Thursday 22 November 2012 Updated: 22/11 09:39
THE Midland Women’s Cross Country League has become an increasingly successful competition for Stratford AC in recent years.
It proved to be another positive day at Newbold Comyn in Leamington with a new kid on the block producing a fabulous a senior league debut and many other fantastic displays of off-road distance running.
The superb performances of the club’s first three women to finish (Zoe Chandler, Dani Rasgauski, Sarah Wheeler) meant the team finished 12th out of 38 teams, while the Masters team of Dani, Sarah and Emma Bexson were a brilliant third out of 28.
There were ten changes to the team for the corresponding fixture 12 months ago. Kate Wright who was first Stratford AC woman at this venue in November 2011, was absent from this event due to being in Australia, Sarah Bland contented herself with the logistical challenge of team management this time around and Cat Sales was frustrated to miss out due to illness.
Zoe Chandler (18th, 27.26) is just 17 but showed maturity beyond her years, starting in the front rank and taking the race by the scruff of the neck.
She looked composed from start to finish and gave the team a huge boost by finishing in the top 20 of which nine were representing the university teams of Loughborough and Birmingham who are favourites for the league title.
Four places lower than last year, but actually two and half minutes faster, was Dani Rasgauski (35th, 28.21) the Stratford AC female cross country runner of the year in 2011 and 2012.
Sarah Wheeler (80th, 31.02). who enjoyed the race and was happy with her pacing,
felt a responsibility to put in a good performance due to the number of women out injured or unavailable to race.
Just behind was another senior debutant in Lucy McDermott (84th, 31.12) who ran as well as she could have expected.
Emma Bexson (97th, 31.52) is always competitive and versatile enough not to care whether she is running around school fields or negotiating steep hills. It was no surprise that she managed a cracking top 100 finish.
The relaxed approach of Fern Horden (123rd, 33.06) belies her steely resolve and an ability to mix it with the fleet ladies that line-up in league fixtures.
Katie Earys (126th, 33.11) made a late footwear decision and opted, sensibly, to take Sarah Bland’s offer of some off-road shoes which fortunately fitted perfectly.
Her team-mates will be hoping she makes it to all four fixtures, as it won’t be long before she is confident enough in her own ability to kick on right from the off.
After the shock of actually being part of such a competitive race had worn off after about half a lap, Anna McMullen (148th, 34.39) started to really enjoy herself.
Where there is mud, you will more often than not find Lesley Kirk (165th, 35.38) who felt right at home at Newbold Comyn and really enjoyed the run.
She found the second lap a bit of a struggle but used all her experience to maintain a steady pace and made it to the finish in a very good position.
Nadya Svetlakova-Doyle (166th, 35.40) thought it was a fun race, taking to the terrain more than she thought she would.
Vanessa Crookes (188th, 37.48) arrived not long before the start and even without time for a proper warm-up ran a strong race.
For Penny Stanhope (221st, 40.20) this was a learning exercise as she had never run in a cross country race. Disbelief at the amount of mud and the sight of the imposing Beacon Hill mixed with sheer enjoyment to create some positive nervous energy and a smile that lasted the whole race.
‘Mud, glorious mud’ was the way Kate Barrett (266th, 46.15) summarised her thoughts about the race. This was Kate’s‘slowest run ever but she was extremely happy to just get round.
Stratford AC’s senior female athlete of the year, Eloise Du Luart, and Dawn Compton - recent LV45 winner of the Warwickshire Road Race League - were unable to finish but they will be back.
The race was won by Frances Briscoe of Coventry Godiva Harriers in 25.04.
Race two is at Burbage Common in Hinckley on Saturday, December 1.
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