STRATFORD Athletic Club runners enjoyed a fantastic day at the Warwickshire County Cross Country Championships at Warley Woods in Smethwick.
The juniors led the way as they secured deserved honours on Sunday, while the seniors contributed to the success with a team bronze.
The venue was the spectacular spectator-friendly amphitheatre in Warley Woods, with conditions cold and damp with light rain at times, adding to the proper cross country atmosphere.
The first race of the day saw 35 U13 boys from Warwickshire start the 3km course, only a few minutes ahead of the U13 girls’ race. This meant spectators were treated to two races taking place at the same time and were able to easily keep track of both given the natural wide bowl the course wound its way around.
Alex Adams (2nd, 10.02) did well to gain silver as he battled against a knee injury, while Spencer Corder (12th, 11.05) started his cross country season for the club with a great performance.
Adam Taylor (15th, 11.25) finished strongly, ahead of Christopher Hunt (21st, 11.44) and Theo Skirvin (22nd, 11.55) who both continue to impress as the season progresses.
Ellie Deaner (7th, 12.00) led the girls’ team home in strong style, closely followed by good performances from Tulah Searle (13th, 12.24) and Maddie Linfoot (18th, 12.39), with Scarlett Richardson (23rd, 12.56), Olivia Robinson (25th, 13.13) and Olivia Clayton (30th, 14.15) all clearly enjoying their running.
The first three home in each age group count for the overall team performance, with the U13 boys finishing fourth and the U13 girls taking bronze.
In similar fashion, the U15 boys and girls raced together over 4km, with the boys only given a few minutes’ head-start.
Will Crowfoot (13th, 15.54) led the team home, putting some distance between himself and his brother Tom (17th, 16.06) towards the end of the race.
Harry Gravelsons (23rd, 17.32) looked strong and comfortable as he managed to catch Josh Angus (24th, 17.47) in the long finishing straight ahead of Fin Hutchinson (26th, 18.51).
Both Fin and Josh were suffering a little from injury and this was perhaps one of the reasons why Georgie Campbell (1st, 14.46) managed to catch both of them, despite the head-start, as Georgie completed her third successive winning performance in the County Cross Country Championships.
Georgie took control from the start and produced a truly majestic run, enjoying having other runners to catch for a change, winning by a clear 43 seconds ahead of her nearest rival.
Ellen Taylor (6th, 16.18) and Kate Dufty (9th, 16.45) both showed their stronger running ability with stunning top ten finishes. Ellie Bryan (18th, 18.06) put down a good benchmark to improve upon in the league and National races to come.
The boys’ team finished fifth and the girls’ team picked up silver, narrowly missing out on first by one point to Coventry Godiva Harriers.
The U17s and U20s race together, which means that, with both Warwickshire and Worcestershire County Championships, there are effectively four races within one race in both the men’s, over 6km, and women’s, over 5km, races.
Daisy Musk (6th, 21.09) and Edie Hutchinson (13th, 23.24) represented the club in the U17 women’s competition, whilst Olivia Hall (11th, 22.53) was involved in the Worcestershire U17 women’s race and Hannah Bexson (7th, 26.02) competed in the U20 women’s event. All four raced well, showing determination and strong running in equal measure.
In the U17 men’s race, Owain Jones (4th, 21.16) looked strong throughout with Ben Jones (21st, 24.15) running well, pushing himself in the early stages.
In the U20 men’s race Fergus Allison (3rd, 20.34) produced a fine performance to gain bronze, moving through the field fluently, while Seb Hopper (17th, 23.11) paced himself well to pick up a deserved top 20 finish.
Following the junior athletes’ lead, the senior athletes took to the stage and, with the seniors and masters both competing in the same race, the four races in one race format continued.
This did make it slightly confusing as to how the runners were faring out on the course and it was only when the results were available that a true appreciation of their efforts could be made. Never was this more so than in the ladies’ masters race.
It was great to see Sarah Wheeler (5th, 25.09) back competing for the club and, whilst her commitment and effort were plain to see throughout, it was only at the finish that her fantastic finishing position became apparent.
She was followed by the consistent Emma Bexson (14th, 26.38) and the team was completed by Alison Bagnall (19th, 26.55) who had an excellent run. The team score of 38 meant a well deserved team bronze as they missed out on the silver by just one point.
Next back was Emily Adams (26th, 27.44) who was followed by Emma Robinson on her debut for the club (31st, 28.27), Suzi Graham (43rd, 30.15) and Karen Cookes (44th, 30.19).
Despite needing some strong vocal encouragement to get up the hill, Rebecca Pridham (54th, 32.39) ran well and she was followed by Kate Sergent (61st, 34.19) and Jan McClure (65th, 34.59). Using the race as part of her London Marathon training was Nicola Reynolds (67th, 36.25) followed by a gutsy performance from Gemma Smith (74th, 40.52).
In the ladies’ seniors race Cadie Hibberd (20th, 28.45) looked to have recovered from her marathon PB in December and this was reflected in an excellent improvement. She was followed by Sarah Vernon (36th, 34.09).
In a very competitive men’s seniors race, Josh Newman (14th, 33.38) continued to impress and with every race they do Ollie Senior (30th, 36.54) and Drew Sambridge (38th, 37.59) increasingly show what an asset to the club they are.
Lack of training meant the second half of the race was a challenge for Martyn Helliker (55th, 43.24) but his finishing position was a reward for his determination. A team score of 137 meant finishing just outside the medals in fourth.
In the men’s masters race Tim Hutchinson (13th, 36.11) ran well and next, particularly enjoying the uphill sections of the course, was Kieran Tursner (32nd, 38.30), followed by Mike Sheppard (93rd, 44.22), Ben Twyman (100th, 45.19) and David Wolstencroft (111th, 47.01).
The Graham Healey Trophy is awarded to the best club overall across all age categories based on individuals’ finishing positions and this trophy went to Coventry Godiva Harriers.
However, it is of huge credit to all the competitors from Stratford they finished third in this competition. Special praise goes to team manager Paul Hawkins and all the support crew.
Report compiled by Brian Gravelsons and Tony Jackson.