STRATFORD Athletic Club arrived at the final Midland Track & Field League fixture of the season knowing they would be relegated from Division Three regardless of their performance on the day.
However, the commitment, enthusiasm and determination of the athletes who represented the club remained as strong as ever and they can hold their heads high.
Each member of the team who competed at this event and the preceding three fixtures gave their all for Stratford AC and can be proud of their efforts. With some excellent juniors coming through the ranks and with a little more luck regarding injuries, availability and event clashes, next year should see the club in the mix for promotion back to this division.
Conditions at Kettering alternated between warm and sunny and cool and very wet, with some events taking place during heavy rain.
One of Stratford’s busiest and most valuable athletes on the day, as on so many occasions, was Sarah Bland. Sarah showed her versatility and quality in a wide range of events, running grittily in the 1500m (3rd B, 5.53.6), displaying her mastery in the Pole Vault (4th A, 1.70m) and making marvellous appearances in three throws – Discus (5th B, 14.63m), Hammer (5th A, 20.42m), Javelin (4th B, 16.85m).
Sarah was barely able to rest or recover between events and worked really hard for the stack of points she gained for the team.
Another five-eventer was Martyn Helliker, who has had another superb season. Martyn has competed in many events that are seen as the more technical in track and field and done so with considerable aplomb.
His afternoon consisted of a large amount of leaping over barriers, hurdles and bars. First up was the 400m Hurdles (5th A, 67.5) where he ran a personal best by 1.3 seconds. He followed up this fine effort with a 0.1 second PB in the 110m Hurdles (2nd B, 20.9) and a solid 3000m Steeplechase debut (2nd, 12.21.3).
Martyn is still new to the High Jump (5th B, 1.40m) and he will have learnt a lot from this experience. His performance in the Triple Jump (6th B, 10.44m) was very strong in the context of his exhausting schedule.
Amanda Evans started her day well in the Long Jump (3rd, 4.82m), jumping well in a competition which featured some high quality performances. She was just 5cm below her PB in the High Jump (2nd A, 1.55m) and added a smashing victory in the Triple Jump (1st, 10.66m) to her large points tally.
Amanda also made particularly positive contributions in the Shot Put (4th A, 8.28m) and Discus (5th, 17.31m).
Best known for her exploits in the sprints and horizontal jumps, Eleanor Johnston expanded her portfolio with an eye-catching appearance in the 100m Hurdles (2nd, 19.5), which was cheered wildly by her team-mates.
Eleanor showed confidence and finesse in the Shot (4th B, 7.29m), remarkable focus in the Long Jump (3rd B, 4.41m) and fluency in the Triple Jump (1st B, 9.59m). In the 100m (4th A, 13.2) she was unlucky to finish just 0.2 seconds behind the winner in a thrilling race.
The team were delighted to see Oliver Parker making his Senior League debut and were even happier after witnessing his set of uplifting performances. Oliver ran well in the 100m (6th B, 12.8) and 200m (6th, 25.5) and looked completely at home in the Shot (6th A, 7.72m) and Discus (4th A, 26.73m).
Alex Grant’s first High Jump competition of the season (4th A, 1.70m) was full of promise and he was only 10cm off the winning height. He enjoyed success in the Long Jump (1st A, 6.42m) by a comfortable margin and came up against two very swift rivals in the 100m (3rd A 11.5). He completed his afternoon with a smooth run in the 4x400m Relay, a race in which he was not initially very keen to take part.
Polly Lapage Norris deserves a lot of credit for lining up for her first ever 100m Hurdles (3rd A, 18.2) to help the team. She surprised herself with a stylish and swift run and might be called up again for this event in the future.
In the 400m Hurdles (3rd A, 72.4), Polly coped well with the windy conditions. Her performance in the Hammer (4th, 17.84m) demonstrated her potential as a thrower perfectly.
Georgie Evans was rightly ecstatic with her victory in the High Jump B competition (1st B, 1.45m), a PB by 2.27m in the Javelin (3rd A, 24.01m) and a tenacious run in the 200m (6th B, 28.8).
This season the Stratford AC has been grateful to Peter Coote for the points he has gained in the throwing events. A hat-trick of 5th places – Shot (5th B, 6.98m), Discus (5th B, 17.69) and Javelin (5th A, 25.20) – made team management very happy indeed.
Amelia Coulson was involved in a very close battle in a fast 100m B race (4th, 13.6) and ran really well in the 200m (4th A, 26.9).
A period of light training appears to have done Nye Davis no harm at all. After running a 400m in the middle of a rainstorm (6th A, 56.8), he ran a consistently-paced 800m (5th A, 2.03.7) and a speedy opening leg of the 4x400m Relay.
The Women’s 400m and 800m featured the versatile and talented Abigail Flynn and Alice Reed, with both women in excellent form and able to produce exciting performances.
Abi was full of running at the finish of her 800m race (1st, 2.27.9) and she worked really hard in difficult conditions to gain a well deserved high position in the 400m (2nd, 66.1), while Alice ran her trademark even pace and was strong in the closing stages of both races, recording a positive time in each race – 400m (3rd A, 68.3), 800m (2nd, 2.25.7).
