THE FIRST day of winter yielded the second round of the cross country season in Stratford where the Welcombe Hills provided a ‘proper’ course which warmed the hearts of the traditionalists.
Even the rain ceased in time for a wintry sun and gentle breeze to provide excellent running conditions for the three laps of the undulating course, with the women’s race over two laps.
Midland Women’s Cross Country League
THE FIRST race was in the Midland Women’s Cross Country League, with the host club racing in the first division. Cadie Hibberd returned from university, where training has obviously been going well, to lead the team home with a very strong run from the start, coming 42nd (30.29).
Cadie returned to Cardiff after the race so she could race for her university team the next day in the Gwent League, so she is obviously enjoying her cross countries.
Sheila Lammas was next for the Stratford team, enjoying the hilly course much more than earlier fixtures, and came in 58th place (31.23) which was a ten-place improvement on the first fixture.
Fern Hordern (78th, 33.05) returned to the team for the first time this season and showed the benefit of her recent training. Completing the first four in the team and also showing a big improvement was Emily Adams (84th, 33.32).
Lynne Hinson (86th, 33.41) was very close behind and in her first season of cross country continues to impress.
Annie Cox (93rd, 34.08) made her senior cross country debut on the back of a strong road racing season and will be pleased with finishing 20th junior. The other junior making her senior debut was Edie Hutchinson (142nd, 37.52) who looked comfortable throughout the race and was 23rd junior.
Emma Parkin (97th, 34.15) returned to the team and kept a steady pace throughout, while Sarah Boundy (107th, 34.48) was always close despite be inexperienced on this traditional course.
Abbie Schofield (114th, 35.32) ran well in her first race, while Yvonne Caswell (118th, 36.01) must have overtaken more runners than anyone else as she missed the start after being delayed at work and was 50m behind everyone else at the start.
Hannah Osborne (122nd, 36.19), Rebecca Pridham (135th, 37.09), Suzi Graham (141st, 37.39) and Pip Abrams (a big improvement to 162nd, 42.59) all made good contributions against other athletes to complete the team.
Unfortunately, the tough course took its toll on two Stratford athletes, with Maria Haslam having to pull out with a twisted knee and Nicola Reynolds withdrawing due to illness.
The overall team position was 12th in Division One and fifth in the masters competition – both significant improvements on the first fixture.
Birmingham Cross Country League race two
JOSH Newman (5th, 37mins 52secs) was quickly into his stride at the forefront of the race and his committed approach was perfectly summed up in his lung-bursting sprint along the long home straight to gain a place close to the line.
Rich Shepherd (9th, 38:30) was never able to close the gap to Josh and by his very high standards will have been slightly disappointed with his run. However, for the club to have two runners in the top ten for the second race running provides a terrific platform for the rest of the team.
At the top of the first hill it was evident Matt Burdus-Cook (56th, 41:36) had opted for a conservative start but this meant he was passing runners throughout the race and the tactics were rewarded with a huge improvement compared to the first race.
Rob Minton (57th, 41:43) was overtaken by Matt close to the finish but it was good to see Rob racing again and he will be encouraged by this gutsy run.
It is very rare Tim Hutchinson (67th, 42:29) has an off day but the club forgives him for – in his own words – a slightly below-par effort. On the other hand, Martyn Helliker (77th, 43:04) continued his meteoric rise with another huge improvement and his first scoring position in the A team.
The A team score of 271 points was a slight improvement on the first race and placed Stratford eighth on the day and maintained their position of seventh overall.
It was good to see Kieran Tursner (84th, 43:15) being rewarded with an excellent run following a decent block of injury-free training and he led the B team home ahead of the reliable Chris Cond (110th, 44:55) and David Parkin (113th, 44:58), who was possibly hampered by his choice of footwear.
Next home were a couple of club stalwarts, Wayne Vickers (133rd, 46:26) and David Smyth (142nd, 47:12), who just got the better of Andy Cox (143rd, 47:14).
The B team scored 725 points to finish fifth on the day and move up to sixth overall.
Neil Gardiner (153rd, 48:40) was another runner showing major improvement from race one and cross country debutants Adam Evans (170th, 49:57) and Carl Matthews (179th, 50:55) will both be a lot wiser after the experience.
James Coy (185th, 51:34) never looked comfortable in the conditions, whilst Ryan Bakewell (193rd, 52:48) clearly benefited from lessons learnt from the first race.
Mike Sheppard (197th, 53:18) and Ben Twyman (206th, 54:59) were their usual consistent and solid selves and new member Simon Curran (217th, 60:22) will not quickly forget this experience, but stuck to the task all the way to the line.
Reports compiled by Paul Hawkins (women’s team) and Tony Jackson (men).