STRATFORD-upon-Avon AC produced a stunning team effort to finish third out of 15 teams in the prestigious ‘A’ Cup Final in the Midland Vets Track and Field Cup at The Pingles Stadium in Nuneaton.
Stratford finished ahead of much bigger clubs such as Birchfield Harriers and Royal Sutton Coldfield and edging out local rivals Leamington by just 9.5 points – 308.5 v 299.
This top three finish was achieved despite team selection being hampered due to a fixture clash with the Stratford Big 10k.
For anyone who doesn’t know, you are considered a vet in athletics at the tender age of 35.
In these type of championships it is not only the winners on the day who help you to achieve success, it is those finishing in the lower positions who, by picking up valuable points, contribute greatly to any success you may have as a team and the club managed to fill 31 of the 36 events taking place.
This meant many team members competing in events outside of their comfort zone. A look at the individual results shows just how much of a team effort it was. However, there were many exceptional individual performances.
Stratford’s golden trio of Paula Williams, Elaine Ledden and Dave Wilson were responsible for all 10 of their outright victories and contributed 30 per cent of the points total.
Williams’s victories were in the W35 200m hurdles (31.9), W40 100m (13.91), W40 long jump (4.50), W40 high jump (1.35) and W40 shot (10.30).
Ledden was victorious in W60 400m (76.70) and W60 triple jump (7.03). Her victory in the 400m was arguably the club’s performance of the day. She simply destroyed the field, winning by more than 12 seconds.
Wilson’s trio of victories were M50 100m (13.31), M50 400m (62.79) and M50 triple jump (9.26).
John Boxall was another team member who had an extremely busy day, taking second in the M50 200m hurdles (33.8) as well as fourth in M50 high jump (1.30), sixth in M35 shot (7.15), eighth in M40 javelin (21.15) and third in M50 discus (22.12).
Despite a lengthy period of injury and with him still not being fully recovered, Mark Illingworth rose to the occasion, earning 22 points by competing in M60 100m (15.94), M60 200m (33.70), M40 hammer (9.49), M35 discus (18.13) and M60 javelin (21.25).
Relative newcomer Alastair Webb competed outside of his comfort zone in the M35 800m (2:34.5). He also competed in M35 200m (28.00) and M35 long jump (4.77) as well as running in both relays.
Making a welcome return to the track and field arena after a few years away was Martin Foster, coming fourth in M60 800m (2:52.) and fifth in M60 1,500m (6:00.61).
Dave Battersby has been suffering from a sore achilles for sometime and the meeting also clashed with his daughter’s birthday. Despite this he agreed to make the journey to Nuneaton just to compete in M40 100m (13.56). It seemed a long way to come for a 13-second race, so when he discovered the club didn’t have a competitor in the M40 3,000m he volunteered, running it in a time of 11:24.04.
Peter Sugden answered the call to compete in the technically challenging pole vault but unfortunately twisted his ankle in the process. He still managed a clearance of 1.80 metres.
Joint team manager David Jones admitted to being totally exhausted at the end of the day, having competed in five events: M70 100m and 200m (17.32 & 35.65). M70 shot (5.50), M60 long jump (2.96) and M70 triple jump (6.32). He was delighted at finishing second in the triple jump, although he did sheepishly admit to the fact that there were only three competitors.
Richard Dobedoe rose from his sick bed to fill the M50 3,000m slot (11:11.60). Brian Gravelsons managed a throw of 5.68 in the shot put.
Joe Lee, making his T&F debut, completed his M35 1,500m in 5:11.17 and Kim Lee completed her M35 3,000m in 14:54.66.
Had someone suggested to endurance runner Susan Hunt a few weeks ago that she would be throwing the discus and shot put in a T&F Cup Final she would have laughed in their face. However, that is what she did. Following a couple of hasty coaching lessons she was able to throw 8.66m in W50 discus and 4.12 in W50 shot put. She also competed in W50 800m (3:22.1) and W50 1,500m (6:40.07).
Emma Bexson and Hannah Osborne are old hands at T&F, always ready to answer the call, always prepared to try something new and always competitive on the day.
Osborne, fresh from helping her family defeat Paula Radcliffe and her family in a 10k relay event at Worcester on Saturday, competed in the W35 400m (76.47), followed by a third-place finish in W35 200m (34.52) and an W35 triple jump of 6.14. She also competed in both relays.
Bexson was second in W40 800m (2:55.7) over 16 seconds ahead of the third placed runner and third in W40 1,500m (5:48.64). She also ran a leg of the 4 x 400 relay.
Another extremely busy athlete on the day was Liz Manzella, competing in W50 100m (19.26), W50 200m (41.53) and W50 high jump (1.10).
Racewalkers Gemma Smith and Kate Sergent both finished fourth in their respective W35 and W50 races. Gemma clocked a time of 15:13.48 and Kate in 15:03.63, contributing an invaluable 10 points to the club’s total.
If anyone epitomised the spirit in the team it was septuagenarian Cindy Brittan. Giving up her place in the Stratford Big 10k, she embarked on coaching lessons for her W70 long jump, finishing third with a jump of 1.53 metres. She also finished fourth in the shot put with a throw of 3.67 and finally she came fourth in W70 100m in a time of 27.70, contributing 16 points in all.
Several of the club’s Senior T&F club records were broken on the day:
Hannah Osbourne W35 Triple Jump 5.73m
David Jones M70 Triple Jump 6.32m
David Jones M70 Long Jump 2.96m
John Boxall M55 Discus 22.12m
Paula Williams W45 200mH 31.9
Cindy Brittan W70 Shot 3.67m
The team were unanimous in thanking their officials on the day – Sandy Green, Tony Jackson and Emma Sparrow and Andy List.