FRESH from his bronze medal at the National Championships two weeks earlier, Stratford Athletic Club’s Alex Adams produced another strong run against a high-quality field at the Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships at Prestwold Hall in Loughborough.
The long cross-country season is now drawing to a close and one of the traditional highlights is the Inter-Counties Championships where county teams from throughout the UK compete over all the age groups from under 13 to senior, with eight athletes selected in each age group/gender team.
This is the highest quality domestic event of the season and Stratford AC had seven runners in the Warwickshire team and another running for Gloucestershire spread across four of the races.
The course at Prestwold Hall is good undulating parkland and, although not as muddy as last year, there were a number of places where the going was definitely soft. Gale force winds added to the challenge.
Competing alongside club-mate Adam Taylor in the under 13 boys’ race over a 3km one-lap course, Adams took up the early pace and was leading as they left the first field. The quality runners in the race soon formed a leading group of four who stayed together until the closing stages when Ben Peck and Will Rabjohns broke away and were the eventual first and second.
Coming into the finish straight, Henry Dover stole a 10m lead over Adams. With a tremendous sprint finish, Adams pulled it back so they were neck and neck on the line with Dover just getting the decision, leaving Adams in fourth place with the same time of 11:56.
“It was a tough race and Ben and Will were uncatchable today,” said Adams, who had improved from 48th position in 2018.
“The wind was strong and held me back. I was gutted to be so close to third. My tactics may have been wrong, but most of all I enjoyed the whole experience.”
Although possibly overshadowed by his team-mate, Taylor had a fine run on his county debut, eventually finishing in 13:54 for 175th position.
There were four Stratford runners among the 264 finishers in the under 17 women’s 5km race. Georgie Campbell made a strong start and was in the leading dozen runners from the start. By halfway a group of five had broken away, leaving a second group close behind, including Campbell, battling together.
After being 40th as an U15 in 2018, Campbell showed what a good year she is having to finish in tenth place in a time of 20:33.
“Obviously I’m so pleased with how my race went, especially as I previously hated that course,” she said. “I was actually really surprised to do that well and it has given me a lot of confidence for the upcoming English Schools, which I’m really excited for.”
The next Stratford runner was Emily Field (139th, 22:53) who was the second finisher for the Gloucestershire team with a fine run. Daisy Musk (182nd, 23:51) continues to improve with every race and certainly justified her late call-up to the Warwickshire team, finishing fifth for the team which bodes well for the track season.
Abbie Wootton (210th, 24:28) battled through the race well despite not being at her best, although she will be focusing more on triathlons going forward as she is in the West Midlands squad.
Edie Hutchinson finished 142nd in the under 20 women’s 6km race in 29:39. Hutchinson has had a strong cross country season in her first year as an under 20, despite preferring road racing, and was delighted to gain a county vest.
After a slow start she moved past many of her competitors in the second half of the race and was pleased with her fast finish on the final straight.
Making his debut at the championships, James Mucklow finished 197th in the under 15 boys’ race in 15:08. Indeed, this is his first season of cross country and he has much to be proud of in his races for club and county.
“Warwickshire’s ‘Athlete of the Match’ has to be Alex Adams who finished fourth in the U13 boys’ race,” said Warwickshire team manager Ray Morgan.
“Georgie Campbell, also of Stratford, was our other top-ten finisher. Well done both on another good result from the Stratford athletes (and coaches).”
The final cross country event of the season is this weekend’s English Schools’ Championships at Leeds where many of the team will be running again.
Report compiled by Paul Hawkins.