STRATFORD Athletic Club finished third on the day across all age groups to move up to fourth out of 20 clubs in the 2018/19 West Midland Young Athletes Cross Country League.
The second fixture of the campaign took place at the idyllic setting of Warley Woods and the Stratford team performance of the day was undoubtedly the U17 women, with all three scoring finishers in the top ten.
Georgie Campbell, winner of this race at the previous fixture, had a dramatic battle with Ella Semple from Birchfield Harriers for much of the race, frequently trading the lead and almost treading on each other’s toes for the first 3km.
However, it was to be Semple’s race on the day, drawing ahead in the final kilometre, leaving Campbell in second place (2nd, 16:35). Stratford’s Imogen Shepherd (8th, 18:20) and Daisy Musk (10th, 18:28) both had great races, significantly improving on their places from the previous race.
Charlotte Gravelsons (38th, 22:12) and Freya Ramsey (39th, 22:30) both ran well to also improve on their positions from Hatton.
Many of the U11s had raced in the South Warwickshire schools cross country fixture the previous day, making this a tough weekend of racing. A good battle was had between the first two Stratford finishers, with Joe Lewis (15th, 7:06) in his first race for the club just edging out Seb Hillard (16th, 7:07) at the finish.
This was an improvement of six places on the previous race for Hillard, moving him up to 15th in the standings. Completing the scoring positions were James Day (30th, 7:29), Maxime Verstraeten (32nd, 7:31) and Joshua Davies (39th, 7:39) and, with five runners in the top 40, the team finished fourth.
Oliver Hemming (50th, 7:47), Ewan Lindsey (56th, 7:52), Edward Thomas (72nd, 8:00), Alex McMillan (78th, 8:09) and Josh Harrison (113th, 8:57), several of whom were racing for the first time, completed a strong turnout.
Owain Jones (17th, 18:41) had a great run to lead home the U17 men for Stratford. The other two scoring positions were again taken by the Crowfoot brothers who both improved on their positions from the previous race, with Tom (32nd, 19:40) just edging out Will (34th, 19:44) on this occasion.
Josh Angus (43rd, 21:06) also improved, and, while Oliver Adams was clearly struggling, he stuck at it with a gutsy performance (52nd, 23:31).
In the U11 girls’ race, Tessa Parkin (2nd, 7:14) followed the same strategy as her previous outing, moving up through the field from 15th place at the top of the first hill and eventually finishing just two seconds behind Ella Darby, the winner from Rugby & Northampton AC.
Annie Silvers (11th, 7:38) had another great run and Harriet Black (27th, 7:59) continued to improve, up from her 71st place last year. Olivia Hawkyard (50th, 8:23) and Marijke Tear-Verweij (54th, 8:26), running her first race for the club, completed the scoring positions.
Ella Peeke (61st, 8:32), Ruby Edwards (65th, 8:36) and Martha Bullock (95th, 9:04) all worked hard on the challenging course.
The U15 boys had a great turnout of nine, with James Mucklow (13th, 12:17) – running his first race of the season – leading the team home. A number of Stratford athletes were closely bunched in the middle of the field with Joel Watson (40th, 13:16), Christopher Hunt (44th, 13:27), Caleb Spriggs (49th, 13:36) and Cameron Black (50th, 13:37) all having a good tussle.
Black had fought hard to move up the field in the second lap, only to be outsprinted by Spriggs in the final straight. Also running for Stratford were Cameron Thomas (54th, 13:47), Josh Dobedoe (58th, 13:53), Louis Kendrick (68th, 15:01) and Harry Gravelsons (76th, 16:14).
Maddie Linfoot (27th, 11:40) was first finisher for the U13 girls, closely followed by Niamh Hillard (29th, 11:44) demonstrating the form which saw her named Most Improved Cross-Country athlete at the recent club awards and up from 49th in her previous race.
Poppy Fox-Rowe (35th, 11:53), Leah Bowen (49th, 12:12), who had led the race up the opening hill and Abbi Cooper (54th 12:18) completed the scoring places.
Another strong turnout for the club also saw great commitment from Caitlin Boyle (58th, 12:24), Scarlett Richardson (62nd, 12:26), Maisie-Joy Spriggs (73rd, 12:33), Lucy Thomas (85th, 12:51), Tilly Campbell (95th, 13:15), Molly Bullock (100th, 13:22) and the irrepressibly cheerful Katie Pridham (110th, 13:50) and Georgia Pridham (118th, 14:29).
In the U13 boys’ event, Alex Adams (1st, 9:43) led from the start to win again and continues to remain unbeaten over the last three seasons. To the outside observer, the smooth running style makes his races all look too easy, but watch closely and you will see the effort and concentration which delivers such consistent high performance.
Adam Taylor (16th, 10:26) and Oscar Fines-Allin (22nd 10:40) both improved a few places from the previous race and Theo Skirvin (45th, 11:14) and strong-finishing Henry Wheeler (66th, 11:37) completed the scoring positions to give the team fourth place overall. Ed Twyman (95th, 12:47) completed the team.
The U15 girls had the dubious honour of going last and were strengthened by the returning Ellie Deaner (10th, 13:41) who ran a great race, attacking hard in the second lap to move up the field.
Gigi Thomas (43rd, 15:06) worked hard to just get the better of Ellen Taylor (45th, 15:12) and Charlotte Marshall (48th, 15:24) put in a huge effort in her first race of the season.
The next fixture is at Perry Park in Birmingham on December 9. Report by David Parkin.