POOR weather conditions did not deter Stratford Athletic Club’s juniors from putting in another quality performance in the fourth West Midland Young Athletes Cross Country League meeting at Abington Park in Northampton.
A total of 5,854 points were gathered on the day by 57 Stratford athletes to keep the club in third place in the standings. There was also one outright individual age group title secured by Alex Adams in the U11 boys’ event.
The U17 women’s team started the day racing over 4km on a sodden, undulating course. Edie Hutchinson (38th, 22.33) led the team home followed closely by Rebecca Winn (39th, 22.44) who was not in her usual form but nonetheless gained valuable points.
Hannah Bexson (43rd, 23.28) made the start line with little time to spare, but was clearly well prepared as she pulled out one of her best runs of the season. The team finished eighth on the day and currently stand eighth overall.
In the U11 boys’ race, Alex Adams (1st, 7.28) made it four wins out of four in wonderful style. It was always going to be a tough race with his closest rivals needing a win to keep themselves in contention for the overall individual title.
Both Alex and Finnan Robins from Bromsgrove & Redditch battled relentlessly over the 1,600m of soft ground, with Finnan trying his best and taking the lead in the last 300m.
However, Alex kept in contention, biding his time, before making a telling final burst of speed during the closing stages. The best four races out of five count for the overall individual title, hence Alex is guaranteed to be the U11 boys’ overall league champion whatever happens in the last race of the season.
Solid running saw Adam Taylor (20th, 8.25) finish ahead of a sparkling league debut performance from Oscar Fines-Allin (27th, 8.29), with Theo Skirvin (41st, 8.47), Hugh Markham (50th, 8.53) and Flynn Dathan (51st, 8.54) in close contention.
Good performances from George Baxter (70th, 9.15), James Day (71st, 9.16) and Alex McMillan (76th, 9.20) completed the team which finished third on the day and remains fourth overall.
Two U17 men worked hard over the undulating 4.8km course as Ollie Best (33rd, 21.36) and Seb Hopper (37th, 21.46) made the best of the tough conditions. With one team member missing, points were lost and hence the team finished ninth on the day and slip to eighth overall.
An amazing total of 13 athletes made up the U11 girls’ team. Although only the top five count for team points in this age category, it must never be forgotten the others take points away from other clubs, hence all 13 make a valuable team contribution.
A lovely club rivalry has developed between Leah Bowen (3rd, 8.31) and Molly Bullock (5th, 8.37), and this helped both improve their performances, with both claiming a top five finish for the first time.
It was a joy to see Maddie Linfoot (18th, 9.08) start fast and recapture her form from earlier in the season whilst a consistent Maisie-Joy Spriggs (23rd, 9.12) stayed ahead of a fast-finishing Holly Newton (28th, 9.17) who continues to impress.
Annabella Williams (44th, 9.44), Scarlett Richardson (48th, 9.50) and Niamh Hillard (55th, 9.57) all put in fine performances, as did Olivia Clayton (60th, 10.04), Ruby Edwards (75th, 10.21), Lucy Thomas (80th, 10.28), Kate Pridham (92nd, 10.50) and Marie-Claire Hunter (95th, 10.59) who managed well in the tough conditions on her debut for the club.
The U11 girls’ team finished fourth on the day, with only 15 points covering the first four teams in this very competitive team competition. Overall the team slip to third, only six points behind second place.
The U15 boys complete two large laps totalling 3.2km. In-form Owain Jones (8th, 13.36) led the team home, followed by Rhys Mahon (32nd, 14.53) who put in yet another strong second lap to make up six places and in the process catch a solid-running Adam Bayliss (40th, 15.12).
Archie Musk (47th, 15.52) continues his consistent season, staying ahead of Matthew Ross (52nd, 16.35) and Oliver Adams (58th, 17.08), both of whom enjoyed their best run so far this season.
The U15 boys’ team finished a very creditable fourth on the day which ensures they remain fourth overall.
Both the U13 boys and girls race over 2.5km. The U13 girls’ team was led home by Ellen Taylor (39th, 12.53), with Ellie Deaner (42nd, 13.01) and Helena West (60th, 13.28) enjoying their highest placed finishes this season close behind.
Freya Fines-Allin (77th, 14.02) made a fine league cross country debut for the club, closely followed by a welcome return from Mille Perkins (84th, 14.25) and Sophie Ross (92nd, 14.55).
The team finished 11th on the day and remain 12th overall.
It was good to see Louis Kendrick (19th, 11.33) lead the U13 boys’ team home in strong style as he overtook a number of athletes in the latter stages, whilst Joel Watson (22nd, 11.43) was inspired to produce his most impressive run of the season.
Caleb Spriggs (42nd, 12.29) continued his improving form over the season, staying ahead of a fast-finishing Mathew Bexson (46th, 12.32). Matthew fell at the start, but picked himself up as well as a tremendous number of places as he powered his way through the field.
A consistent Ned Campbell (51st, 12.48), finished ahead of Christopher Hunt (61st, 13.20), Alfie Organ (66th, 13.39) and Harry Gravelsons (71st, 14.08) as the U13 boys’ team finished fifth on the day and sit in the same position overall.
Georgie Campbell (1st, 14.43) made it a hat-trick of wins this season in another thrilling U15 girls’ race. She was neck and neck all the way around the 3.2km with Ella Semple from Wolverhampton & Bilston.
In the closing stages Ella hit the front, only for Georgie to maintain her cool and put in a strong burst in the final straight to clinch victory. Georgie now only needs to finish in the top three in the last race to ensure she wins the individual league title outright.
Imogen Sheppard (14th, 15.49) played to her strengths by starting and finishing fast, producing her third top 15 finish in a row.
Kate Dufty (27th, 16.10) battled hard and just stayed ahead of Abi Wootton (28th, 16.14), whilst Ellie Bryan (46th, 17.21) remained ahead of a fast-finishing Olivia Hall (47th, 17.27).
Anna Gionis (60th, 18.52) managed to close a 5m gap in the last 15m and finished just before Charlotte Gravelsons (61st, 18.52), whilst Isla Jackson (68th, 20.24) finished strongly ahead of a solid-running Isobel Hopper (71st, 21.12) who completed the team which finished third on the day and remain third overall.
Overall Stratford AC remain third in the league, 1,353 points ahead of Royal Sutton Coldfield. The final fixture is at Aldersley Stadium in Wolverhampton on February 12.
Report compiled by Brian Gravelsons.