SEVENTY-TWO Stratford Athletic Club juniors gritted their teeth to record a hard fought victory (provisional results to be ratified) in the second Heart of England League Division One fixture at Abingdon.
This second successive victory puts Stratford in pole position to go one better than their 2016 runners-up position ahead of the final match in a month’s time.
The other seven teams from across the Midlands really put the pressure on after Stratford’s resounding victory in the first match but, with nearly every event covered, the Stratford youngsters responded as everyone won valuable points.
Stratford athletes winning their events were in relatively short supply but there were some outstanding individual performances.
In the non-scoring U11s events the Stratford team were severely depleted by the unprecedented level of unavailable athletes, but the athletes who did make the trip tried their very best and the highlight was Fred Williams winning the howler with a huge throw of 32.78m.
The U13 girls really found the competition very tough and finished in sixth place in their age group. Their outstanding athlete was Caitlin Buckley who won her 200m race in a time of 29.40s and then just missed out on winning the high jump but still set a new personal best of 1.28m.
The U13 boys had a narrow win ahead of Coventry Godiva as Matthew Bexson produced a good athlete of the match performance by winning the 75m hurdles in 12.8s. He was followed in the B race by debutant Oliver Calladine who won in 13.40s.
Freddie Clemons is turning out to be the find of the season for the U13s. His all-round performance on the track and in the field events gave the team a haul of 22 points from his 800m, long jump and shot put.
Henry Madden Forman had to hang around all afternoon for his race but he was lively in his 200m B race which he won in 29.60s.
It is a real treat to watch gutsy performances which inspire others in the team and the U15 girls middle distance foursome of Georgie Campbell and Ellen Taylor in the 1,500m and Kate Dufty and Ellie Bryan in the 800m showed spirit and doggedness to either finish first or second in the their respective races.
Sprinters Beth Cate and Grace Fairweather were second and first in their respective races as the U15s finished clear winners in their age group.
The U15 boys had a tough afternoon against some resurgent performances from the other teams but still hung on to finish third in their age group.
Cole Williams has found some blistering speed this season and he won the 100m in 12.0s and, even stumbling on the last hurdle, he still finished second in the latter.
George Fox-Rowe is adjusting well to new height and distance in the hurdles and he finished first in the B race.
All-rounder Adam Farrow is growing in confidence in his first year as an U15 and he won the high jump, equalling his PB of 1.60m and just missed 1.63m by clipping the bar with his ankles.
The U17 women won their age group as Tazmin Chape tore herself away from her exam revision to have a very happy afternoon, winning the javelin with 32.54m and the B hurdles in a new PB of 12.9s.
The most dominant performance from an age group came from the U17 men for whom Jack Sumners just held off team-mate Ollie Cresswell in the hurdles.
Cresswell went sub-13s and 11s in the 100m hurdles and 100m flat respectively for the first time and also won the high jump with 1.85m in an athlete of the match performance for his age group.
Thrower Lewis Byng is another athlete bang in form and he won the double in the javelin and shot put.
On the surface, winning four age groups looks comfortable, but the margins were very tight. Joint U13 team manager Jenny Sheppard said: “That was a great effort by all 72 athletes and we’re really pleased but it was too close for comfort.
“If we are going to win the league we’re going to have to have a full team out for the last match and get some hard training in before then because the other teams are obviously upping their game.”