STRATFORD Athletic Club travelled to the penultimate Midland Track and Field League fixture knowing every point would be vital in their quest to maintain Division Three status for another season.
The team that competed in Solihull performed with drive, desire and determination and each athlete can feel very proud of their contributions. Team manager Paul Hawkins worked his usual magic with the tasks of matching events to people and responding to last-minute changes as well as competing in two events himself.
Despite Stratford AC having a greater number of athletes competing than at the previous two fixtures, there were still some who were scampering from one event to another for most of the day.
Emma Bexson competed in six events and performed well in each. Emma is a big fan of the 100m Hurdles (3rd B, 24.6) and 400m Hurdles (4th B, 83.4) and she ran two good races. She gained valuable points in the 800m(4th B, 2.45.0), running a controlled race and finishing with an impressive dip.
Emma showed her competence in the field with flawless performances in the Javelin (3rd B, 11.65m), Hammer (6th A, 11.57m) and Discus, achieving a PB in the latter.
Martyn Helliker also kept himself busy with six events and showed his huge worth to the team, working tirelessly to gain as many points as possible.
He showed that lack of experience is no barrier to success with confident debuts in the 400m Hurdles (5th A, 66.4) and 2000m Steeplechase (2nd B, 8.07.6). In the Hurdles, Martyn dug deep at the halfway point and stayed strong along the home straight. He thoroughly enjoyed the Steeplechase and showed a good turn of foot on the last lap.
Martyn exhibited a marvellous technique in the 110m Hurdles (5th A, 21.0), gained a PB in the High Jump (6th A, 1.50m), jumped well in the Triple Jump (3rd A, 11.07m), and was cock-a-hoop with his performance in the Discus (6th, 20.10m).
Jack McMullen had a fabulous day on the track, showing he has both speed and stamina in abundance.
He did everything right in the 800m, in which he ran his fastest ever outdoor time (2nd A, 1.59.1). Jack set off purposefully and he was soon five metres clear. He maintained a consistent pace and went through the bell with the clock showing 57.5. Jack was was passed by the winner early on the last lap but kept focused and pushed all the way to the finish line where he was delighted to find out he had run sub-2 minutes.
Jack followed up with a swift 400m (5th A, 53.3) and a creditable 100m (6th B, 12.6) before finishing with a pair of high quality contributions to the 4x100m and 4x400m Relays.
One of Kieran Tursner’s most valuable qualities is his willingness to throw himself into some of the events other athletes shy away from. In the 400m Hurdles (5th B, 73.0) he ran a composed and intelligent race, gained one place with a smashing sprint finish.
Kieran then took on the challenge of the 2000m Steeplechase (4th A, 7.55.0) and made the race, including negotiating the water jump, look easy, clearly enjoy himself in the process.
His final event was the highly technical 100m Hurdles (4th B, 21.6) where he showed remarkable concentration to avoid being distracted by a faller in the adjacent lane and run well.
There was a welcome return to the team for Katie Eayrs who showed her ability on the track and in the field. She ran an assertive race in the 400m Hurdles (4th A, 76.8), pacing herself well and never looking anything other than comfortable at each hurdle. Katie added another string to her bow, making her debut in the Hammer (6th B, 5.67m) and pleasing her team-mates with a formidable display.
Paul Hawkins is establishing himself as one of the club’s key throwers and he is having a splendid season so far. A PB in the Discus (6th, 14.01m) and a confident performance in the Hammer (6th, 13.46m) were just what was required.
Paul was accompanied in the Hammer by the indomitable Graham Black, who played it safe with his first throw before entertaining the crowd with his following two efforts (3rd A, 27.86). Graham also looked at home in a competitive Shot competition (6th B, 6.33m).
The hard-working and versatile Sarah Wheeler ran a 4.6-second PB in the 800m (4th A, 2.24.6). She quickly found her rhythm and was always running easily. Sarah showed her trademark combative spirit to overtake a Bromsgrove & Redditch athlete with 80 metres remaining.
She somehow had the energy to run an excellent 400m (2nd B, 67.5) and a super first leg of the 4x400m Relay.
Georgie Evans started her day with a pleasing performance in the Long Jump (3rd, 4.16m), showing good speed on the runway and jumping well. It looked like there was at least another 20cm to be added if there had been time for a third jump before she had to compete in the Javelin (3rd A, 21.57).
Georgie moved on to two further field events where she showed she is in good form in the High Jump (4th A, 1.50m) and Triple Jump (4th B, 8.59m).
It was a day of variety for Eleanor Johnston who looked strong in the 200m (6th A, 29.1) before performing solidly in the Long Jump (6th, 4.32m) and Shot (6th A, 6.77m).
Yet another PB from Fergus Allison in the 1,500m (5th A, 4.24.6) was a joy to behold. Fergus went straight to the head of affairs from the gun and ran a consistent pace for nearly the whole race. The only change of gear was when, cheered on by his team-mates, he dug deep and produced a devastating kick with 75m remaining. He finished 1.3 seconds inside his previous best which was set just three weeks ago.
Not far behind Fergus was Oscar Barbour (2nd, B, 4.32.9), who also achieved a PB (by 0.6 seconds). Oscar latched on to the fast early pace and settled well. He fought hard on the last lap and reaped the reward with a fantastic time.
A rare league appearance from Eloise Du Luart in the 3,000m (1st A, 10.38.0) was a boost to team morale and she did not let anyone down with a classy run. She led from start to finish, her pace unwavering throughout the tough seven-and-a-half lap race after a very fast start.
