City of Portsmouth’s captains believe they are the ones to beat as the men and women’s teams begin their joint Southern League campaign.
Both Steve Davey and Sam Vaile are gearing up for the new season in high spirits as City’s new-look side aims to win promotion to division one.
High on confidence following their Southern Men’s League victory last term, Davey believes this campaign could be equally successful as they open on home soil at the Mountbatten Centre today.
This year has seen an amalgamation of both the men’s and women’s teams, who will be competing together for the first time at this level.
With both squads achieving individual success in recent years, there is optimism that, together, they can raise the bar even higher.
On the men’s side, head coach Alex Teuten will be looking for the likes of sprinter Chris Tandi and young distance-runner Harry Carter to be on top form.
Along with positive performances from captain and all-rounder Davey and pole vaulter John Price, who won four events in last year’s competition, the men will be looking for a strong campaign from a talented squad.
Davey said: ‘To be honest, I have no idea about what to expect. It’s a new league for us.
‘But I think, on paper, we have the best team in the south – if not the country.’
Equally for the women, who won their league two years ago, a young squad of athletes will be looking to show the rest of the field they have matured and progressed – as well as seeking selection for their UK League squad.
Women’s Southern League manager Charon Baggeley will miss the first round of action as she competes in the London Marathon tomorrow.
But Baggeley will be back with the team for the remainder of the season.
City will look to the likes of distance runner Cassie Thorp, who is expected to overcome illness to compete.
Sprinters Vaile and Mandy Gault will also need to be in top form if City are to achieve their goals.
With the team entering a new league, the competition remains unknown – but Vaile believes City of Portsmouth are more than capable of making an impact.
And the team captain believes the women have an even stronger line-up than the men.
She said: ‘We have a few UK League athletes and are the best ladies’ team.
‘We think the standard might be lower than what we have been used to, with quite a few teams in a similar position to us.’