STRATFORD Athletic Club’s junior cross-country squad travelled to Warley Woods and enjoyed considerable individual and team success.
Team manager Paul Hawkins reported he has never been so pleased with a set of performances and he was rightly proud of everyone’s efforts on this tough, hilly course.
The club are now fourth in the table after three of five fixtures.
U11 boys: The U11 boys team finished 1st on the day and now sit 2nd in the table after three fixtures.
Louis Kendrick (2nd, 6.29) added another fabulous run to his collection. He started well but sensibly and did not use up all of his energy on the run to the first corner. Louis then pushed on and he led for much of the race but was just unable to hold off his nearest rival in the final 200m. Louis has finished 2nd, 6th and 2nd in this season’s races.
Another athlete who really enjoyed himself was Alex Adams (8th, 6.47). Alex is rapidly gaining in confidence and is running superbly, showing an endless supply of stamina.
Not far behind Alex was Spencer Corder (11th, 6.53). Spencer was clearly looking forward to the race and he put his competitive spirit to good use, producing a battling finish to earn valuable points for the team.
Matthew Bexson (15th, 7.01) ran a very determined race and Jack Hemming (25th, 7.10) was a revelation, putting in his best performance for the club and looking very comfortable.
Despite losing a couple of yards at the start, Adam Taylor (54th, 7.28) worked his way through the field well. Daniel Newman (73rd, 7.48) set off like a rocket and put in another consistent effort.
Harry Gravelsons (93rd, 8.22) ran his best race of the season and appeared to relish the undulating terrain.
U17 women: Harriet Flynn (26th, 20.47) was the sole representative of the U17 women’s team. She settled into her rhythm quickly despite the early part of the race being a long steady downhill section followed by a challenging incline. Harriet stuck to her task well and was strong all the way to the finish.
U15 boys: The U15 boys team finished 5th. George Vahey (13th, 12.18) and Seb Hopper (15th, 12.26) were never far apart and are clearly going to have many close races in the future. Both can be proud of their performances in a strong field.
A pacy opening quarter of a mile from Henry Grisenthwaite (54th, 13.50) put him a handy position. He had to dig deep to maintain his pace from thereon and he did so with aplomb.
A pleasing appearance from Harry Coley-Smith (63rd, 14.59) was full of promise for the rest of the season. Matthew Vickers (67th, 17.07) has been getting better with each race in 2014 and he continued his progress with a relaxed yet committed run.
U17 men: The intriguing battle for supremacy between Fergus Allison (15th, 17.29) and Oscar Barbour (21st, 17.46) shows no sign of abating. Both men applied themselves well but will feel there is still more improvement to come. The two were side by side in the first third of the race before Fergus inched ahead, possibly better suited by the course.
A seasonal debut from Tom Betteley (41st, 19.11) brought team management lots of pleasure. Tom worked hard and can take a lot of confidence from his showing.
Sam Weaving (44th, 19.52) is Stratford AC’s Mr Consistent and he ran a characteristically well-judged race. A fine run from Jonathon Furey (51st, 20.32) completed the line-up in good style. Jonathan is in excellent form and this was a very encouraging performance which included a dogged finish.
The U17 Men’s team finished 8th.
U11 girls: Ellen Taylor (3rd, 6.57) has now finished 4th, 3rd and 3rd in her races this season. She had a fascinating battle with two other athletes and due to a great sprint finish she was able to overtake one soon after being passed by the other. Ellen has really made a name for herself in this age group, being able to adapt well to all types of course and showing great fighting spirit.
It was pleasing to see Faye Gourlay (24th, 7.47) asserting herself from the start and utilising her long stride during the flat sections of the race. Faye can now target a top 20 finish in the future.
Ellie Deaner (31st, 7.55) made her first appearance for the team and made a great impression with a terrific run. Ellie showed excellent composure and slalomed her way through the field in the second half of the race.
Although Evie Lowe (39th, 8.07) was unlucky to be knocked off balance in a narrow part of the course, she came back well and her trademark speed helped her to finish in a creditable position.
