STRATFORD-upon-Avon Athletic Club produced an all-time club best performance to win five team gold medals and be crowned overall champions at the Warwickshire County cross country Championships.
The team medals were supported by three individual golds, four silvers and five bronzes to win the Graham Heeley Trophy for the first time in the club’s history having also won the last six County Track and Field Championships.
Stratford have come close in previous season’s having placed third in 2018 and 2019 and second in 2020 but scored a staggering 973 points at this year’s Championships to finally get their hands on the trophy and beat closest rivals Coventry Godiva Harriers by some 163 points.
Club Chairman Paul Hawkins said: “I am thrilled and excited and this is the culmination of years of building.”
Head Junior Track and Field Coach, Paul Bearman, added: “Paul Hawkins, his coaching team and the athletes have all done a great job.
“I believe this extraordinary success is one of the most significant things the club has achieved in recent years and, coupled with the Track and Field Championship successes, it establishes our club as the premier club in Warwickshire, if not beyond.”
The under-13 boys were up first as Arthur Williamson (second, 9 minutes 21 seconds) took the silver medal followed by Will Hovell (third, 9 mins 27 secs) who won bronze.
And Aran Cooper (fourth, 9 mins 31 secs) confirmed the squad’s status as team champions whilst Joel Ledgard (fifth, 9 mins 35 secs) and Kipp Stevens (12th, 10 mins 41 secs) both produced strong runs.
It was double joy for Stratford’s under-13 squads as Marijke Tear-Verweij (13 mins 15 secs) led the girls home with a gold-medal winning run as she was also crowned County champion.
Lois Ford (fifth, 14 mins 5 secs), Ava Sheppard (sixth, 14 mins 32 secs), Amelia Peeke (seventh, 14 mins 33 secs), Portia Nabney (ninth, 14 mins 41 secs) and Rachel Sparrow (15 mins 40 secs) all ran strongly to win team gold.
And Stratford’s under-15 boys also won team gold as Will Mayes (third, 13:08) won individual bronze to lead the squad home.
The other team medallists were Tom Fisher (fifth, 13:24) and James Day (eighth, 13:51) whilst James Mayes (15th, 14:30), Charlie Clayton (19th,14:56) and Ewan Sparrow (22nd, 17:43) completed the lineup.
Stratford’s under-15 girls secured team silver as Martha Peters (10th, 16.26) led the squad home followed by Bo Algate (14th, 16:41), Tessa Parkin (16th, 17:13), Hannah Wilkinson (18th, 17:49) and Charlotte Skinner (20th, 18:38).
In the under-17 men’s race, Alex Adams (17:36) secured first place with Henry Wheeler (14th, 21:42) producing an assured run despite being unwell.
Stratford’s under-17 ladies team became the club’s fourth team champions and were led home by Niamh Hillard (fourth, 18:49) with Olivia Robinson (fifth, 18:59) and Maisie-Joy Spriggs (sixth, 19:05) in hot pursuit.
And they were ably supported by team members Abbi Cooper (10th, 20.17), Lucy Thomas (13th, 21.13) and Tilly Campbell (16th, 24.06).
The penultimate race of the day was the combined junior, senior and masters women’s race over a 7k distance.
And the leading Stratford runners were both under 20’s athletes as first year junior Charly Marshall (fourth, 25:31) was followed by Georgie Campbell (sixth, 26:00) who finished as first and second juniors respectively.
The Stratford Senior team picked up an unexpected bronze team medal led by team captain Vicky Sharpe (15th, 31:06) followed by Suzie Ross (17th, 31:45) and Emily Carr (22nd, 32:57).
Making up the masters team, who just missed out on medals in fourth, were Emma Bexson (fifth, 29:02), Hannah Osborne (24th, 33:52) Suzi Graham (28th, 35:11) and Ginny Davis (46th, 40:27).
The senior men’s race also included three age groups over a 10km course and Stratford’s under-20’s team dominated their race as Ned Campbell (23rd, third junior, 35:03) led the squad home.
He was followed by Alex Pester (26th, fourth junior, 35:09) and Taylor Stubbins (27th, fifth junior, 35:20) with the latter having led the Stratford contingent for much of the race before illness took its toll.
Despite this, the team still claimed overall team gold whilst Koda Spriggs (80th, seventh junior, 40:05) limped over the line having suffered from a calf strain.
In the masters race, Stratford won team silver whilst Rich Shephard (29th, 35:31) claimed individual bronze.
Team medals were won by Tim Hutchinson (11th master, 39:40), Huw Crosweller (17th, 40:26) and Peter Sugden (24th, 42:14) supported by Max Ross (25th, 42:19), Richard Dobedoe (26th, 42:27) and Nick Campbell (34th, 43:47).