A Stratford AC victory in the Javelin has been a while coming and the performance of Jackson Goodrum (1st A, 42.45m) was very well received by team management. Jackson dominated the competition and his win was well deserved. However, his ability was not confined to the field as he also ran a determined 400m (4th B, 55.1).
Emma Slevin (2nd A, 4.52.6) and Alice Reed (1st A, 5.00.8) enjoyed a competitive and tactical 1,500m race. Both athletes ran cleverly, running fast last laps and leaving rivals in their wake in the final 100m.
Paula Williams surprised many people, not least herself, with 2nd place in the 100m Hurdles (2nd A, 20.1) and a terrific set of efforts in the Triple Jump (4th A, 9.45m).
A track and field fixture would not feel quite the same without a dazzling double-header from sprint specialist Amelia Coulson in the 100m (4th A, 13.5) and 200m (3rd B, 28.1). She ran her socks off once again and battled her way to a couple of very useful results.
A PB from Cadie Hibberd in the 3,000m (2nd B, 12.58.9) was fabulous to see as was the smile on her face after she crossed the finish line. Competing in the hottest part of the day made distance running a difficult task but Cadie managed to run a brilliant race and pace herself wonderfully well.
Peter Coote’s disciplined training regime paid dividends as he gained a pair of likeable results in the Shot (6th, 7.08m) and Javelin (5th B, 29.59m).
Josh Newman (4th, 17.28.4) ran an even-paced race in the 5,000m and did everything right. With nobody in close proximity to race against, Josh had to knuckle down and stay focused. He finished very strongly, as he does so frequently.
Also in the 5,000m was the vastly experienced Malcolm Bowyer (4th B, 19.10.9). Malcolm had hoped to run 90 seconds per lap which he very nearly managed to do. He ran a superb race and coped well with having a Telford AC athlete on his shoulder for most of the 12.5 laps.
Malcolm also gave a masterclass in the 800m (6th B, 2.37,8), running the first lap in 74 seconds then using all his powers of endurance in the closing stages.
Libby Thornton made her first appearance in the Discus (6th A, 13.59m) for four years but she clearly retains her enthusiasm and ability. A Senior League debut in a tense Shot competition (5th B, 6.15m) did not get the credit it undoubtedly deserved.
Just a tenth of a second separated Bryn Stretton from victory in the 100m (2nd A, 11.5) in which he ran an excellent race. In the 200m (2nd, A 22.3) Bryn ran his usual top quality bend and pushed the winner all the way to the line.
The multi-talented Rory Dwyer ran a PB in the 200m (1st B, 22.7), streaking clear and winning with 20 metres to spare. Rory was also happy with his series in the Long Jump (2nd A, 6.47m).
Issy Burn competed in her first fixture for two years and the team were ecstatic to have her back. Issy was unlucky to run in two very fast races as her performances deserved greater rewards than they received. She ran a splendid 400m (4th A, 70.1) and later showed good form in the 100m (6th B, 15.3).
Relay results: Men’s 4x100m (5th, 47.4); Women’s 4x100m (4th, 53.2); Men’s 4x400m (6th, 3.51.1); Women’s 4x400m (3rd, 4.24.4).
The final fixture of the season is at Kettering on Saturday, August 2.
THE WARWICKSHIRE Road Race League bandwagon rolled into Ryton Pools Country Park for the Ryton Pool 5. The tricky, twisty, multiple-lap course on ‘unsealed ground’ was not ideal for anyone hoping for a PB time but there were strong performances from all ten Stratford AC runners.
This was a debut at 5 miles for Josh Newman (10th, 29.20) and he showed an instant affinity with the distance, running an first class race. He started well and coped well with the tight turns and deceptively testing undulations.
Just eight seconds covered the next three of the Stratford contingent. It is positive for the club and for the individuals involved to have some friendly competition between athletes and hopefully this will ensure fast times and high quality performances continue to be achieved.
Kate Wright (24th, 30.49) set off fast and secured a good position in the pack. She secured the latest in a long list of 1st Lady placings with a battling second half of the race, just holding off the fast-finishing Graham Taylor (26th, 30.51).
Graham boldly promised to run a sub-31 minute race and he delivered in style. He ran a sensible first lap and, once the race had settled down, he gradually and sneaked his way up through the pack in eye-catching fashion. Just when the Stratford AC supporters were thinking he might be feeling the pace with one mile remaining, he produced a last lap kick that was a joy to behold.
Sarah Wheeler (29th, 30.57) continued her fabulous string of results by finishing 2nd Lady. As shown by her mile splits – 6.01, 6.15, 6.10, 6.12, 6.06 – she imposed herself early on and was very consistent while the race began to take shape. Sarah worked incredibly hard in the final mile and was rewarded with a PB time by 1 minute, 42 seconds.
Since being able to dedicate more time to training, Mark Newman (94th, 35.01) has begun to readjust his racing targets to the level they were twelve months ago. Mark ran a steady opening two miles and increased his speed for the rest of the race. The remainder of 2014 should see Mark climbing the rankings to the level where he belongs.
Endurance racing fan Sarah Odell (153rd, 38.14) enjoyed her dabble with a shorter distance and utilised her resilient character on the final lap by picking up several places.
Fleet-footed Phil Marshall (164th, 39.18) hurtled along the starting straight, knowing a lofty position was key on this course where opportunities to overtake were rare. He looked comfortable at all times during the race and reported he would happily have gone around the course at least twice more.
Fine runs from the mercurial Mike Barrie (174th, 39.51) and the spry Larry Coltman (189th, 40.41) completed the line-up.
Rory Dwyer cruised to victory in the 200m. (s)