STRATFORD Athletic Club’s junior cross country athletes significantly improved their total points score in the second match of the West Midland Young Athletes’ Cross Country League at Aldersley Stadium in Wolverhampton on Sunday to consolidate third place, writes Brian Gravelsons.
The team scored a record 6,083 points – 485 more than their first match at Northampton – and are now 562 points clear of fourth placed Halesowen A&CC.
The conditions were a lot tougher than the first race due mainly to a more demanding, undulating course, as well as significant rainfall the previous day making the ground heavy going in places, with large levels of leaves adding a slippery element.
This did not deter the U17 women’s team, with Jessica Sheppard (16th, 18.00) leading the way followed by a determined Hannah Bexson (24th, 19.08), both improving on their performance in the first race of the season.
Harriet Flynn (33rd, 21.02) made her season’s debut with a solid performance that gained the team and club an extremely valuable 168 points as they moved up one place to seventh overall.
The U11 boys’ race saw Louis Kendrick (2nd, 5.28) put in another mature performance to keep him in contention for the individual title. Louis is in joint first place overall after two races.
Alex Adams (6th, 5.34) improved his time compared to the first race and Spencer Corder (10th, 5.41) was just nudged out of ninth place in a ferocious finish.
Caleb Spriggs (44th, 6.20) had a good start and learned a lesson about pacing himself in the fast 1.6km race. Not far behind was Alfie Organ (45th, 6.21) who has put down a good marker in his first race this season.
Adam Taylor (55th, 6.29) ran a consistent race, followed by William Groves (72nd, 6.45) and Angus Tombs (99th, 7.13) completing a fantastic team performance. The U11 boys’ team finished second on the day and are now second overall, behind Rugby and Northampton AC.
In the U17 men’s team Oscar Barbour (7th, 17.17) improved on his first race by some distance. Fergus Allison (16th, 18.16) and Seb Hopper (23rd, 18.38) continued their personal battle over the 4.8km, with Fergus maintaining the bragging rights.
A good season debut by Calum Lambourne (31st, 19.04) and solid performances from both Murray Jackson (46th, 20.04) and Jon Furey (61st, 22.36) saw the team home to take sixth on the day, putting them seventh overall, only a few points behind fifth placed Coventry Godiva.
Seven U11 girls turned out for the club in a field of 121 and this made for a fast and ferocious start, with Millie Perkins (15th, 6.29) starting perhaps too quickly up the tough, long hill, but she was still able to maintain her form to finish strongly.
Ellie Deaner (9th, 6.18) ran a mature race to claim a deserved top ten finish. Maisie-Joy Spriggs (23rd, 6.40) did well to recover from being tripped up by a spectator and improve on her previous performance from the first race and Maddie Linfoot (54th, 6.57) should be happy with her first race of the season.
Annabela Williams (55th, 7.00) continues to shine, Sophie Ross (63rd, 7.08) worked hard and Venus Aun (93rd, 7.36) ran a competent debut race to complete a fine team performance of sixth place on the day. The team are now seventh.
The U15 boys ran 3.2km on slightly deteriorating ground conditions, although the rain continued to hold off. Owain Jones (48th, 12.45) led the team home with a fine first run of the season and Dion Love (56th, 12.55) maintained his edge over brother Rowan Love (63rd, 13.13) who was closely followed by a consistent Adam Bayliss (65th, 13.17).
Archie Musk (73rd, 13.35) and Matthew Ross (84th, 14.41) both finished strongly and Adam Pomeroy (80th, 14.14) put down a good marker down in his first run of the season, whilst Matthew Vickers (93rd, 17.21) put in a real tenacious effort as the team finished eighth on the day to remain seventh overall.
The U13 girls’ team was full of improved performances. Georgie Campbell’s (fifth, 9.23) secured her first top five finish and Ellie Bryan (29th, 10.00) and Ellen Taylor (33rd 10.06) both made significant improvements.
Evie Lowe (42nd 10.15) put in a sublime performance and Hope Lawton (48th, 10.25) enjoyed overtaking a number of competitors in the last quarter, while Faye Gourlay (74th, 10.56) ran a solid race and Charlotte Gravelsons (78th 11.04) started her expected improvement.
Isobel Hopper (120th, 13.02) contributed nicely as the team finished an impressive fourth on the day, two places better than the first race, placing them fifth overall, only 61 points off RSCAC in third.
The U13 boys’ team continued their steady start, again finishing fifth overall, and are now around 50 points away from repeating their third placed finish of last season.
Dylan Williams (6th, 8.57) finished in the top ten and Josh Angus (18th, 9.20) the top 20, while Henry Tombs (29th, 9.30) continued his good form. Cameron Collins (38th, 9.49) pipped team-mate Sean Mata (40th, 9.50) as they chased each other around the 2.4km course.
A consistent run from Ned Campbell (49th, 10.11) held off a fast-finishing Jack Hemming (50th, 10.11) and Cameron Black (80th, 10.59) enjoyed his first race of the season, finishing in between Harry Gravelsons (79th, 10.59) and James Bexson (81st, 11.00).
It was a pleasure to see Fin Hutchinson (94th, 11.43) finish incredibly strongly and there are three races left in the season for the U13 boys to close the gap in the top three.
The last race of the day saw the sun make an appearance to dazzle the U15 girls’ team who finished seventh thanks to some good individual performances.
Leading the team home was the consistent Imogen Sheppard (18th, 13.11), followed closely by Abi Wootton (26th, 13.26) who completed a unique 24-hour duathlon, sandwiching a competitive swim in between two cross country races.
Olivia Hall (36th, 13.38) held on strongly to finish ahead of the closely matched Daisy Musk (39th, 13.45), whilst Edie Hutchinson (62nd, 15.00) started strongly and just stayed ahead of Anna Gionis (63rd, 15.00).
Poppy Butler (86th, 16.05) improved on her first race and the U15 girls’ team now stand fifth overall, 80 points behind Cannock & Staffs in third.
The next fixture is at Warley Woods in December when the Stratford team will look to further enhance their lead on the fourth placed team and possibly even claw back some of the deficit to Wolverhampton & Bilston and Rugby & Northampton AC in second and first respectively.