Katie Eayrs put in two of the most satisfying runs of the day in the 3000m (2nd A, 11.48.3) and 400m Hurdles (1st B, 76.6).
In the 3000m, Katie was being tracked for the whole race by a Cannock & Stafford athlete and in the final 400m it appeared it was just a matter of time until she was passed. However, Katie kept battling to shrug off her rival and she maintained her pace all the way to the finish line and held on by 1 second.
A super sprint in the home straight of the 400 Hurdles earned Katie a glorious victory and demonstrated her ability to find an extra gear at the business end of races.
A nagging Achilles heel injury was not enough to stop Kieran Tursner pitching in to assist his club with two dogged offerings on the track. Kieran is equally adept in the 400m Hurdles (4th B, 74.6) as in the 3000m Steeplechase (4th A, 12.06.0) although he enjoys the latter more, if only due to its longer duration and greater number of obstacles.
The Men’s Hammer brought together two of Stratford AC’s most reliable and respected throwers, Graham Black and Paul Hawkins.
Graham (4th, 23.45m), by his own admission, did not have the greatest competition of his life and he cannot wait for next season to show the world how well he can compete. However, he remains a formidable talent.
Paul (5th B, 13.60m) managed the second best throw of his life but still felt there were a few technical elements of his technique he can work on. In the Javelin (4th B, 15.73m), he put in a workmanlike performance.
Due to a pesky hamstring complaint, Bryn Stretton was restricted to just one completed event. He achieved a season’s best distance in the Long Jump (1st B, 5.99m). Bryn has been a great asset this year and he has been a hard-working member of the team once more.
The Men’s 1500m has been a fascinating race throughout the season, with Fergus Allison and Oscar Barbour looking accomplished and confident.
Fergus (6thA, 4.30.6) found himself boxed in right from the gun, however he worked his way back into the race with his usual well judged pace. He will not have run in many faster races but he was able to stick with the leading pack in good style.
Oscar (5th B, 4.37.0), like Fergus, is a model of consistency, and he never looks troubled at any stage of a 1500m.
A welcome return to the team from Lucy McDermott resulted in her running impressively in the 1500m (4th A, 5.37.0). Lucy moved into a strong early position and dug deep to hold her form in the final two laps.
Danny Tolhurst ran a bold first lap in the 800m B race but faded badly. Frustratingly, a calf problem meant he missed out on competing in the 3000m.
The relay races were as hard fought and tense as ever. Stratford AC’s quartets worked well together and the smooth changeovers were very easy on the eye – Men’s 4x100m (5th, 49.1), Women’s 4x100m (2nd, 53.2), 4x400m (6th, 3.50.7), 4x400m (4th, 4.47.1).
A DAY of pleasant weather and good camaraderie ensured a group of Stratford AC athletes had a wonderful and successful time at a recent Leicester Combined Events meeting.
Results: Jamie Spiers – 75m 11.19, 600m 2.00.86, Long Jump 4.03m; Evie Lowe – 75m 11.9 (PB), 600m 2.00.81 (PB), Long Jump 3.32m (PB); James Gionis – 800m 2.37.5, 80m Hurdles 14.23 (PB), High Jump 1.68m (PB), Long Jump 4.86m, Shot 7.34m (PB); Rowan Love – 800m 2.41.05 (PB), 75m Hurdles 13.73 (PB), High Jump 1.44m, Long Jump 4.04m (PB), Shot 5.60m (PB); Dion Love – 800m 2.47.53, 75m Hurdles 13.07 (PB), High Jump 1.32m, Long Jump 4.14m, Shot 5.35m (PB); Jessica Sheppard – 800m 2.28.18, 75m Hurdles 13.94 (PB), High Jump 1.29m (PB), Long Jump (4.42m (PB), Shot 6.51m (PB); Charlotte Rigby – 800m 2.57.74, 75m Hurdles 13.55, High Jump 1.32m (PB), Long Jump 4.39m (PB), Shot 6.53m; Tazmin Chape – 800m 2.58.18, 75m Hurdles 13.55 (PB), High Jump 1.35m (PB), Long Jump 4.18m (PB), Shot 8.25m (PB); Imogen Sheppard – 800m 2.34.89, 70m Hurdles 13.58, High Jump 1.30m (PB), Long Jump 3.76m, Shot 6.55m (PB); Anna Gionis – 800m 3.00.36 (PB), 70m Hurdles 14.41 (PB), High Jump 1.24m (PB), Long Jump (3.65m (PB), Shot 5.64m (PB).
The Stratford AC line-up at the Leicester Combined Events meeting, left to right – Taz Chape, Charlotte Rigby, Jess Sheppard, Rowan Love, Dion Love, Imogen Sheppard, Anna Gionis, James Gionis. (s)
The men’s 4x400m relay team at Kettering – Oscar Barbour, Fergus Allison, Nye Davis, Alex Grant. (s)