STRATFORD Athletic Club enjoyed a fabulous day of success at the Warwickshire Cross-Country Championships which took place at Cofton Park in Birmingham.
The club achieved two team gold medals and three silvers. Individually, there was one gold, three silvers and one bronze medal.
There were committed performances from all Stratford athletes and each person can be proud of their efforts.
The course was hilly and challenging with some very wet and muddy areas to contend with. The day started with heavy rain and freezing temperatures but slowly the weather improved and the best of the conditions were unfortunately just after the last race!
In addition to the club’s athletes taking part in the Warwickshire Championships, there were two who were competing in the Worcestershire event.
The U13 girls won the gold medal and one of the team’s athletes also struck gold.
Agnes McTighe (1st, 11.22) led from start to finish and was victorious by a huge margin. She made her intentions clear when she surged 25m clear within the first 100m and, after maintaining her fast early pace up the opening hill, she had built up an unassailable lead. Agnes did exceptionally well to retain her focus and maintained her speed throughout the race.
A strong run from Imogen Sheppard (2nd, 12.26) secured a one-two for Stratford AC. Imogen knew she would have to run up to her best to win a medal and due to her fighting spirit and powers of endurance she was able to win silver.
Georgie Campbell (4th, 12.33) can be very proud of her run, being cruelly overtaken by a Rugby & Northampton runner in the final 100m. Georgie, who is having a great season, has one further year in this age group and she looks a potential 2016 winner.
Daisy Musk (14th, 13.48) is also having a marvellous winter and ran impressively once again.
Both Ellie Bryan (25th, 14.32) and Isla Jackson (30th, 15.09) had enough speed to finish high up the rankings despite neither of them being a fan of the boggy nature of the course.
Ellen Taylor (31st, 15.11) suffered from a severe stitch but was still able to show her quality. As with Georgie, it will be very interesting to see how Ellen competes in this age group in the 2016 championships.
It was pleasing to see Poppy Butler (34th, 15.41) grinding out an excellent result and exhibiting her ability to run well on hilly courses.
Olivia Hall (4th, 13.02) ran a confident race and can be justifiably pleased with her 4th place in the Worcestershire results list.
The U13 boys team earned a well deserved silver medal.
Dylan Williams (7th, 12.17) is starting to find his feet in this age group and he worked his way through the field in good style after being in 12th position at halfway.
This race brought the best out of Adam Pomeroy (11th, 12.26) and Josh Angus (14th, 12.34), who both ran composed and mature races.
Dion Love (16th, 12.44) and Rowan Love (19th, 13.00) did everything that could have been asked of them and seem to have settled into cross-country running remarkably easily.
Archie Musk (28th, 13.15) battled away in trademark fashion just ahead of James Bexson (31st, 13.23) and the hard-working Jack Hemming (34th, 14.09) coped well with running this distance for the first time.
The U15 boys finished 5th.
Seb Hopper (12th, 17.47) was unlucky to take a tumble early in the race but he found his rhythm quickly and ran a very sound race, getting stronger as the race went on.
It was nip and tuck between Seb and Murray Jackson (17th, 18.31) for part of the race and Murray dug deep in the closing stages to complete a fine performance.
Despite not having many training miles under his belt, Oliver Lambourne (27th, 23.42) put in a useful shift and Matthew Vickers (29th, 25.30) ran to form and paced himself well.
A silver medal was just reward for the U15 girls team.
Agatha McTighe (2nd, 18.13) showed good acceleration early, eased off the gas once the race had settled down and then found an extra gear to finish smartly.
The next Stratford AC athlete was Jessica Sheppard (10th, 19.51) who clearly gave everything she had.
Edie Hutchinson (15th, 20.46) ran a terrific race, sticking to her preferred pace and moving through the field when others began to tire.
A typically workmanlike performance from Eugenia Bessey (19th, 21.25) helped her to a top 20 finish and just 20 metres behind was Hannah Bexson (20th, 21.39) who ran her best race of the season.
The U17 men finished 5th.
A steady, consistently-paced run from Fergus Allison (14th, 23.28) resulted in an appropriately lofty position.
Sam Weaving (19th, 24.30) ran his best race for the club and his proximity to Fergus can really boost his confidence for the remainder of the season.
A pair of gritty runs from Callum Lambourne (25th, 26.21) and Jonathan Furey (28th, 27.20) completed the line-up.
