SEVENTEEN-year-old Rory Dwyer was awarded his first England representative vest as part of the England athletics team on the European indoor athletics tour in Linz, Austria.
Stratford Athletic Club star Dwyer, sponsored by Stratford company FPS Distribution, was selected for the High Jump and, despite competing against senior men, he finished in 6th place with a season’s-best jump of 2.12.
He said afterwards: “It is a great honour representing England for the first time and a really good learning experience being in this type of pressure environment.
“It is great for my development so I can get used to competing in front of a loud, full-house crowd.
“I’m pleased with how I jumped up to 2.12m. Despite it being very early in the season I think I’m in good shape and I’m hoping to jump higher at the British Senior Championships in Sheffield on Sunday.”
After travelling from Austria, Dwyer went to the Birmingham Games at the Barclaycard Arena the following day and competed against his club-mate Alex Grant in the Under 20 60m Hurdles.
He won a fast race in 8.11 seconds and Grant ran a very encouraging 8.70 in his first race since September.
Oliver Cresswell had a terrific confidence-boosting weekend, winning both the Under 15 High Jump with 1.65m and a very fine controlled 60m hurdles. He led the race from gun to tape and recorded a time of 8.98 seconds. Oliver is now 5th in the UK Under-15 rankings in both events.
Also competing for the first time this year as an Under-17, Emily Madden Forman ran a personal best in the 60m hurdles in finishing 4th. Even with little quality preparation behind her, Emily finished 7th in the long jump with 4.92m.
The banked indoor track takes some getting used to but, in a perfectly judged race, Imogen Sheppard held off her fast-finishing opponent to win the U15 800m in 2.30.96.
Imogen’s sister Jessica has moved up to the U17 age group and ran in her first 300m indoor race. Running in the tight inside lane and in the fastest heat of the day, she gained some valuable experience and finished in a time of 44.18, 9th out of a field of 18 athletes.
The cavernous stadium can be daunting for a ‘first-time’ competitor but, despite James Gionis making his U17 debut in the high jump, he finished with a height of 1.65m, which will give him plenty of confidence going forward.
STRATFORD AC’s women’s team travelled to the final race of the cross country league season at Aldersley Leisure Centre in Wolverhampton with a high-quality line-up intent on ending the winter on a high.
Some fast and determined runs ensured the team achieved 8th place in the Midland Women’s Cross Country League and 3rd in the Masters standings – just 10 points behind Wolverhampton & Bilston AC in 2nd.
Zoe Chandler (13th, 23.59) is steadily returning to full fitness after injury and she ran a great race to earn the highest finishing position of the season by a Stratford AC team member.
Zoe was in confident mood after her 26th placing in the British University Championships the previous weekend, where she was running for Birmingham University. She was 8th after half a lap and did superbly to maintain her pace as well as she did.
Consistency has been the watchword for Sarah Wheeler (34th, 25.08) this winter. Sarah looked comfortable in the early stages of this race and she was able to push on impressively from the halfway point. She was involved in a fascinating battle with four rivals along the home straight and found some remarkable speed.
Rachel Pearce (73rd, 26.57) recovered well from a mid-race tumble, remained composed and ran a great race to finish so high up the results table.
Alison Bagnall (109th, 28.33), Yvonne Caswell (113rd, 28.40) and Emma Vickers (136th, 29.30) were never far apart and until the final lap it was still unclear which would come out on top.
Full results (race distance 6km): Zoe Chandler (13th, 23.59); Sarah Wheeler (34th, 25.08); Rachel Pearce (73rd, 26.57); Alison Bagnall (109th, 28.33); Yvonne Caswell (113rd, 28.40); Emma Vickers (136th, 29.30).
THE MEN’S team also competed at Aldersley Leisure Centre and finished a creditable 12th in the league after scoring their best points total of the season.
This season has seen the emergence of Rich Shephard (20th, 32.50) as a force to be reckoned with in cross country racing. Rich has run four marvellous league races and led the team home in style on each occasion. He gained his best position of the season in this race with an exhibition of controlled running.
Josh Newman (52nd, 34.34) was not ecstatic about his performance but he was pleased he was able to dig deep and produce a stunning sprint finish. Josh appeared to get bogged down at around the 7km mark but he worked hard throughout the race and can be satisfied with his position.
In his debut league race, Tim Hutchinson (55th, 34.40) surprised himself by being alongside the leading group after 200m. He sensibly eased off the gas slightly, settled into a consistent pace and ran a terrific race.
Tim was snapping at Josh’s heels from 5km onwards and at one point on the last lap sneaked past, only for Josh to step up the pace as the finish came into sight.
The metronomic Richard Dobedoe (105th, 36.47) ran splendidly and he is certainly on the right track to regaining his desired levels of speed and stamina.
Graham Taylor (115th, 37.04) continues to demonstrate good form both in road and cross country racing. Graham ran an intelligent race, never looking troubled, and he deserves a lot of credit for his powerful finish.
Wayne Vickers (122nd, 37.21) was the final points scorer for the A team, delighting himself by producing a high-energy and gutsy performance.
Full results (race distance 10km): Rich Shephard (20th, 32.50); Josh Newman (52nd, 34.34); Tim Hutchinson (55th, 34.40); Richard Dobedoe (105th, 36.47); Graham Taylor (115th, 37.04); Wayne Vickers (122nd, 37.21); Malcolm Bowyer (134th, 37.59); David Smyth (159th, 38.54); Kieran Tursner (161st, 38.55); Mike Sheppard (170th, 39.40); Graham Black (180th, 40.00); Alan Coley-Smith (189th, 40.41); Michael Clark (207th, 43.14); James Deacon (213rd, 44.04); Brian Gravelsons (218th, 44.48); David Jones (219th, 45.09); Phil Marshall (224th, 46.36).
Josh Newman producing a stunning sprint finish at Wolverhampton. (s)
Stratford AC women’s cross country team: Left to right – Zoe Chandler, Alison Bagnall, Sarah Wheeler, Rachel Pearce, Emma Vickers, Yvonne Caswell. (s)
Emily Madden Forman in action in the long jump in Birmingham. Picture by Mike Sheppard. (s)
Zoe Chandler finished in a superb 13th position at Wolverhampton. (s)
Jessica Sheppard enjoyed a promising 300m indoor debut. Picture by Mike Sheppard. (s)
Imogen Sheppard winning the 800m in the second city. Picture by Mike Sheppard. (s)