There were also barnstorming finishes from Maddie Brocklebank (61st, 8.25) and Millie Perkins (66th, 8.30), who both gained places in the final 30 yards.
A positive and consistent run from Sophie Ross (71st, 8.42) and an injury-affected yet remarkably cool performance from Emily Curtis (92nd, 8.59) completed a marvellous group of runs from the girls who finished 4th on the day and they are also 4th overall.
U13 boys: The Stratford AC coaches were delighted Dylan Williams (12th, 9.38) was able to line up for the team as he put in a bold and focused effort which gave evidence of just what he is capable of.
Dylan was closely followed by Owain Jones (14th, 9.41) who ran his best race for some time, finding himself in a strong position and doing everything he could to fight off his rivals.
The feel-good factor continued throughout the team as Dion Love (22nd, 10.07), Adam Bayliss (31st, 10.20) and Rowan Love (33rd, 10.20) ran impressive races.
Archie Musk (46th, 10.40) never runs with anything other than total commitment and pride and he once again worked his socks off for the team.
A solid run from James Bexson (57th, 11.10), even-pacing from Matthew Ross (76th, 12.23) and a performance of high quality from Joel Hinton (79th, 12.39) gave further indications of what good form the entire squad is in at the moment.
The U13 boys team were 3rd on the day and are 3rd in the season’s standings.
U13 girls: Imogen Sheppard (2nd, 9.47) ran a tremendous race and deservedly picked up a superb 2nd place. After finishing 4th in fixture one and 3rd in fixture two, it was great to see Imogen cementing her position as a classy athlete and steadily improving through the season. She judged her run to perfection and was able to finish as strongly as she had started.
It was splendid to have Daisy Musk (23rd, 10.39), Georgie Campbell (27th, 10.39) and Olivia Hall (29th, 10.48) battling it out for positions in the home straight and helping the team to a 3rd place finish.
Olivia was in the lead early on and, although she was unable to sustain her early momentum, she did not stop pushing herself until she crossed the finish line. Daisy just managed to hold off Georgie in an exciting and close finish with a large number of girls crossing the line in a matter of a few seconds.
Ellie Bryan (43rd, 11.01) did her best work in the second half of the race and knows she can look to finish nearer her team-mates at the next fixture.
Ellen Vahey (66th, 11.24) and Poppy Butler (69th, 11.24) were able to run well and continue to develop steadily as cross-country runners.
The ability of Ella Vickers (122nd, 12.47) to grind out a resolute performance and the enthusiastic approach of Charlotte Johnson (136th, 14.01) gave further satisfaction to the club’s coaching staff and the team are now 2nd in the table for the season.
U15 girls: A quartet of gutsy and speedy runs was led by Jessica Sheppard (27th, 14.00). Jess used all of her experience in a measured and smartly-constructed performance. She found her rhythm well and ran smoothly throughout the race.
Eugenia Bessey (33rd, 14.21) and Edie Hutchinson (34th, 14.27) were never covered by more than 20 metres and it was anyone’s guess which girl would finish ahead. This was one of Eugenia’s best runs for the team and she held her position impressively from halfway.
Edie was more prominent in the opening half a mile than in her previous races and she gave herself every chance of achieving a high position.
Hannah Bexson (60th, 15.57) has been full of hunger and will to succeed since the start of the season and she was passing her rivals with ease in the closing stages due to her combative attitude. The Under 15 Girls finished 8th.
THE SECOND race of the Birmingham & District Cross-Country League season took place on a chilly afternoon at Gloucester’s flat and fast Plock Court course and Stratford AC’s men finished 11th in the race and are now 12th out of 18 in the league table.
In the season’s opener, new club member Rich Shephard (22nd, 32.25) demonstrated his versatility, speed and quality. He continued his fine form in this race and made the three laps appear ridiculously easy. It would be fascinating to see Rich run in a full-strength team and see if close competition would push him to even greater heights.
Rich is now 17th in the individual athlete standings after two fixtures.
