year, and has been unbeaten this season within his age group. He recently received training advice from former Olympic champion Tessa Sanderson at a training day at Lee Valley indoor arena.

Jennifer Simmons, 21, edged closer towards international standard by setting a 400 m hurdles PB of 60.97 at the Olympic Trials in Birmingham. Sale Harriers athlete Simmons placed third in her heat, narrowly failing to advance to the final. Her performance was her fourth PB in the event within a month, and raises her to 8th in the UK under 23 rankings, and 22nd overall.

Chloe Greenberg, 16, of Harrow AC, set a personal best of 29.09m in the javelin in the National Junior League at Harrow, while her clubmate Nick Davis, 18, opened his season with a 400 m performance of 53.9 in the same meeting..

July 20, 2012: Hurley first past the post

Several young athletes have been putting in strong performances in the last 10 days. Jessica Hurley, 12, cut her 800 m personal best to 2:28.02 in winning her race at the Watford Graded Open meeting. Hurley, of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, jumped to 22nd in the UK under 13 rankings in the process.

James Bongart,16, of Woodford Green AC, exceeded 50 m in the javelin for the first time with a throw of 50.97 m when placing sixth in the under 17 South of England Championships at Watford. The throw places him 25th in the national rankings. George Grant, 14, representing Shaftesbury Barnet, placed third in the under 15 pole vault at the same Championships, equalling his personal best of 2.50 m.

Chloe Greenberg,16, of Harrow AC set a personal best javelin throw of 29.44 m when placing third in the Southern Athletics League at Harrow. Her teammate Nick Davis, 18, achieved a victory and a season's best of 52.9 in the 400 m B race in the same match.

July 27, 2012: Stan Greenberg, JC Legend

A measure of Stan Greenberg's reputation is the title of his latest book. His publishers insisted that it be called "Stan Greenberg's Olympic Almanack", confident that his name in the title would guarantee higher sales. The book is Greenberg's eighth successive compendium of Olympic facts and figures.

Greenberg has been an avid enthusiast and statistician of athletics for most of his 81 years. His love of the sport was kindled through attending the 1948 Olympics, and from that time he began compiling results and submitting them to Athletics Weekly. In 1964 ITV brought him on board to make sure they got their Olympic facts right, and in 1968 he became athletics statistician for the BBC. Greenberg says, "Throughout this time I was fitting my athletics commitments around a full-time job outside of sport; first as a researcher and librarian at Lever Brothers (later to become Unilever), then as a transport librarian at the GLC. In 1976 I became Sports Editor of the Guinness Book of Records. But when I turned 50 in 1981 I decided that I needed to scale back to just one job. Because I loved the opportunities for travel it afforded, my choice was to become full-time athletics statistician for the BBC. My job was to ensure that at every race, and at all points as the race progressed, the live commentator had in front of him every fact about every competitor." Greenberg travelled to fifty countries in this role, which he held until 1994.

Nowadays Greenberg spends more time at the Friern Barnet home that he has shared with his wife Carole since they married 51 years ago. But he remains as busy as ever, scouring the internet in order to produce UK and Commonwealth ranking lists that are in demand from journalists and enthusiasts around the world. He is probably the only person producing Commonwealth lists, which become increasingly important as the Commonwealth Games approach; they will be held in Glasgow in 2014. Greenberg is not shy in extrapolating from statistic to prediction, and he believes that Team GB athletes will win 10 Olympic medals in London.

He is equally upbeat in summing up his life: "Athletics has always been my hobby, and I have been lucky enough to make it my career. I have travelled the world and met all kinds of people. It has all been a wonderful journey."

August 3, 2012: Peters powers home

David Peters, 41, took the British Masters 1500 m title at Derby in commanding style. Leading the race from start to finish, his time of 4:04.50 was the quickest winning time in the Championships for several years. Hampstead-based Peters, who runs for Herne Hill Harriers, achieved an identical time four days later in an Open Graded Meeting at Watford. Peters remarked, "A slow pace meant that all 16 athletes were bunched together, and I was getting barged, bumped and spiked from all sides. I got tripped twice but managed to keep my balance. But it was more like a fight than a race."

To conclude a busy week, Peters raced the distance again in the British Athletics League at Hendon. Finishing third, he cut his time to 4:02.85. Peters commented, "It was pleasing as it was my second fastest time of the year despite the slow pace set for the first three laps."

Jessica Hurley, 12, came within a fraction of her 800 m PB, recording 2:28.18 to place fourth in the Southern Inter-counties Championships at Kingston. Four days later Hurley made a promising debut at 1500 m, recording 5:16.46 at the Watford Open Graded Meeting.

September 7, 2012: Bruck leaps up rankings

David Peters and Roger Bruck rendered useful service to their respective clubs in the Southern Counties Veterans Finals at Ashford. Bruck, 73, competing for Barnet and District AC, achieved 1.25 m in the High Jump, an M70 championship record that raises him to second in the UK M70 rankings.

Peters, of Herne Hill Harriers, contested three events in the M35 age group, winning the 400 m in 54.8 and 1500 m in 4:25.6. Peters, 41, placed second in the 800 m in a photo finish, matching the winning time of 1:59.0. Remarkably, this was his second such finish within a week. He placed second in the 800 m in 1:59.38 at the London Inter-Club Challenge at Hendon, beaten by 0.01 seconds by a runner 22 years his junior.

Harrow sprinter Nick Davis, 18, improved his 400 m personal best for the third time in a fortnight, recording 51.67 to place second in a Southern Athletics League match at Milton Keynes. Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier George Grant, 14, raised his pole vault best to 2.60 at the Horsham Blue Star Open meeting.