STRATFORD Athletic Club juniors came within ten points of a club record points tally as they finished third in the latest round of the West Midland Young Athletes’ Cross Country League.
After snow had forced the cancellation of third round, the fourth race in Abington Park, Northampton, was actually the third league race and a strong collective effort from Stratford brought them 6,100 points to finish third on the day. They remain reasonably comfortably in third place in the league overall.
The U17 women’s team made the most of the cool, dry and windless conditions with strong performances all round.
Emily Field (14th, 19.32) led the team home, closely followed by Imogen Sheppard (16th, 19.54), Abi Wootton (27th, 20.58) and Olivia Hall (29th, 21.05), enabling the team to finish third on the day to move up a place to fourth overall.
The U11 boys’ race over 1.6km was the usual tremendous tussle, especially around the first bend and Henry Wheeler (36th, 8.01) showed his strength and quality as he made an impressive improvement, leading the team home closely followed by Seb Hillard (42nd, 8.08).
Flynn Dathan (46th, 8.13) was closely followed by Hugh Markham (47th, 8.16) who picked up a couple of places in the closing stages. James Day (59th, 8.27) and Jake Deaner (65th, 8.39) showed amazing consistency by running in exactly the same time as the last race, with Alex McMillan (78th, 8.51), Ed Twyman (82nd, 8.59) and Ollie Hemming (89th, 9.10) all making good progress.
The U11 boys’ team finished in fifth place on the day and remain in sixth place overall, only 36 points behind fifth place.
Three U17 men started the long two laps, totalling 6km, with a full team but one less than was expected.
Adam Bayliss (52nd, 29.08) was unfortunately held up in traffic and only made it across the park to the club tent just as the race started. Quick-thinking coach Emily Adams expediently helped with number and pins, ensuring Adam started the race, albeit some five minutes behind everyone else.
However, by competing, Adam ensured a full team finished the race as unfortunately Dan Godefroy had to pull up due to injury. By doing so Adam earned a vital 149 points for the club – points that would have simply been lost otherwise.
Owain Jones (12th, 19.07) led the team home in his usual confident style, followed by another good run by Ben Jones (44th, 23.05). The U17 men’s team finished eighth on the day and remain in ninth place overall.
Twelve U11 girls represented the club – enough for more than two full teams – including a wonderful debut performance from Caitlin Boyle (48th, 9.10).
Maddie Linfoot (7th, 8.06), who can be relied upon for first class, consistent running, led the team home, with Scarlett Richardson (10th, 8.12), Niamh Hillard (12th, 8.14), Tessa Parkin (20th, 8.30) and Maisie-Joy Spriggs (22nd, 8.31) all making very impressive progress to ensure the team finished in second place on the day.
Lucy Thomas (38th, 8.57), Tilly Campbell (55th, 9.22), Olivia Hawkyard (56th, 9.24), Ruby Edwards (62nd, 9.31), Harriet Black (66th, 9.37) and Katie Pridham (78th, 10.01) all ran well as the team consolidated their third place overall.
Cameron Thomas (33rd, 14.29) led the U15s boys in relentless fashion, closely followed by stunning performances from Fin Hutchinson (38th, 14.33), Cameron Black (43rd, 14.49), Harry Gravelsons (46th, 14.57) and a much-improved Ollie Adams (50th, 15.10).
Solid running from Josh Angus (55th, 15.48), Joel Watson (57th, 15.51) and Ned Campbell (59th, 15.57) completed the team which finished fourth on the day, improving their position to sixth overall.
The U13 girls’ team raced over 2.5km with Ellie Deaner (13th, 11.48) leading the way, backed up by solid performances from Leah Bowen (19th, 12.03), Tulah Searle (25th, 12.18), Molly Bullock (53rd, 12.50), Olivia Robinson (55th, 12.54) and Georgia Pridham (98th, 15.37).
A good all-round team effort secured sixth place on the day, with the team falling a place to fifth in the overall standings.
The best three races from the now four matches over the season count for the individual standings. So, with his third straight league win of the season, Alex Adams (1st, 9.59) secured the honour of individual U13 boys’ champion.
Alex was U11 champion last season and so, in his first season as an U13, he did not expect to necessarily carry on his winning ways, but with a maturity beyond his years Alex has calmly and collectively stamped his authority over his competitors.
Adam Taylor (29th, 11.17) was almost chased down by Oscar Fines-Allin (33rd, 11.18) who continues to improve race by race. Consistent running from Christopher Hunt (41st, 11.32), Theo Skirvin (47th, 11.55) and Alfie Organ (64th, 11.43) completed the U13 boys’ team which finished fourth on the day, making up ground but remaining in sixth place overall.
In the last race of the day, the U15 girls over 3.2km, Georgie Campbell (1st, 13.44) beat her main rival Ella Semple (Wolverhampton & Bilston) in style by opening up a telling gap on the first long, steady climb and then extending her lead gradually over the rest of the course.
Georgie now has two wins to Ella’s one and, with only one race to go and three races to count for individual rankings, Georgie is guaranteed of at least shared honours and will go to Ella’s home turf in the last fixture with a mission to claim the title outright.
Fluent running by Ellen Taylor (13th, 14.53) ensured her third consecutive top 15 finish, while Gigi Thomas (34th, 16.03) charged past many competitors on the second lap to finish almost 30 places higher than her debut race.
Ellie Bryan (41st, 16.18), Hope Lawton (58th, 17.50) and Charlotte Gravelsons (62nd, 18.11) all ran well, completing the U15 girls’ team which finished fourth on the day, slipping to third overall.
The U15 girls’ team are only nine points from second place and are only 37 points ahead of the fourth placed team, so it is all to play for and defend at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton, in the last match of the league season.
Report compiled by Brian Gravelsons.