Masters athletes from across the country are gearing up for the Indoor Inter-Area Challenge, to be held at Lee Valley on Sunday.

The competition, organised by the England Masters Athletics Association, is open to all masters area clubs in the UK, and last year saw six of the English area clubs, plus Welsh Masters, go head-to-head across four age groups.

The 2022 edition of the contest (results here) saw Midland Masters emerge victorious with 456.5 points, as Eastern Masters (357), Vets AC (335), and Southern Counties Vets (330) were covered by a spread of less than 30 points for the next three places.

Midlands Masters to confront challengers

This year, Midland Masters are looking to defend their title, but team manager Matt Long suggests the gap between the champions and the chasing pack might be tighter previously.

He said: “Honesty encourages to say our team is not the strongest this year but the red and white vests have the stomach for the fight.”

Long refused to be drawn on who might be his squad’s top performers in north east London.

“We are a team whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” he said, before praising his talented team captains, both medallists last weekend in Sheffield. “Hats off to our skippers David Oxland and Carolyn Derbyshire.”

Oxland at the end of his record-breaking 4×800 metre relay leg last week

Long manages a team whose passion is unquestionable — after all, it takes quite some effort to muster a squad to travel the distance to Lee Valley.

He said: “We are the defending champs. If other teams want the title they are going to have to rip it away from us!”

Eastern Masters with eyes on the prize

Chasing hard will be Eastern Masters, in second place last year — women’s team manager Carey Hollick recognises the location of the event gives the club an edge, but is tempering her ambitions.

She said: “One of the advantages for EMAC is a lot of athletes live in the area of Lee Valley.

“I never have expectations for this meeting. I take volunteers for this and take the best from the volunteers. We did win the ladies team a few years ago, but I don’t think we’ll beat Midland Masters unless they don’t fill all their spots.”

Taking a look at her squad, Hollick highlights Helene Mary Kehoe — who recently spoke to MAUK — as one to watch in the W50 60 metres, 200 metres, and relay, as well as British W50 record holder in the 3000 metre walk, Melanie Peddle.

Dropping down an age group to the W35 contest, W45 Stacy McGivern is long jumping – her 5.01 leap from last year puts her in strong contention with those up to ten years younger. Augusta Pop is fresh from a pair of medals in the BMAF Indoor Championships last weekend, and will be sprinting again in EMAC colours.

Hollick is pleased with the composition of her team for the event, with plenty of newcomers to area club competition.

She said: “I also have many athletes who have never done an Inter-Area but are willing to buy an EMAC vest and come out for the day and do athletics for EMAC. I’m very proud of EMAC’s athletes for always giving things a go!”

By James Davis

James is Track & Field Communications lead for BMAF, as well as an athletics official, event organiser, and sports journalist.