TWO Stratford Athletic Club teams went their separate ways for the fourth and final round of races in their respective cross country leagues.
Whilst the courses may have been different, the weather for both was wet and cold.
The final fixture of the Birmingham Cross Country League for men took Stratford to a new venue in Cheltenham and a decent cross country course over rolling Gloucestershire countryside awaited.
Josh Newman 9th (37mins, 44secs) has been in excellent form over the winter and another top ten finish was due reward for his efforts. Neil Wicks 48th (39.59) is also in good form and he was pleased with his run and top 50 finish.
The next three runners were all in close contention throughout the race and it was only in the latter stages that Olly Senior 89th (42.11) finally pulled clear of Drew Sambridge 94th, (42.24) whilst Rob Minton 101st (42.51) could not quite finish off the race as he would have wished.
Both Olly and Drew are new to the club this season and are proving real assets, with both achieving their second consecutive placing in the A team.
The next four runners also had a terrific battle and the strength of Wayne Vickers 123rd (43.53) showed in the closing stages as he secured the final place in the A team.
Despite a lack of training, Danny Tolhurst 128th (44.15) continues to show glimpses of his undoubted talent and he was followed by co-team manager Malcolm Bowyer 133rd (44.29) with a season’s best performance. He was chased all the way to the line by James Cusack 134th (44.33).
Despite having moved out of the area, all credit to Martyn Helliker 196th (48.41) who continues to make the effort to represent the club. He was followed by the determined Mike Sheppard 211th (51.06) and the reliable Ben Twyman 218th (52.03) was the final scorer for the B team.
Completing the SAC running contingent were James Deacon 239th (55.10) and Phil Marshall 251st (59.09).
The A team scored 464 points and were 12th team on the day. This was a solid return bearing in mind the first five runners home from the first race were unavailable for a variety of reasons.
Stratford finished the season in eighth place which is their best ever season and an excellent reward for the efforts of Danny and Malcolm for organising the teams over the winter.
The B team scored 1,020 points to finish ninth on the day and several overall.
MEANWHILE, the Stratford women’s team travelled to Aldersley Stadium in Wolverhampton to compete in the Midland Women’s League.
The team had the fewest runners of the season due to a number of injuries and other absences but the seven athletes who ran gave 100 per cent for their club to ensure a good final result.
The course was undulating without any severe hills but the muddy conditions made it challenging.
Leading the Stratford team from start to finish was Rachel Pearce who seemed to enjoy the mud and always looked comfortable, finishing in 35th place (tenth in the masters race) in a time of 25:24.
Sheila Lammas continues to improve throughout the season and was pleased with a solid run in 54th (20th master, 26:33).
Close behind in her best run of the season by some way was Alison Bagnall (62nd, 24th master, 26:55) who started conservatively but showed her strength as the race went on.
Emma Vickers (91st, 42nd master, 28:09) and Hannah Osborne (97th, 28:34) were always close throughout the race, but Emma held off Hannah at the end.
Suzi Graham (118th, 59th master, 30:25) is stepping up her training which is paying off as she continues to improve. Completing the Stratford team, Rebecca Pridham (143rd, 77th master, 32.14) continues her comeback from injury.
After being disappointed with her last race as the lack of training took its toll, this was a much better performance and she should be optimistic for the spring and summer season.
Team manager Paul Hawkins said: “We’ve been really unlucky with injuries and there’s been lots of runners missing all season, which has hit us hard, but every one of the team who have run have been magnificent. You couldn’t ask for any more from them.”
The team were 13th, which left them tenth in the final table, comfortably mid-table. The masters team were sixth on the day but held on to fourth place, just missing out on the medals for third place.
Report compiled by Tony Jackson and Paul Hawkins.