THREE top ten places – including medals for Alex Adams and Georgie Campbell – achieved at Saturday’s Midland Cross Country Championships in Nottingham provided further evidence Stratford Athletic Club runners continue to collectively punch above their weight.
The event is the next stage on from the County Championships and is the chance for athletes to gauge themselves against the region’s best.
The picturesque Wollaton Park course provided the usual mixture of steep undulations and wet marshy bogs together with a tricky large log-jump thrown in for good measure. This meant times were somewhat slower than the County Championships.
The U17 women started the day’s racing in driving rain and Abi Wootton (42nd, 22.58) negotiated the 5km well, racing with and keeping just ahead of Daisy Musk (41st, 22.55) until the final straight when Daisy, despite suffering with a nose bleed, managed to overtake her team-mate just before the finish line.
Olivia Hall (62nd, 24.36) and Edie Hutchinson (64th, 26.07) tackled the course with equal determination and helped the age group team to finish tenth on the day.
The rain eased for the U15 boys, but strangely the temperature seemed to dip. Cameron Black (82nd, 16.47), Fin Hutchinson (92nd, 17.25), Ned Campbell (94th, 17.42) and Harry Gravelsons (95th, 17.50) resumed their club rivalry and pushed each other all the way around the 4km course in a close fought race.
With four counting for the age group team competition, no points were lost and the U15 boys finished 13th overall.
In the U13 girls’ race over 3km, Ellie Deaner (100th, 15.22) was running fluently until unfortunately injuring herself slightly on the log jump.
However, she kept going and finished the race, although not as high a position as she had perhaps hoped for or recent form would imply.
In the U17 men’s race, Ben Jones (65th, 26.03) and Rhys Mahon (67th, 27.05) both equipped themselves well over the challenging 6km.
The first ever medal for Stratford AC in this competition was claimed by Alex Adams (2nd, 11.17) in what was a truly fantastic performance in the U13 boys’ race over 3km.
Alex started calmly, putting himself around tenth place after the first few hundred metres before gradually making up ground over the long straight to the log-jump and strength-sapping muddy stretch, into third place after the first lap.
Alex then showed his strength by keeping up the high tempo, moving into second and opening up a comfortable gap with an eye on first place. However, the gap proved too much to bridge over the final lap, with Alex maintaining his position to claim the silver medal.
Not too far behind, Adam Taylor (29th, 12.36) was having his own brilliant race. He made a fast start followed by some really strong running, taking one place on the long uphill climb to the finish line, enabling him to claim a terrific top 30 finish.
The U15 girls’ race over 4km echoed the race before from a Stratford AC perspective. Georgie Campbell (3rd, 15.45) avoided the extremely fast start, keeping back just outside the top ten and then using her trademark strength up the first climb to overtake the majority in front of her and move into second place.
A competitive race ensued and Georgie found herself in fourth after the first lap and then increased her tempo to gain third place and managed to maintain this position, despite many challenges, to win a much-deserved bronze medal.
Ellen Taylor (19th, 16.47) was equally as dazzling as her brother, going out strongly early on and maintaining her position, edging past two competitors in the finishing straight to claim a top 20 finish.
The only U20 representation for the club was Oscar Barbour (9th, 29.14) who ran exceptionally fluently over the tough 8km. Oscar started relatively slowly but pushed on strongly through the 8km race to pick up places and ensure a top ten finish, which is a fine performance given the quality of the competitors in this age group.
The penultimate race was for senior women, also over three laps and 8km. The Stratford team was led by Zoe Chandler continuing her comeback season.
Although not quite at her best, Zoe ran consistently throughout the race just behind the lead group to finish 15th (33.14) after battling on the finish straight to hold off a strong challenge from a Bristol athlete.
Emily Adams (135th, 42.16) is in heavy marathon training and her stamina showed in the tough conditions as she battled through. Suzi Graham (175th, 45.24) and Rebecca Pridham (198th, 47.52) both enjoyed good runs and finished strongly to ensure the team finished in a very creditable 22nd place.
Unfortunately, Stratford did not field a full team in the final event, the senior men, despite their recent successes in league competition.
Nevertheless, the five-man team all ran well in the four-lap, 12km race. As is often the case, Tim Hutchinson (109th, 49.38) was the first finisher for the club, although he found the marshy areas tough going.
David Smyth (234th, 55.55) held his form well throughout the race and should be pleased with his run. Stratford stalwart and men’s team manager Malcolm Bowyer (263rd, 57.06) rarely misses a cross country and could be relied on to run well.
Having their own battle were the final two Stratford runners of the day – Dave Wolstencroft (424th, 66.28) and James Deacon (431st, 67.38).
Report compiled by Brian Gravelsons and Paul Hawkins.