STRATFORD Athletic Club’s junior cross country runners continued to impress in the third round of the West Midland Young Athletes Cross Country League at Warley Woods to cement third place, writes Brian Gravelsons.
The weather was foul and fair as driving rain gave way to warm sunshine and a slightly depleted Stratford squad meant a lower amount of points were won than usual – 5,749 – but it was still enough to secure fifth place on the day.
However, the team remain in third place overall after three matches, 366 points ahead of fourth placed Halesowen A&CC.
The junior athletes made valuable contributions during the day, ensuring points were earned or taken away from the opposition, with some fantastic individual and age group team performances.
The U17 women were the first age group team to compete as the rain picked up some force. The team was fully represented for the second match running with Jessica Sheppard (27th, 19.34) working hard on the demanding, undulating course to lead the team home.
Hannah Bexson (34th, 20.30) put in a tenacious effort to pick up a number of places as she powered through the 4km, whilst Harriet Flynn (38th, 22.06) ran solidly to complete a good team effort.
With all scoring places filled again, the U17 women’s team maintained seventh position overall.
Louis Kendrick led the U11 boys at the start, but unfortunately had to pull out of the race in the early stages. Alex Adams (3rd, 6.46) took the helm and had a fantastic race to earn a well deserved top three finish.
Caleb Spriggs (24th, 7.31) battled with the tough terrain, proving he has mastered his pace control, to finish in his highest place this season.
Alfie Organ (29th, 7.38) and Adam Taylor (43rd, 7.48) both continued to impress with much-improved performances.
Angus Tombs (91st, 9.21), enjoying the 1.6km race as the rain began to ease, finished coolly, picking up a place in the final stages. The U11 boys’ team finished third on the day and slip to third overall, 74 points behind RSCAC.
The U17 men’s team continued to go from strength to strength with another good overall team performance.
Oscar Barbour (8th, 18.33) confidently kept with the front-runners for the vast majority of the 4.8km course. Fergus Allison (23rd, 19.38) started strongly and maintained his lead over Seb Hopper (24th, 19.45), who, despite not being 100 per cent, did all he could to catch his club rival on the line.
Calum Lambourne (38th, 20.26) and Murray Jackson (44th, 21.15) both worked hard, with Jon Furey (54th, 22.24) coping well with the demanding course, improving his time contrary to the majority of the other runners. The team finished in seventh place, improving to sixth overall.
Sunshine greeted the U11 girls as they prepared on the line, facing a downhill start which then deceivingly turned into a sharp, steep rise.
Ellie Deaner (4th, 7.35) and Millie Perkins (8th, 7.52) both started well to ensure they were in contention but not committing too early on the strength-sapping 1.6km large lap.
Both finished well, with Ellie delighted to claim her first top five finish and Millie improving on her previous race by seven places to claim her first top ten finish.
Maisie-Joy Spriggs (27th, 8.19) finished strongly, picking up a place and ensuring others did not pass her, while Maria Watkins (38th, 8.29) very much enjoyed her first race of the season, clearly demonstrating her potential.
Maddie Linfoot (42nd, 8.34) seemingly skipped around the tough course to her best finish so far this season. Sophie Ross (55th, 8.47) continues to enjoy her running, completing a tremendous team performance of fourth place on the day.
The U11 girls’ team are seventh in the overall standings after three races.
The U15 boys took on the challenge of two large laps that equates to 3.2km of what some people describe as a proper cross country course.
Adam Bayliss (46th, 14:00) worked his socks off and led the team home with a much-improved race, finishing ahead of Dion Love (56th 14.25) who is the definition of consistency.
Archie Musk (62nd, 14.46), Ben Jones (64th, 14.56), Rowan Love (66th, 14.57) and Owain Jones (69th, 15.19) appeared to enjoy competing and spurred each other on.
Adam Pomeroy (71st, 15.23) and Matthew Ross (74th 15.40) completed the team, both continuing to improve throughout the season. The team finished ninth on the day and remain in seventh place overall.
The U13 girls’ race was incredibly exciting with Georgie Campbell (4th, 10.33) and Ellen Taylor (18th, 11.02) racing together in the early stages and encouraging each other on to fine finishes.
Georgie improved one place to claim fourth, with Ellen improving an impressive 15 places compared to the last race to claim her first top 20 finish in this age group.
Ellie Bryan (45th, 11.31) and Charlotte Gravelsons (86th, 12.57) both found the course a challenge, but one they came through well to earn the club valuable points.
Faye Gourlay, despite recently suffering from illness, bravely started the race and made absolutely the right decision to pull out early on.
The team suffered from not having its usual depth on the day and finished in 11th place, still just about holding on to fifth place overall after three races.
The U13 boys’ team continued to impress, finishing fifth on the day to remain fifth overall after three races, 103 points behind third placed Tamworth AC.
Dylan Williams (10th, 10.06) continued where he left off in the last race for another stylish top ten finish. Josh Angus (26th, 10.43) worked tirelessly and truly earned every last point he gained for the club and similarly Henry Tombs (27th, 10.43) had a tremendous race, finishing strongly and improving his performance yet again.
Sean Mata (37th, 11.03) ran solidly around the 2.4km course to keep in front of team-mate Ned Campbell (43rd, 11.14) who should be happy with his improving form over the season so far.
A strong run from James Bexson (60th, 11.49) matched his fabulous finish as he picked up three places over the last uphill 50 metres.
Cameron Black (65th, 11.57) was very happy to improve by 15 places, whereas Harry Gravelsons (79th, 10.59) feels he could have run faster in the earlier stages as he seemed to have too much left at the end.
Fin Hutchinson (94th, 11.43) executed his now almost trademark sprint finish to bring the team home in fine style.
There were only five in the U15 girls’ team, but each put everything they had into the two uncompromising large laps.
Imogen Sheppard (21st, 14.41) consistently held her position until the end when, with gritted teeth, an extra place was gained while holding off the challenges of others.
Daisy Musk (34th, 15.18) started steadily and gradually picked her way through the field to finish strongly. Eugenia Bessey (49th, 15.47) was all smiles on her superb season debut, enjoying it so much she is already looking forward to the next race.
Anna Gionis (62nd, 16.23) and Edie Hutchinson (67th, 16.36) both worked really hard around the 3.2km course to pick up valuable points for the club in the closing stages.
The U15 girls’ team finished tenth on the day and now stand seventh overall.
The next fixture is at Burbage Common in January, the start of the business end of the season, where Stratford Athletics Club’s cross country team will hopefully be back to full strength and cement their third place.