National Athletics League regular for Blackheath & Bromley looks ahead to Bedford competition on August 20
Bailey Stickings is arguably Britain’s most-improved 400m hurdler this year and he has put a lot of his advancement down to regular competition in the National Athletics League.
The Blackheath & Bromley Harriers men’s team captain has improved from 51.89 to England Championships silver and stands on the cusp of breaking 50 seconds.
Stickings has competed in all three rounds of the country’s premier senior league this year and is looking forward to leading his club in the NAL Premiership Grand Final in Bedford on August 20.
The 23-year-old said: “I think [league competition] definitely does [help] because I think, otherwise, what are you racing for really? I know you’re racing for times a lot but that element of actually going out and winning a race is often overlooked in some areas.
“It provides a different element to the event, particularly in stuff like the sprints, where you don’t have a BMC like you do in the distance and middle-distance races that are set up for fast races.”
Stickings cemented his improvement this season with a sixth place at the Müller UK Athletics Championships and his PB is now 50.08 after six PBs in 2022.
The athlete who has been with B&B since he was around 10 or 11 says increasing his confidence has been a big boost to his performances this year.
“Confidence is just massive in athletics and it’s really helped me to develop,” he said. “Also consistency — I’ve had some injuries in the past and been able to keep fit and get some good winters behind me … and definitely having NALs has helped, chasing some of the really fast boys in the opening few races.”
That consistency has come after some bad luck with injuries as an under-20, in particular two stress fractures in the navicular.
“I ended up with an operation to pin it and, touch wood, haven’t had any issues since,” he said. “But there were two seasons where I had no races. But I’ve been fortunate to stay injury-free and continue to run fast.”
Stickings’ club lies second behind Thames Valley Harriers going into the final fixture, which will double as a Cup fixture too. The top eight clubs so far will compete in the Cup match with the bottom eight in action in the Plate match. The format will be repeated for the Championship Grand Final the day afterwards in Bedford. Both matches will be live-streamed by Vincosport.
The wind, as always, could be a negative factor in Bedford, but Stickings hopes that the competition will lead to good times.
“Given it’s Bedford, it will depend on the day how the times go. As always with the NAL, points mean prizes so I’m definitely going to be trying to win the event but, given the teams that are going to be there, I know it could be similar to a national championships in some elements with often all the best athletes that turn up.”
For more on the National Athletics League, go here.
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