THERE was a healthy Stratford Athletic Club turnout at the third fixture of the Midland Women’s Cross Country League, held at Aldersley Stadium in Wolverhampton.
This is a regular venue on the Midlands cross country circuit and, as expected, the going was fairly soft after the recent rain and the usual undulating course was used.
Stratford were competing in the 12-team first division, which has proved very tough this season against the leading Midlands clubs and universities.
Leading the Stratford team home was Rachel Pearce who was her usual consistent self in 44th place despite recently recovering from illness.
Close behind was Emma Bexson (54th) who is improving with every race this season.
Third for the team was Sheila Lammas (58th) who is continuing to regain fitness after a long lay-off through injury. She found the fast course and muddy conditions rather testing but said: “The fantastic team camaraderie drove me on to produce as strong a run as I could muster. I thoroughly enjoyed my return to racing!”
Team manager Sarah Bland (68th) ran a well paced race despite also having to organise the event, which meant she was unable to warm up properly.
In 91st was leading under 20 athlete Seren Mahon who demonstrated a very fast finish which was duly noted by her coach!
Close behind was Emily Adams (97th) who had made the wrong choice of footwear, opting to run in trail shoes and not spikes.
Emily instantly regretted this decision as she said it was like running on an ice rink. She added: “It was a tough race from the beginning and I struggled on the hills, clearly showing my lack of hill training.
“It was a great team to be with, which makes all the difference. Secretly I loved it, but don’t tell anyone!”
Next for the club was another under 20, Harriet Flynn (112th), who is enjoying her first season running with the senior team.
Next was Rebecca Pridham (115th) who commented: “It’s the team spirit and laughs which make cross country such a great event. It’s great to travel so far yet still hear your name shouted.
“Like Sarah, I am so proud to wear the Stratford AC vest and be part of such a welcoming club.”
The remaining members of the team were Suzi Graham (119th) who also raced the following day, Jo Young (125th) and Jan McClure (136th) in her first ever cross country race.
Overall the team came 11th, which means they will be battling to stay in the top division at the final fixture, but the Masters team finished a very impressive third.
Report compiled by Paul Hawkins.