A conservative start from Josh Newman (47th, 33.24) enabled him to gauge the pace of the race and work his way through other athletes who had set off too fast. Josh ran a solid race and found the flat nature of the course to his liking.
A thrilling three-way tussle for 3rd, 4th and 5th Stratford AC finisher took place a little way down the field.
Danny Tolhurst (90th, 34.48), Richard Dobedoe (94th, 34.59) and Graham Taylor (101st, 35.16) were within touching distance for much of the race. Graham was just ahead of Danny for the first lap, with Richard settling into his rhythm after a slightly restrained start.
Danny pushed on after 3km but never shook Graham off his tail and Richard worked his way up the rankings to sit menacingly behind. Danny kicked with 1km remaining and Richard overtook Graham but it was a close run thing right through to the final 200m.
Wayne Vickers (124th, 36.27) was a little disappointed with his race, never feeling completely at ease. Malcolm Bowyer (135th, 36.47) came quite close to Wayne at one stage for the final point-scoring position but Wayne managed to find an extra gear at the business end of proceedings.
Alan Coley-Smith (162nd, 38.02), Mike Sheppard (163rd, 38.08) and Kieran Tursner (170th, 38.27) also had phenomenal battles for places and ran intelligently-paced races.
One of the fastest starters was David Smyth (175th, 38.42) who was rewarded for his bold statement of intent with a top 175 position.
Luke Watkins (199th, 40.22), team debutant Michael Clark (203rd, 40.32) and Graham Black (208th, 41.03) put in polished performances. Graham just managed to break free of the indefatigable David Jones (211st, 41.31) who amazingly was running in his 51st race of the year.
Phil Marshall (216th, 43.02) always runs a clever race. Brian Gravelsons (218th, 43.36) was pleased with his performance, especially his sprint finish which brought cheers from his watching team-mates.
Larry Coltman (229th, 46.35) thoroughly enjoyed his run, gliding around the course with ease.
THE MIDLAND Women’s League ventured to Abginton Park in Northampton and runners enjoyed some wintry sunshine peeking between the clouds.
First finisher for Stratford AC was Kate Wright (27th, 20.19). Kate ran really well, as she seems to have done in every race for a long time! Kate settled into her position in the mid-20s quite early on and just maintained a steady pace. She would quite happily have negotiated the course another couple of times, so comfortable was her running.
For most of the race Emma Slevin (28th, 20.23) was seven or eight places behind Kate. Over the last 800m (the final large field) she picked up the pace and passed a few, including two in the final straight, culminating in a flat-out sprint to the finish line.
Rachel Pearce (71st, 21.59) ran her first cross-country race for the club and eased herself into the race. She was behind Alison Bagnall (97th, 22.49) and Emma Bexson (102nd, 22.56) early on. Rachel increased her pace and then stuck to it really well to move through the field to make an impressive debut.
Alison was really pleased to finish inside the top 100 and was pleased with her fast run.
Emma Vickers (145th, 24.41) and training partner Anna Watson (155th, 24.53) were almost metronomic in their pacing. Emma held the advantage for the entire race but Anna was always close behind and it will be interesting to see how the two women get on in the next race.
Cadie Hibberd (226th, 28.19) was pretty steady throughout. She had a battle with the runner just behind her who she was ecstatic to beat in a tight sprint finish.
The team finished 9th on the day and they are now placed 7th overall and the Masters team were 4th in the race and are a superb 2nd in the season’s standings.
Stratford AC’s U11 boys team – Matthew Bexson, Harry Gravelsons, Adam Taylor, Alex Adams, Jack Hemming, Louis Kendrick, Daniel Newman, Spencer Corder. (s)
Matthew Ross. (s)
U15 girls team member Hannah Bexson. Picture by Mike Sheppard. (s)
Georgie Campbell. (s)
Harry Gravelsons. (s)
Imogen Sheppard. (s)
Jack Hemming had his best race for the club in the U11 boys race. All individual pictures by Mike Sheppard. (s)