STRATFORD Athletic Club had three individual victories to celebrate at the West Midland Young Athletes Cross Country League fixture at Nuneaton, writes David Parkin.
This achievement was a first for the club on a course being used for the first time since 2014 and it presented a significant technical challenge for the young athletes – heavy mud, tight corners, minimal overtaking spots and short, sharp climbs.
Stratford fielded full teams in all eight races with individual wins for Georgie Campbell (U17W), Alex Adams (U15B) and Tessa Parkin (U11G). Sixty-three athletes participated for Stratford and the club finished third on the day.
Stratford now sit second in the league with 18,631 points, just 18 points behind rivals Wolverhampton & Bilston going into the final race in February.
The U15 girls were led home by another fine performance from Charlotte Marshall (2nd, 14:09) with her best placing of the year and sufficient to move her into joint first position in the league going into the final race.
Olivia Robinson (6th, 14:33) could not quite keep with Marshall on the second lap, but this was an excellent run for her second top ten finish of the season.
Molly Bullock (41st, 16:33) ran well with a fighting finish for her best place of the year. Abigail Skinner (46th, 16:46) and Holly Newton (53rd, 17:22) made up the scoring positions, with Georgie Pridham (76th, 22:18) completing the team.
The U13 boys had a tough day, with several athletes struggling to get through the congested pack in the first half of the race. James Day (34th, 10:44) was first home for the team, with William Mayes (38th, 10:46) chasing hard, but not quite able to reel him in.
Seb Hillard (46th, 11:09), Joe Lewis (52nd, 11:14) and Henry Wheeler (60th, 11:28) made up the scoring positions. Alex McMillan (69th, 11:43), in his first outing of the season, and Hugh Markham (85th, 12:39) comprised the remainder of the team.
Others step up
In the U13 girls’ race, Stratford were weakened by injury to county champion Niamh Hillard, but Maddie Linfoot (9th, 10:34) had a consistently strong race, finishing in the top ten for the second outing in succession.
Abbi Cooper (22nd, 10:56) ran the first lap in close formation with Caitlin Boyle (34th, 11:20) before Boyle slipped back and a persevering Maisie-Joy Spriggs (28th, 11:01) moved impressively up the field.
Tilly Campbell (47th, 11:38) improved again for her best performance of the season and worked hard throughout alongside Emma Francioni (48th, 11:40). Lucy Thomas (52nd, 11:46), Martha Peters (55th, 11:50), Ella Peeke (78th, 12:48), Katie Pridham (85th, 13:37) and Ruby Edwards (86th, 13:42) completed the Stratford team.
Alex Adams (1st, 12:17) won the U15 boys’ race by a considerable margin, leading from the start and giving him an unprecedented 17th successive league win.
Theo Skirvin (20th, 13:30) had a great race, full of heart, to give him a first top 20 position of the season. Taylor Stubbins (34th, 14:04), Adam Taylor (38th, 14:06), Caleb Spriggs (40th, 14:09), Tom Francioni (42nd, 14:14) and Edward Holcroft (54th, 14:53) were well bunched in the middle of the field, with special mention to Spriggs for his explosive finish.
In a fast, bunched start to the U11 girls’ race, Annie Silvers took a tumble and, despite running valiantly for much of the race, was unable to finish.
Tessa Parkin (1st, 08:05) ran comfortably in second position and again chose her tactics carefully, accelerating into first off the top of the last climb to secure her second successive win.
Overall performance of the day goes to Marijke Tear-Verweij (9th, 08:38) who was combative throughout to secure her best ever league position. Lois Ford (31st, 09:24) struggled at the start to find her position, but continues to have an excellent debut season.
Amelia Peeke (44th, 09:52) ran brilliantly, particularly given that she ran almost the entire race with one shoe and the team was completed by Ava Sheppard (51st, 10:03) and Lily-Mai Pagan (78th, 12:13).
The returning James Mucklow (16th, 19:20) added strength to the U17 men’s squad. Looking powerful and in control throughout the race, Mucklow will be pleased with another solid top 20 finish.
Tom Crowfoot (19th, 19:29) and Will Crowfoot (21st, 19:37) worked hard together for much of the race before Tom pulled away in the final lap.
There was a strong Stratford contingent in the middle of the race, with Cameron Thomas (28th, 20:03), Josh Dobedoe (31st, 20:31) and Ned Campbell (34th, 20:49) particularly catching the eye as they made solid inroads up the field.
Fin Hutchinson (38th, 21:49) had a positive outing and a strong finish and Thomas Mayes (40th, 22:15), Cameron Black (41st, 22:18) and Harry Gravelsons (48th, 25:05) put in good performances to make up the team.
Maxime Verstraeten (10th, 08:15) battled illness for much of the Christmas period, but had a solid return to racing, starting well and holding his position throughout the U11 boys’ race. Verstraeten now sits fifth in the league.
Joshua Davies (26th, 08:52) had another consistent run, followed closely by Samuel Plumb (34th, 09:04) who achieved his best result to date. Aran Cooper (41st, 09:17) led in a flurry of yellow and black Stratford vests, with Harry Francioni (50th, 09:28), Arthur Mansbridge (54th, 09:31) and Alfie Musk (55th, 09:31) close on his heels.
Josh Harrison (64th, 09:44), Henry Sims (77th, 09:54) and Ewan Sparrow (96th, 10:24) completed the team.
The U17 women’s team were weakened by the loss of Ellen Taylor, but fielded a full team nonetheless. Georgie Campbell (1st, 15:50) led from the start and eventually won by a dominant 40 seconds from Louise Hackett of Wolverhampton & Bilston – the biggest winning margin of the day.
Gigi Thomas (20th, 18:53) ran very well and secured her highest position of the season and Charlotte Gravelsons (42nd, 23:00) completed the team and the scoring positions.
In what has become Stratford’s best season in recent memory, thanks must go to the officials, coaches and parents who make competing possible.