STRATFORD Athletic Club’s juniors finished a marvellous fifth in the second West Midlands Cross Country League fixture of the season at Wolverhampton.
There were six top ten finishes from individual athletes and many big improvements from the first fixture as the club demonstrated it has great strength in depth.
A long uphill starting straight was used for the first time in this race and it provided a stern test and ensured the field in each race was a little more thinly spread than in previous years.
The course was in perfect condition for cross country running – soft enough to take a spike but with no boggy areas to cause the athletes problems.
Current West Midlands Cross Country League table (all age groups combined): 1st – Rugby & Northampton AC 13,443 points; 2nd – Wolverhampton & Bilston AC 12,234; 3rd – Halesowen A&CC 11,930; 4th Royal Sutton Coldfield AC 10,852; 5th Stratford AC 10,640 (19 teams in total).
The next fixture is at Warley Woods on Sunday, December 7.
The U11 boys finished fifth on the day and now sit second in the 2014/15 table.
Louis Kendrick (6th, 5.41) worked his way into the race after a fairly restrained start. Louis has stamina in abundance and this helped him to weave his way through the field during the middle part of the race. Louis sets very high standards for himself and, although he ran really well, he will be setting his sights on a top three finish in the next fixture.
Louis was closely followed by Alex Adams (7th, 5.43). A fast start meant Alex was able to settle into a much more prominent position than he found himself in at Hatton, in the previous race, where he finished 16th.
Alex has superb basic speed and he does his best work when he has room to manoeuvre, as was the case on this course. Alex was full of running at the finish line and his confidence will now be sky-high.
Another fast starter was Matthew Bexson (11th, 5.48) who began the race with a very bold burst of pace. He showed excellent determination and spirit as he held his position throughout the race and did his utmost to battle past rival athletes in the closing stages. Matthew improved on his previous performance in the season’s opener where he finished 14th.
Results: Louis Kendrick (6th, 5.41); Alex Adams (7th, 5.43); Matthew Bexson (11th, 5.48); Jack Hemming (53rd, 6.21); Adam Taylor (63rd, 6.25); Daniel Newman (70th, 6.30); Oscar Trinick (96th, 6.53); Oliver Wild (98th, 6.53); Harry Gravelsons (108th, 7.10).
The U17 men are now sixth in the 2014/15 table after finishing seventh in this race.
It proved to be another successful race for the closely-matched Fergus Allison (7th, 17.09) and Oscar Barbour (12th, 17.25) and on this occasion it was Oscar who pushed on early and Fergus who took his time to build up his speed. When Fergus decided to raise his tempo he remained relaxed and in control, making the course appear almost too easy.
Oscar also ran a fine race and is proving to be a model of consistency in his races this year.
Results: Fergus Allison (7th, 17.09); Oscar Barbour (12th, 17.25); Sam Weaving (40th, 19.14); Jonathon Furey (55th, 22.53).
The U11 girls team finished fourth in the race and remain fourth for 2014/15.
Ellen Taylor (3rd, 5.49) produced an exciting performance in a thrilling race and only narrowly missed out on a race victory. She started well, led at halfway and still held a slim advantage with 400m to go.
Two Wolverhampton & Bilston AC runners just managed to sneak past Ellen in a fast finish, with Ellen finishing a comfortable five seconds clear of the fourth placed athlete.
A fabulous run by Evie Lowe (19th, 6.20) brought a smile to the face of the team manager. Evie is very modest and often underplays her contribution to the team. She has great potential in cross-country as well as on the track and put in a positive performance in this race to earn a well deserved top 20 finish.
On her season’s debut, Faye Gourlay (24th, 6.35) appeared to enjoy the twists and turns on the course and despite pushing hard throughout the race she was still able to put in a good sprint finish.
Maddie Brocklebank (40th, 6.41) improved on her Hatton run by a massive 23 places. Maddie made the most of the space afforded by the wide start line and revelled in the freedom to follow her favoured line in the early stages. She worked hard to hold her position and stayed strong in the final 200m.
Results: Ellen Taylor (3rd, 5.49); Evie Lowe (19th, 6.20); Faye Gourlay (24th, 6.35); Maddie Brocklebank (40th, 6.41); Millie Perkins (49th, 6.52); Emily Curtis (81st, 7.14).
The U15 boys team finished ninth in the race and remain ninth in the 2014/15 table.
