GOLD medallists Georgie Campbell and Alex Adams spearheaded Stratford Athletic Club’s medal haul at Saturday’s Warwickshire Cross Country Championships at Newbold Revel near Rugby, where a pleasant day and relatively flat, dry and fast course welcomed the runners.
Held in conjunction with the Worcestershire Cross Country Championships and with certain races combining different age groups, Stratford AC athletes bagged two individual golds and two silvers, with a further gold and two bronze medals in the team competition.
Campbell came away with two gold medals. She had won her age group for the past three years, but this year she was racing in the U17 women’s category for the first time. Not only that, but it was also a combined race with the U20 age group, held over 5km.
She comfortably maintained her record, though, finishing first overall across both age groups in 19:28. She finished 11 seconds ahead of the first U20 athlete and more than a minute ahead of the second-placed U17 runner.
As well as the individual win, Stratford also claimed team gold thanks to excellent runs from the ever-improving Daisy Musk (sixth, 22:27) and Abbie Wootton (eighth, 23:19). Unfortunately, Imogen Sheppard did not finish due to illness.
Adams was Stratford’s other individual gold medallist. He took an early lead in the U13 boys’ race, the first event of the day, and was never threatened as he won in 10:49 to improve on his silver medal from 2018. It was his third county title within the space of eight months, having won the 800m and 1,500m double on the track last year.
Adam Taylor also made a big improvement on last year, moving up to eighth in 11:48 from 15th last year. Theo Skirvin had a similar improvement to 15th (12:28), followed closely by newcomer Joe Lewis 19th (12:33), Henry Wheeler 21st (12:43) James Day 22nd (12:26) and Ollie Hemming 33rd (13:34).
With four finishers inside the top 20, the U13 boys’ team claimed the bronze medal with 24 points.
Oscar Barbour earned the silver medal in the U20 boys’ race, held over 5.7km. He started comparatively slowly but soon joined a leading group of four runners who stayed close together for the rest of the race. He crossed the line in 19:35 to finish 29 seconds adrift of the winner and a comfortable 17 seconds ahead of the third-placed athlete.
Following some consistent training at university, Seb Hopper finished a respectably eighth in 20:57.
Running in the same race were the U17 men and Owain Jones just missed out on a top-ten finish in 11th (21:33), while Josh Angus was 22nd in 24:49.
In the U13 girls’ race, Maddie Linfoot led the team home over the same 3km course the boys had run, running strongly to finish eighth in 13:05. Olivia Robinson was close behind in tenth (13:19), with probably her best ever race as she benefits from increasing her training, while Maisie-Joy Spriggs finished strongly to place 16th in 14:05.
The rest of the Stratford team packed strongly behind in the shape of Scarlett Richardson (18th, 14:07), Lucy Thomas (19th, 14:11), Martha Hodgson (22nd, 14:34), Martha Peters (27th, 14:47), Ruby Edwards (28th, 14:48), Tilly Campbell (32nd, 15:14) and Kate Pridham (42nd, 17:25).
As with the boys, the team came third with 34 points which looks good for the future as most of the team will still be in this age group next year.
In his first season with Stratford, James Mucklow finished sixth in the U15 boys’ race in 15:30. He and Cameron Black (20th, 16:45) started conservatively and had strong second halves of the race to move through the field.
Cameron Thomas (21st, 17:03) was just behind, having been passed by Black near the end. Josh Dobedoe (23rd, 17:11) is another athlete in his first season and shows much promise. Caleb Spriggs (26th, 17:54), Louis Kendrick (28th, 19:18) and Harry Gravelsons (30th, 21:30) completed the team who came fifth with 47 points, just beaten by BRAT Club and Rugby & Northampton.
The U15 girls had mixed fortunes with Gigi Thomas (21:20) keeping an even pace to claim an excellent tenth. Ellen Taylor (19th, 22:47) injured her knee on the uneven ground at about the halfway mark but battled on to the finish for the sake of the team.
Charlotte Marshall (21st, 23:24) is an accomplished triathlete and has just started racing cross country so should be happy as she was part of the fifth-placed team with 50 points, only one point behind RSC.
Edie Hutchinson was the only U20 woman for Stratford and ran well to finish 13th in 27:54.
In the senior women’s race, Cadie Hibberd underlined her good recent form to finish 18th in 24:34, while Sarah Boundy had a solid run to finish 37th in 27:49.
After injury had prevented her from racing for six months, Sarah Wheeler was happy to be back in a Stratford AC vest. She finished seventh in the masters’ category in 24:33 and just pipped Cadie Hibberd in the finish straight where both overtook Leamington’s British international Sue Harrison.
The fantastic team spirit was evident as Wheeler was followed by the indefatigable Emma Bexson (17th, 25:39) who naturally cycled to and from the race – an easy 56 miles to warm up and down!
Lynne Hinson (24th, 26:21) gradually moved through the field to overtake Emily Adams (26th, 26:28) close to the finish and some consistent training means Yvonne Caswell (33rd, 26:50) is showing signs of a return to her old form.
As always, Rebecca Pridham (57th, 29:15) smiled her way around the course and she was followed by Hannah Osborne (60th, 29:37) and Kate Sergent (88th, 33:20). The team finished in fifth position with 48 points.
However, pride of place in the masters race must go to Sheila Lammas, who was competing in the Worcestershire Championships and whose gutsy run was rewarded with a silver medal in 25:07.
In the senior men’s race, Alex Hill took another step in the right direction to finish 36th in 39:16. Behind him, Martyn Helliker (45th, 42:09) was disappointed with his run, having been ill over the holiday period, while Ryan Bakewell (55th, 44:59) is increasingly coming to terms with cross country racing. Following some late withdrawals, Stratford did not finish a complete team.
Rich Shephard was Stratford’s top finisher in the masters’ race, crossing the line just outside the medals in fourth place in 35:29.
Rob Minton (23rd, 38:11) seems to be running into form, while Matt Burdus-Cook (32nd, 39:00) and Kieran Tursner (51st, 40:31) both continue to improve as the season progresses. With four to score, the masters team finished a creditable seventh.
The ever-dependable Malcolm Bowyer was 55th in 40:39 and James Cusack was 89th in 43:38. Neil Gardiner (107th, 44:52) continues to just get the better of Mike Sheppard (112nd, 45:31).
Graham Black (117th, 46:01) made a welcome return to cross country racing and was followed by David Wolstencroft (150th, 51:00) who just got away from Phil Marshall (153rd, 51:40) and James Deacon (158th, 53:31) in the closing stages. The dogged Neil Musk (166th, 62:02) was the final SAC runner across the line.
Stratford officials John Turner, Karen Harris, John Butler and Fran Turner helped make sure the races ran smoothly.
Report compiled by Tony Jackson and Paul Hawkins.