September 5th, 2016

Stratford AC youngsters inspired by Mo Farah and company

Updated: 6:03 pm, Jun 08, 2016

WHILST Mo Farah was bringing 10,000 spectators to their feet as he broke David Moorcroft’s 34-year-old British 3,000m record in the final event of an amazing afternoon of athletics at the Diamond League meeting at the Alexander Stadium, 16 young Stratford Athletic Club aces were basking in the knowledge they had also run their hearts out in the UKA Club:Connect inter-club relays earlier in the day.

The relays were contested by seven other Midlands clubs and were the opening events of the meeting as each team featured two girls and two boys.

Apart from the exhilaration and excitement of competing at such a prestigious meeting, the event is a great learning experience for the youngsters, particularly as the teams went through the same procedure as the international athletes who surrounded them in the warm-up and call-up areas in the stadium’s high performance centre.

The under 13s were the first team out in Birmingham and, with the stadium already half full, Millie Leighton led the Stratford team off and passed to George Fox-Rowe on the long leg on the back straight.

He passed to Tanya Mukumbira and then Adam Farrow completed the last leg, doing his best to stay with the other teams as he finishing fifth behind a quick Birchfield Harriers team.

The first three Stratford under 15s – Beth Cate, Zephan Boxall and Imogen Sheppard – ran brilliantly, nearly running themselves to a standstill before Alex Evans on the last leg really was almost brought to a standstill when he found another athlete in his lane as he took the baton.

The Stratford team were still in contention for the lead at this stage and Alex had to check himself and swerve around the athlete to complete the race third, only 0.2 seconds off second place.

Before the under 17 race the Stratford team were quietly confident of doing well after three weeks of relay training, but they came up against two very speedy teams from Birchfield and the eventual surprise winners Halesowen.

Dani Horton ran a strong first leg and Jack Sumners flew down the back straight to move ahead before the two other leading teams played trump cards by having the two fastest girls in the Midlands on their third legs.

Jess Sheppard ran a typically gutsy leg to stay in contention before Ollie Cresswell took the baton to finish the race third, just half a second off second place.

The under 20 team had under 17 athletes Emily Madden Forman and Dan Boyd on the first two legs and both produced fantastic runs.

Emily was straight into her long stride at the gun and Dan powered down the back straight before passing to Issy Cain-Daley on the third leg and she held off fierce competition from the other teams before passing to Rory Dwyer.

By the time of the last changeover Rory could already see the back of the last Birchfield runner but he ran a blistering leg to take the team home in second place.

Afterwards the Stratford athletes were unsurprisingly buzzing from the excitement of the competition.

Joint team manager Mike Sheppard said: “What a privilege to bring our athletes to a high-pressure event like the Diamond League and see them perform so brilliantly with slick baton changes and great teamwork.

“Considering that sprinting isn’t the main focus for most of our athletes, they really did themselves proud against some of the quickest teams of specialist sprinters around.”

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