STRATFORD Athletic Club’s juniors finished third in the final meeting of the West Midland Young Athletes Cross Country League season at Aldersley Stadium in Wolverhampton to secure the same position overall.
Stratford totalled 23,825 points, behind only champions Rugby & Northampton AC with 27,013 and Wolverhampton & Bilston with 25,992.
This is the third consecutive year the junior team have finished in third place and, despite two gaps in the team over the season, progress has been made as the distance behind the leading teams has reduced compared to last year.
A bright but cold day greeted the U17 women as they lined up for their 4km race. Emily Field (7th, 16.05) made the most of the tough uphill start and soon placed herself in seventh – a position she maintained throughout the rest of the race.
Imogen Sheppard (20th, 17.01) held on strongly, battling against challenges from two competitors in the final straight to ensure she achieved top 20 finishes throughout the entire season.
Daisy Musk (28th, 17.47), Abi Wootton (38th, 18.32) and Olivia Hall (39th, 18.35) battled with each other over the first lap-and-a-half, with Daisy demonstrating her strength over the final lap. Edie Hutchinson (47th, 19,54), enjoyed her last league race as a junior, completing the team that finished fifth on the day and maintained fourth position overall.
The U11 boys raced over one large lap that was probably just short of the declared 1.6km. Flynn Dathan (25th, 5.45) led the team home with his best performance of the season by some margin.
Henry Wheeler (33rd, 5.55) finished strongly to pick up a place on the uphill finish and Hugh Markham (48th, 6.07) showed amazing energy over the course, in particular at the finish where he ensured nobody was going to pass him.
Seb Hillard (51st, 6.11), James Day (52nd, 6.12), Alex McMillan (72nd, 6.27), Ollie Hemming (85th, 6.31) and Ed Twyman (94th, 6.39) all had good races that echoed their very consistent season.
The U11 boys’ team finished in fifth place on the day and remained sixth overall, just missing out on fifth place by three points.
One more than the minimum three required for a team of U17 men represented the club over the 4.8km, with Owain Jones (19th, 17.19) leading the team home, completing his hat-trick of top 20 season finishes.
A real club battle saw Rhys Mahon (44th, 19.30) get the better of Ben Jones (45th, 19.45) and Adam Bayliss (46th, 19.51) over the final lap. The U17 men’s team finished seventh on the day, improving their position to eighth place overall.
The U11 girls have displayed real strength and depth all season and this continued into the last match with 13 representing the club.
Maddie Linfoot (9th, 6.02) made a strong start and held on well to achieve her fourth consecutive top ten finish and a brilliant run from Caitlin Boyle (16th, 6.07) was the start of a flurry of Stratford AC juniors including Scarlett Richardson (19th, 6.09), Niamh Hillard (21st, 6.11), Tessa Parkin (26th, 6.19), Maisie-Joy Spriggs (27th, 6.20) and Lucy Thomas (33rd, 6.25), all of whom continue to dazzle.
Ruby Edwards (52nd, 6.41), Tilly Campbell (54th, 6.43), Olivia Hawkyard (67th, 6.56), Harriet Black (76th, 7.00), Kate Pridham (88th, 7.13) and Ella Peeke (96th, 7.27) demonstrated what a superbly strong team the U11 girls are as they finished third on the day and fully deserve their third placed medals over the entire season.
The U15 boys’ team continued to show its healthy club rivalry as Tom Crowfoot (39th, 12.02) led the team home, closely followed by Will Crowfoot (41st, 12.06).
At one stage seven Stratford U15 boys were in consecutive positions, battling between themselves over the 3.2km. Cameron Black (48th, 12.30) made his move halfway through the first lap and put a little distance ahead of Cameron Collins (50th, 12.33) who managed to stay ahead of fast-finishing Ollie Adams (51st, 12.34) and Fin Hutchinson (52nd, 12.34), who both raced as hard as they could to beat one another.
Ned Campbell (57th, 12.45) continued his recent improved form, keeping ahead of solid running from Josh Angus (59th, 12.49) and Sean Mata (61st, 12.58) as the U15 boys’ team finished sixth on the day, securing sixth overall.
The U13 girls’ team were one short of the required five scoring positions, but each individual raised their performance in an attempt to make up some of the lost points.
Ellie Deaner (10th, 9.27) started strongly and continued in the same manner over the 2.5km to lead the team home, followed by Tulah Searle (19th, 9.42) who secured her first top 20 finish, with Holly Newton (53rd, 10.26) and Georgia Pridham (95th, 11.49) both raising their game compared to earlier races in the season.
With a member short, the team finished ninth on the day and seventh overall.
In an unassailable position in the overall individual U13 boys’ championship, Alex Adams (1st, 8.03) had the luxury of a ‘race of honour’ and enjoyed the occasion by putting in a relaxed, dominant performance to secure his seventh straight league win.
Alex has now won across age groups in successive years and has the chance to defend his title in the U13 age group next season.
Louis Kendrick (15th, 8.38) ran fluently for a great top 20 finish, whilst Adam Taylor (23rd, 8.56) battling strongly and finished well.
Theo Skirvin (47th, 8.40) showed his consistency by finishing in the same position for the second consecutive race, with Caleb Spriggs (65th, 10.08), Alfie Organ (74th, 10.23) and Sam Bloomfield (87th, 12.23) all producing solid runs to help the team finish sixth on the day, ensuring a sixth placed finish overall.
With the absence of Ella Semple from Wolverhampton & Bilston, Georgie Campbell (1st, 11.35) had the luxury of only needing to finish in the top two to secure the outright U15 girls’ individual championship.
However, Georgie, in her usual fashion, simply dominated the race, enjoying the occasion of successfully defending her title.
Ellen Taylor (17th, 12.31) started strongly but then struggled slightly to hold her position over the second lap of the 3.2km course, while Gigi Thomas (40th, 13.37) stayed ahead of Ellie Bryan (41st, 13.38) over the, now, very soft conditions.
Unfortunately Hope Lawton pulled up injured and, after checking her team-mate was not too distressed, Charlotte Gravelsons (61st, 15.01) carried on through a freak hailstorm, knowing she needed to finish – as the first five in the team are scoring places – for the overall U15 girls’ team to be in with a chance of a medal.
However, a great performance on the day from Rugby & Northampton AC meant they pipped Stratford’s U15 girls’ team into third place overall by just four agonising points.
Report compiled by Brian Gravelsons.