Seb Hopper (12th, 11.47) made an eye-catching seasonal debut. He set off at a steady pace for the first 100m but then sensibly kicked on and drove into a more prominent position. One of Seb’s main assets is his strength and it was pleasingly in evidence during the second half of the race.
The club’s coaches were delighted to see Murray Jackson (28th, 12.21) battling hard for every point available and were impressed with his turn of foot near the finish. Murray’s running and racing are improving all the time and he continues to be a valuable member of the team in this competitive age group.
Results: Seb Hopper (12th, 11.47); Murray Jackson (28th, 12.21); Matthew Vickers (75th, 15.15); Patrick Bonsall (76th, 16.07).
The U13 girls team finished second on the day and remain second in the 2014/15 table. They are just two points behind Rugby & Northampton AC.
A smashing run demonstrated Imogen Sheppard’s (3rd, 9.04) fighting spirit, as she held on in a tight finish with just five seconds covering third to ninth. She was accidentally spiked by another athlete early in the race but did not let that affect her concentration or performance.
Olivia Hall (8th, 9.17) once again picked up a very well deserved result and coped well with the undulations. Despite running a fairly solitary race, which can lead to some athletes switching off, Olivia maintained her focus throughout the race.
Georgie Campbell (11th, 9.25) has come on in leaps and bounds recently and her progress continued with possibly her best ever race performance. Georgie placed 36th in the first race of the season and found this race much more to her liking. She is training diligently and now competes with a greater belief in her ability to run and hold on to the the leading pack.
Completing the top 25 quartet was Daisy Musk (24th, 9.46) who also seems to produce her best when she settles in behind early pace-setters. Daisy ran a quietly effective race, doing well to find her rhythm with a large field (of 171) taking part and happily finding an extra gear in a blanket finish.
Results: Imogen Sheppard (3rd, 9.04); Olivia Hall (8th, 9.17); Ellie Bryan (41st, 9.57); Georgie Campbell (11th, 9.25); Daisy Musk (24th, 9.46); Ellen Vahey (72nd, 10.29); Charlotte Gravelsons (84th, 10.40); Isla Jackson (88th, 10.42); Suzie Mishima (98th, 10.49); Ella Vickers (129th, 11.25); Charlotte Johnson (162nd, 12.22); Natasha Arthur (164th, 12.29).
The U13 boys are third after two fixtures after finishing third on the day.
Dylan Williams (17th, 8.48) put in a creditable performance, running really well after the halfway mark and looking full of energy around the final two bends.
Just 30 metres behind Dylan were Owain Jones (21st, 8.54) and Josh Angus (23rd, 8.54). Owain was disappointed with his first league race of 2014/15 but should be much happier with this terrific run. He is always likely to overtake runners in the final 400m and he made sure he was in a good position to do so in the fast downhill back straight.
Josh is a having a great start to the winter of racing. He has always been a conscientious athlete in training and this is now paying dividends in competitive events. Josh can set his sights on a top 20 finish in the next race.
Results: Dylan Williams (17th, 8.48); Owain Jones (21st, 8.54); Josh Angus (23rd, 8.54); Dion Love (36th, 9.12); Archie Musk (42nd, 9.19); Rowan Love (60th, 9.35); Matthew Bexson (74th, 9.57); Matthew Ross (102nd, 10.55); Josh Waters (104th, 11.09).
The U15 girls team finished ninth in the race and are now 13th in the 2014/15 table.
The fast-starting Jessica Sheppard (37th, 13.39) and fast-finishing Edie Hutchinson (44th, 13.52) can be very proud of their efforts in the final race of the day. The course had become churned up in places, most notably on 100m after the start but, with plenty of Welcombe Hills training sessions in the bank, Jess and Edie were able to show their fitness and resolve.
Jess did her best work in the first part of the race and put herself in a strong early position. She is becoming an astute runner and is able to judge her pace increasingly well.
Edie ran a mature race throughout and finished with a superb sprint, just failing to catch the Royal Sutton Coldfield athlete in front of her. Her late turn of foot was not entirely surprising as she frequently exhibits one in her training runs.
Results: Jessica Sheppard (37th, 13.39); Edie Hutchinson (44th, 13.52); Eugenia Bessey (47th, 14.04); Hannah Bexson (74th, 15.47).
Louis Kendrick (302 – 6th), Matthew Bexson (294 – 11th) and Alex Adams (292 – 7th) made up the top three finishers for Stratford’s U11 boys. (s)
Adam Taylor in action in the U11 boys race. (s)