THE ANNUAL Warwickshire County Athletics Association Cross Country Championships were again held on the traditional first Saturday of the new year at Warley Woods, which proved to be a happy hunting ground for Stratford Athletic Club’s top young talents, write David Parkin, Tony Jackson and Paul Hawkins.
The event gives athletes the opportunity to race for individual and team medals on the day, as well as earning selection to represent Warwickshire at the national inter-counties fixture in March.
Stratford AC had their most successful outing ever with three individual golds, one silver, two bronze and five team medals.
In addition, the Heeley Trophy is awarded to the best club overall, taking into account all age groups. For the last two years Stratford have finished third, but this year they moved up to second place as they demonstrated their continued improvement, behind Birchfield but beating last year’s winners Coventry Godiva.
The U13s race over 3km, with the girls starting immediately after the boys. In the U13 boys’ race, William Mayes (10th, 10:53), continued his fine league form and looked good as he finished strongly.
Close behind Mayes were James Day (14th, 11:08) and Henry Wheeler (17th, 11:19) and, with the first three finishers constituting the team, this was sufficient to give the team an excellent third place. The squad also comprised Seb Hillard (18th, 11:22), Joe Lewis (24th, 11:35) and Ben Herbert (27th, 11:51).
The Stratford U13 girls fielded a large team of 11 athletes. Maddie Linfoot (3rd, 11:05) and Niamh Hillard (1st, 10:36) were part of a small group that made much of the early running on the first lap, before Hillard made a stunning move on the hill at the start of the second lap to accelerate into the lead.
She continued to extend her position in an imperious display of cross-country running, even overtaking a number of the U13 boys who were still on the course just before the finish.
Tessa Parkin (9th, 11:31), running two years under age, had a fine outing to make up the team which placed first overall. The next three Stratford runners – Abbi Cooper (10th, 11:47), Caitlin Boyle (11th, 11:48) and Annie Silvers (12th, 11:49) – worked well together around the course and illustrated the strength in depth of this squad.
Also competing were Martha Paters (21st, 12:34), Tilly Campbell (29th, 13:01), Harriet Black (33rd, 13:09), Ruby Edwards (38th, 14:33) and Kate Pridham (41st, 15:02).
In the U15 boys’ race, run over 4km, Alex Adams (1st, 12:53), last year’s under 13 winner, successfully won his new age group by leading from the front and looking in excellent form as he has all season.
Adams eventually won by 20 seconds over his rival Finlay White from Birchfield Harriers. Theo Skirvin (16th, 14:25) and Taylor Stubbins (26th, 15:37) both ran well to make up the team which secured third place, followed by Joe Warner (32nd, 16:36).
The U15 girls’ race saw fine teamwork from Charly Marshall (2nd, 15:11) and Olivia Robinson (3rd, 15:18) who ran together throughout and should be delighted with their excellent showing.
Placed 5th and 6th on the first lap, they confidently worked their way up through the field, as they have become accustomed to.
Poppy Fox-Rowe (23rd, 18:31) completed the point-scoring team which came third, closely followed by Molly Bullock (24th, 18:44), Martha Hodgson (26th, 18:52) and Georgia Pridham (32nd, 23:48) who all battled hard on the long and challenging course.
The under 17 and 20 races were run together over a 5k course and in the under 17 women’s race Georgie Campbell (1st, 16:49) successfully defended her title to win by over a minute from the second-placed athlete.
Remarkably, this was Georgie’s fifth consecutive title having first won as an under 13. Ellen Taylor (5th, 19:02), who continues to improve in her comeback from a long-term injury, started conservatively but worked her way through the field in the second half of the race.
The only Stratford runner in the under 20 women’s race was Daisy Musk (20:05) who was also in fifth place and will be pleased with this run as she develops in this age group.
The under 17 and 20 men also run together but over a three-lap 6km course. Stratford’s under 17 team claimed the club’s fifth team medal of the day, led by James Mucklow (12th, 21.31) and followed by a fast-finishing Josh Dobedoe (17th, 22:27) and Ned Campbell (19th, 22:35) in probably his best race yet as he comes back from injury.
There were two more Stratford athletes completing the strong team – Fin Hutchinson (26th, 24:33) and Cameron Black (27th, 24:41).
With only two Stratford runners, there was no team award in the under 20s but both should be happy with their races. Owain Jones was 11th (21:30) and Seb Hopper 14th (22:12).
The day’s events concluded with the senior women’s and men’s races which both incorporated a separate masters race.
Stratford completed a team in both ladies’ competitions with Sophie Dobedoe (22nd, 24:25) leading the seniors team home with a terrific run and placing.
Suzanne Ross (27th, 27:47) and Sarah Vernon (34th, 28:34) can both be pleased with their runs and their combined scores meant a very respectable sixth place in the team competition.
In the masters race Emma Bexson 18th (25:19) continues to be a model of excellent consistency and Yvonne Ganjy 32nd (27:27) can also always be relied upon to provide a strong supporting role.
Liuba Pasa 47th (28:24), who is enjoying her first British cross country season, was the final team scorer and overall they placed seventh team. Rebecca Pridham 59th (29:59) was her typical smiley and gutsy self as the final finisher from the club.
In the senior men’s race Josh Newman 15th (31:49) was SAC’s only runner following several withdrawals due to injury and injury but that only highlighted his excellent performance and he can be hugely satisfied with his run, especially as he was not fully recovered from illness over Christmas.
Matt Burdus-Cook 9th (32:41) continues in fine form and he led home the masters team. The measure of his improvement is that in the masters race he moved from 32nd last year to 9th and in the senior race from 106th to 45th.
Behind him was a hard-fought battle which ended with Tim Hutchinson 21st (34.15) just getting the better of Neil Wicks 23rd (34.29) after running close together for the whole race. A solid run by John Raby 35th (35.29) completed an excellent team performance which saw the team finish just outside the medals in fourth position.
Behind them came the dependable Malcolm Bowyer 50th (37.20), closely followed by David Smyth 52nd (37.37) and Max Ross 53rd (37.39) who were always together spurring each other on. Mike Sheppard 93rd (41.42) and Phil Marshall 119th (46.27) both enjoyed their runs as they brought a very successful afternoon for the club to a close.