TWENTY-EIGHT Stratford Athletic Club runners tested themselves against the region’s best when they competed at the Midland Cross Country Championships at Prestwold Hall in Loughborough on Saturday.
This event is the next stage on from the County Championships and competition is intense.
The U13 boys’ race was first on the agenda and five Stratford AC athletes took part over the 3km. With four counting for the team, this ensured Stratford would feature in the team competition.
Alex Adams (16th, 13.06) led the team home, pacing himself well throughout and learning a lot from the experience that he can build on over the next two years.
Louis Kendrick (21st, 13.23) ran fluently, with Adam Taylor (64th, 14.57) holding his form well. Ned Campbell (70th, 15.16) showed consistent form compared to the County Championships and Harry Gravelsons (87th, 16.54) significantly improved his time compared to the previous season.
Overall, the U13 boys’ team finished in eighth place.
Two men represented the club in the U20 men’s race over 8km. Oscar Barbour (26th, 34.34) and Fergus Allison (30th, 35.21) both equipped themselves well in this high quality race, with Oscar pulling away from Fergus during the second lap.
Two U13 girls represented the club over the 3km course. Ellen Taylor (13th, 14.14) started fast and managed to hold her position well, showing her strength on the steep, long climb as well as making up four places in the closing stages to complete her best run, by some margin, this season.
Helena West (42nd, 15.15) looked extremely comfortable and should be equally as happy with her quality performance.
Five U15 boys took on the 4km course and were surprised by a stray dog getting in the way of the fast downhill start.
Owain Jones (48th, 15.01) led the team home, improving on his position from the previous year despite losing places in the latter half of the race with a hip problem.
Rhys Mahon (54th, 15.16) looked incredibly strong and Archie Musk (70th, 15.47) put in a solid performance.
Josh Angus (79th, 16.29) and Fin Hutchinson (88th, 17.50) battled well against the tough course to complete the team which finished seventh overall.
Seren Mahon (20th, 24.04) was the sole Stratford AC representative in the U20 women’s race over 5km and she looked comfortable throughout as she finished strongly, putting down a great marker to aim at over the next couple of years.
In the U15 girls’ race, Georgie Campbell (10th, 15.31) led the team home and gained valuable experience racing against the region’s top cross country athletes.
Abi Wootton (38th, 16.42) and Olivia Hall (57th, 17.33) both improved on their position compared to the previous year, but unfortunately Daisy Musk (79th, 18.46) suffered from a stray elbow from a competitor which winded Daisy and impacted on her performance.
Charlotte Gravelsons (89th, 19.34) was pleased to put down a good marker to shoot at next season and the team finished in the same seventh place as the boys’ team.
There was only one representative for Stratford AC in the women’s race over 8km – Suzi Graham – who came 162nd in 50.13.
The men were expecting to race over 12km, so it was quite a surprise to find out the course was actually 14.4km!
Apparently this was due to an error by the organisers in setting the course. This did not faze Tim Hutchinson (110th, 59.31) who led the team home in fine style, improving on last year’s performance by five places.
Kieran Tursner (211th, 66.22) had a tremendous sprint finish and won the battle against club rival Malcolm Bowyer (221st, 66.53), while Mike Sheppard (273rd, 70.44) battled hard on the tough course.
Mike commented afterwards this was his longest run since his school days so could be forgiven for tiring in the final stages.
Another close inter-club race ensued between Dave Wolstencroft (332nd, 77.07) and James Deacon (336th, 77.55), with Phil Marshall (363rd, 83.15) completing the team which finished 28th on the day.
The next stage is the National Cross Country Championships in February at Nottingham where all three (North, South and Midland) regions meet and a number of Stratford AC athletes will test themselves against the country’s top cross country runners.
Report written by Brian Gravelsons and Paul Hawkins.