Oscar Barbour (6th, 23.46) put in a splendid run and he gained an excellent position in the Worcestershire standings. Oscar has been working hard in training recently and it is very much to his credit that he was able to run such a committed race.
The performances of the U20 women saw them win the gold medal.
A very strong race from Tas Pope (2nd, 22.38) involved some excellent pace judgement, a task that was made more difficult due to the leader being out of sight for much of the race. Tas has really taken her performances to another level this winter and she is running with renewed zest.
Emma Slevin (3rd, 23.22) planned to stay in the 5-7 spot for the main part of the race and she stuck to her plan. She was especially pleased with the end of the race when, on the final incline, she produced a sprint to pass a girl she had been tracking. Due to her hard work in training Emma was able to push herself the hardest at the end of the race when it hurts the most.
This polished run from Alice Reed (8th, 24.43) proved she is working her way back to her best form.
Cadie Hibberd (12th, 30.15) wisely did not go with the fast early pace and her tactic enabled her to pass numerous other runners in the second half of the race.
The senior women and masters women put in inspiring performances and the masters team finished in 2nd place.
A great run by Kate Wright (9th, 24.25) ensured she achieved a top 10 finish. She appeared to be running smoothly throughout but did not feel she ran particularly well. Kate thinks this might be due to her packed calendar of races recently resulting in tired legs. However, she admitted she does enjoy the mud and hills and the camaraderie integral to club events.
Rachel Pearce (24th, 26.24) started conservatively and worked her way through the field, using her renowned stamina. Rachel found the course tough but she thrived on the big race atmosphere.
Emma Bexson (33rd, 27.24) ran a steady race, followed by the ultra-consistent Fern Hordern (52nd, 28.52) and the ever-improving Emma Vickers (62nd, 29.28).
Sarah Odell (73rd, 31.07) revelled in the muddy conditions and adored the course layout. She crossed the line delighted with her run and content with the knowledge she could not have given any more.
This was only the second cross-country event in which Debbie Edkins (91st, 34.51) has competed. She was relieved the persistent and cold rain had stopped in time for her race. Debbie reported that she struggled slightly with the slippery nature of much of the course and she had to concentrate a lot on her footing, especially around the turns.
The senior men and masters men worked hard for their results. The masters team finished 6th.
Star of the season Rich Shephard (23rd, 39.24) ran a well-paced race and showed his natural ability without ever reaching top gear.
Club debutant Tim Hutchinson (35th, 41.08) had a great time in his first cross-country race for a number of years. Tim was never anything except comfortable during the race and his hard training has certainly helped his running economy. Excitingly, there looks sure to be plenty more improvement to come from Tim in future races.
Rob Ford (42nd, 41.25) ran in snatches and he confessed to finding the course difficult. He started well and was happiest running downhill when his superb technique enabled him to pass at least half a dozen rivals on each descent.
Malcolm Bowyer (91st, 45.53) was pleased with his run, getting his teeth into a rare old battle with David Smyth (93rd, 46.05). David overtook him on the third of four laps before Malcolm dug deep to regain the advantage when heading up the main hill. It was very close from that point on but Malcolm just had the strength to come out on top.
David was encouraged by his even pace and he found his rhythm easily, which helped him to relax and enjoy the race.
The next three Stratford AC finishers were covered by just eight seconds.
Steve Baker (101st, 46.41) showed good strength on the last lap, much to his surprise, and he was ecstatic to overtake a large number of other athletes, including three of his team-mates.
Alan Coley-Smith (102nd, 46.43) put in an assertive performance and he was a narrow margin ahead of the fast-finishing Kieran Tursner (104th, 46.49).
By his standards, Mike Sheppard (111th, 47.24) started the race in sedate fashion and he snaked through the pack promisingly from halfway.
Not far behind Mike was the indomitable Graham Black (115th, 47.54), who took on this testing terrain with gusto.
Larry Coltman (165th, 56.26) eased himself into the race and then pushed on during the last lap. Larry unleashed a memorable downhill sprint along the muddy home straight and caught two rivals late on.
The intelligent way John Butler (173rd, 1:09.25) went about his work made for a fascinating spectacle and he raised the roof with a speedy final mile.
Stratford AC’s Ellie Bryan enjoying a battle in the U13 girls race. Picture courtesy of Mike Sheppard. (s)