WITH many of the club’s top runners unavailable for selection, a somewhat depleted Stratford Athletic Club team competed in the third fixture of the Birmingham Cross Country League, but those who turned out took full advantage of the opportunity to register a number of eye-catching performances.
First-time hosts Spa Striders of Leamington are to be commended for their choice of venue on the Burton Dassett Hills and naturally this resulted in a course of unrelenting undulations which was much appreciated by the true cross country runners and spectators.
Despite his traditional slow start, Matt Burdus-Cook (44th, 39:04) quickly made up ground and a strong performance throughout the race was richly rewarded with his highest ever placing.
He was followed by Kieran Tursner (64th, 39:58) and David Parkin (71st, 40:24) who also achieved their highest finishes. Running together for much of the race, they clearly thrived on this camaraderie as they helped each other to maintain an excellent pacing and it was only on the final lap that Tursner managed to break away.
The ‘running together’ concept was equally present among the next three runners as Martyn Helliker (84th 41:23), Tim Hutchinson (87th, 41:30) and Chris Cond (89th, 41:35) swapped places throughout the race and their respective positions were still undecided until the final half mile. Both Helliker and Hutchinson had only just recovered from illness so their performances were particularly noteworthy in the circumstances.
The A team points total of 439 placed the team tenth on the day and overall they dropped to ninth with one race to go.
The hardworking James Cusack (133rd, 44:21) led the B team home and he was followed by four of the club’s newer recruits. Adam Evans (143rd, 45:34) showed significant improvement and future potential following his cross country debut in the previous race.
Making his cross country debut, Damian Wheeler (159th, 47:43) will have learnt a lot from the experience. Ryan Bakewell (165th, 48:29) is improving with every race, evidenced by an improvement of 28 places from the previous race, while Carl Matthews (168th, 48:51) might have started too quickly but will be pleased with his determined effort.
The experienced Mike Sheppard (170th, 49:13) was closing in on Matthews over the final lap but had to settle for being the final scorer for the B team, which scored 938 points for ninth position on the day and dropped a place to seventh overall.
Phil Marshall (189th, 53:19) was really pleased to have got the better of Ben Twyman (190th, 53:34) after a long and close battle and they were followed by James Deacon (197th, 59:14).
The final race of the season will be hosted by Trentham RC on February 9.
IN THE MIDLAND Women’s Cross Country League Division One match held at the same venue, Stratford AC finished 12th overall, with the masters squad placing sixth.
Sheila Lammas was the first Stratford AC athlete home (54th, 31:15) and was closely followed by Emma Bexson (60th, 31:31) and Seanin McPherson (64th, 31:50).
Lynne Hinson (78th, 33:00), Emma Parkin (90th, 33:41) and Yvonne Caswell (94th, 33:52) all finished in the top 100 and contributed to the masters’ team success.
Sarah Boundy was next to finish (104th, 34:58), just ahead of Emily Adams (106th, 35:18), who recovered from a mid-race tumble. Abbie Schofield (115th, 36:08), Rebecca Pridham (126th, 37:27) and Pip Abrams (144th, 44:21) completed the team.
Report compiled by Tony Jackson.