STRATFORD AC’s two teams both claimed top-ten places in the fourth and final fixture of the Birmingham Cross Country League at Coundon Park, Coventry.
With team captain Kieran Tursner and leading runner Rich Shepherd both unavailable it meant that other club members had to step up and their response was excellent.
The A Team finished 11th on the day and ninth overall whilst the B Team were ninth on the day and eighth overall which meant they both teams hit their target of a top ten finish.
In the race there was a terrific inter club battle throughout the race with Oscar Barbour, who finished 42nd in 41 mins 15 secs, just getting the better of fellow junior Fergus Allison (45th, 41.29) and a gutsy Tim Hutchinson (51st, 41.44).
Barbour and Allison have both been fantastic in their first season in Senior competition and this is reflected in their overall positions in the individual Junior Competition of fifth and eighth respectively.
The junior competition is otherwise dominated by members of the university teams.
Rob Minton proved that turning 40 isn’t impacting his running with a solid run (64th, 42.44) and another junior Sam Weaving (121st, 45.18) once again demonstrated his whole-hearted approach.
Wayne Vickers (128th, 46.02) was never quite close enough to get in a challenge.
The B Team were led home by B Team stalwart Malcolm Bowyer (133, 46.15) who is the epitome of consistency and reliability.
He was followed by the hard-working David Smyth (141, 46.48) and Mike Sheppard (159, 48.00) while Stuart Griffiths (204, 51.34), in his first season of cross country racing, will be well pleased with his run.
David Wolstoncroft (216, 53.05) and David Jones( 219 53.48) were together until Wolstencroft made his endurance strength tell over the last mile.
Stratford can look back on a winter of improvement where they consolidated their mid-table status in Division Two in what is a very competitive and high standard league.
Report by Tony Jackson
Midland Women’s League
STRATFORD AC women’s team will have to wait until the leagues AGM to find out whether they still retain their top flight status in the Midland Women’s League.
Stratford finished the fourth and final round at Warwick University in the 4th and final race in ninth place but it wasn’t enough to life them out of the bottom three.
They just piping local rivals Kenilworth as well as Warwick University and Rugby & Northampton on the day but ended tenth in the table.
Leading the team home in her first league race was recent signing for the club, Lucy Kershaw, who soon got into her rhythm and came home in a superb 13th place.
Ever-present Rachel Pearce was as consistent as ever finishing next for the team in 42nd, while a season’s best performance put Sheila Lammas in 47th.
Emma Bexson was 56th but felt she had paced the race badly and had too much left at the finish.
Tina Clemmenson (78th) ran a strong race in only her second cross country of the season ahead of Maria Haslam (81st), who is deep in marathon training and had already trained in the morning.
Harriet Flynn in her first year as an under 20, had her best race of the season to come 97th and close on her heels were Rebecca Pridham (98th), Suzi Graham (104th) and Jo Young (106th).
Jan McLure made a massive improvement of 25 places on her previous race to end In 112th place, ahead of Nicola Reynolds (121st) and Pip Abrams (122) .
The Master team, who run alongside the seniors, finished 5th in the match and also an excellent 5th in the league table.
The team will have to wait until the leagues AGM to find out where they will be racing next season but they may still retain their top flight status.
Report by Paul Hawkins
ROB Minton led home the Stratford AC contingent in one of the fiercest challenges of the winter for off-road runners.
The 12 mile race, in its 28th year, took in some road, but mainly hill and woodland trails with sharp climbs and descents.
Mud is a traditional feature, and this year in particular a sprinkling of snow added to the mix.
There was an air of nervousness among the 500 competitors at the start as it was obvious that conditions underfoot were the worst for years.
“Wet and muddy all the way with no let-ups” was the verdict of Minton who was first home for Stratford in 26th place (5th M40, 1:35:36).
Minton ran well, challenging ex-Stratford member Johann Breytenbach until the effects of two races in two days made themselves felt; Minton had raced the day before for the club cross country team.
Next home was Dan Lynch, a newcomer to the race, (39th, 1:38:31) followed by Waleed Agabani (119th, 1:52:17) who threw himself at another stiff challenge only a week after an off-road marathon in the Lake District.
Tim Owrid (290th, 16th M55, 2:12:58) made up the Stratford runners with a typically gutsy performance.