STRATFORD Athletic Club’s day out at the Warwickshire County Cross County Championships proved to be another success as the junior athletes set a fine standard with some tremendous performances which led to deserved honours.
The venue was the natural amphitheatre of Sandwell’s Warley Woods, which coincidently was the venue of the last junior league match, so it was not a surprise the juniors seemed to be at home in the rain-sodden, undulating conditions.
The juniors also had the advantage of racing before the seniors in the two-hour, rain-free window that had been predicted.
In the opening race of the day, 43 U13 girls from Warwickshire raced over the 3km course. Georgie Campbell (1st, 11.55) set off at an incredible pace down the long opening stretch to make sure she was in contention and battled up the first steep climb into second place, before taking full control along the high wooded section of the course.
Georgie has an immense amount of grit and determination and hence it was not a surprise she remained in first place for the rest of the race to claim the title of Warwickshire county champion.
After the race, Georgie was all smiles as the significance of her achievement began to sink in.
Ellen Taylor (7th, 12.36) continues to run exceptionally well, improving on her 31st place in last year’s championship by some distance. The U13 girls’ title has been won by a Stratford AC athlete for the past three years and, with Ellen still eligible for the U13s next year, there is great potential for this run to continue further.
Ellie Bryan (21st, 13.17), ran a lovely, composed race and completed the first three Stratford athletes to finish.
These performances helped the U13 girls’ team to finish in second place overall behind Coventry Godiva Harriers.
Full results: Georgie Campbell (1st, 11.55); Ellen Taylor (7th, 12.36); Ellie Bryan (21st, 13.17); Evie Lowe (24th, 13.27); Faye Gourlay (30th, 13.55); Charlotte Gravelsons (35th, 14.29); Isobel Hopper (38th, 15.03).
The U13 boys’ race is over the same course and 49 Warwickshire athletes took part, with ten representing the Stratford team.
All ten put in fast and committed displays and each can be proud of their performance.
Louis Kendrick (6th, 11.21) led the team home with a well-paced, strong run. Louis prefers a longer distance and seemed to relax and enjoy the final stages, picking up a few places along the way.
Dylan Williams (10th, 11.42) has a lovely, composed, fluent running style and seemed to revel in all the challenges the course posed.
Josh Angus (13th, 11.46) was not far behind after putting in a much-improved performance compared to the previous league race.
Overall the U13 boys’ team finished in second place behind Birchfield Harriers.
Full results: Louis Kendrick (6th, 11.21); Dylan Williams (10th, 11.42); Josh Angus (13th, 11.46); Ned Campbell (22nd, 12.45); Jack Hemming (26th, 12.57); Cameron Collins (27th, 12.58); James Bexson (36th, 13.45); Cameron Black (40th, 14.03); Fin Hutchinson (45th, 14.40); Harry Gravelsons (47th, 14.43).
The U15 girls took on the challenge of running 4km. Despite the sun making a surprising appearance, the course had started to deteriorate, with some of the uphill bends now becoming much more slippery than earlier in the day.
Imogen Sheppard (3rd, 16.02) ran a very mature race, making a steady start and gradually picking off athletes ahead of her to ensure a well deserved third place.
Olivia Hall (10th, 16.48), due to basic geography, competed in the Worcestershire County Championships – the overall event on the day was a joint Warwickshire and Worcestershire affair – and Olivia ran strongly and tenaciously to ensure a top ten finish.
Daisy Musk (13th, 17.23) continues to have a fine cross country season, improving on her overall position by a place compared to the 2015 County Championships.
Overall the U15 girls’ team finished in fourth place.
Full results: Imogen Sheppard (3rd, 16.02); Olivia Hall (10th, Worcestershire, 16.48); Daisy Musk (13th, 17.23); Eugenia Bessey (29th, 19.11); Edie Hutchinson (30th, 19.32); Anna Gionis (32nd, 19.59).
Six U15 boys represented the club and all put in solid performances which will keep them in good stead as the season builds towards the climax in the months to come.
Owain Jones (18th, 15.34) should be very pleased with his performance. It was only 15 seconds slower than the previous league meeting at the same venue, despite being some 800m further in distance!
Similarly, Ben Jones (24th, 15.44) made a significant improvement as he chased Owain hard throughout the course.
Dion Love (29th, 16.09) finished well to see the U15 boys’ team to a sixth placed finish.
Full results: Owain Jones (18th, 15.34); Ben Jones (24th, 15.44); Dion Love (29th, 16.09); Archie Musk (31st, 16.19); Rowan Love (32nd, 16.30); Adam Pomeroy (33rd, 16.40).
Two U17 women took on the 5km challenge including Jessica Sheppard (12th, 21.42) who executed a measured start and gradually picked up a number of places around the course, the last one in the final stretch following an impressive sprint finish.
Similarly, Hannah Bexson (17th, 22.56) ran extremely well, showing her relative strength compared to the rest of the field.
Three U17 men tackled the 6km course. Oscar Barbour (7th, 21.03) and Fergus Allison (8th, 21.10) raced and encouraged each other to fantastic top ten finishes.
Oscar has been racing well all season and his performance continued in this event, while Fergus changed up a gear and put in one of his best performances for some time.
Seb Hopper (24th, 22.42) coped well with the course to complete the team which finished fourth overall.
Just as the U17s finished, the weather turned to driving rain to welcome the senior races, but this was no hardship to the select band of club stalwarts who made up the senior teams.
Husband and wife combination Wayne (73rd, 39.16), and Emma Vickers (43rd, 26.32) both had excellent runs and led the teams home in their respective races.
Emma was followed by the enthusiastic Emily Adams (52nd, 27.17) and the steadily improving Sarah Odell (86th, 29.55), whilst Jo Young (107th, 32.35) just managed to keep ahead of Kate Sergent (108th, 32.44) in their personal inter-club rivalry.
Emma, Emily and Sarah made up the ladies’ masters team which finished in tenth place.
Second home in the senior men’s race was the continually impressive Kieran Tursner (100th, 40.31), followed by Mike Sheppard (120th, 42.47) who had a storming run despite his gloomy pre-race prediction.
Sam Nicholson (126th, 43.23), James Deacon (142nd, 44.55) and David Jones (155th, 46.50) all had solidly consistent runs and it was great to see the return of David Wolstencroft (163rd, 48.08).
Phil Marshall (175th, 49.52) was full of dogged determination whilst the commitment of Martyn Sergent (192nd, 63.20) continues to impress.
The first four home made up the masters team which finished 13th.
Report compiled with the help of Brian Gravelsons and Tony Jackson.
OVER in Switzerland, Stratford AC’s Agnes McTighe was victorious in the first round of the Swiss Cross Cup at Düdingen over a 3,300m course in the under 16 girls’ race.
This was over a relatively flat but muddy course in cold, driving rain.
All the leading Swiss athletes were there but Agnes took the lead early on and powered away from the rest of the field to win in a time of 10.43 – a full 40 seconds clear of second place.
This was an encouraging start to her cross country season and she is looking forward to her next race on Saturday in Lausanne.