STRATFORD Athletic Club’s veterans track and field team performed magnificently at the recent Midland Veterans Cup Final in Solihull, where 18 teams from across the Midlands competed.
The squad – the current Stratford District Council senior sports team of the year – was blighted by a perfect storm of holidays, illness and injuries but still came within a point of securing a top-three position, finishing with 302 points to Cannock and Staffs’ 303.
First off the mark was Graham Black with a throw of 27.63m in the hammer. Emma Bexson and John Boxall both finished fourth in the 200m hurdles, with Boxall securing the first club record of the day with 33.16. Bexson then ran an excellent 3,000m (12:16.43) and earned a valuable point in the hammer.
Boxall was then second in the M50 high jump with 1.40m – another club record for his age group – and fifth in the triple jump with 7.69m.
Kieran Tursner finished fourth in the M35 800m in a PB of 2:20.60 and David Jones also finished fourth in the M60 race (2:58.46). He was later to finish third in his 1,500m race (6:02.60) and sixth in the 200m (36.97).
In the 800m, Emma Vickers and Penny Stainthorp were making their first starts of the season and secured sixth and fourth places in the W35 and W60 races with 3:09.48 and 3:24.11 respectively.
Brian Gravelsons was fourth in the M40 100m, seventh in the M35 shot and M40 javelin and fourth in the M40 triple jump. In the 4x400m he injured his calf 20m in but bravely completed the leg.
Andy List was fifth in both the M50 100m and M35 long jump. His leap of 4.08m is a club record for the M55 age group.
Peter Coote finished fifth in the M60 100m in another extremely busy day for the combined-eventer. In M60 events, he was fifth in the pole vault, sixth in the long jump, third in the hammer, second in the javelin, just 41cm off first place, and fifth in the M50 shot, securing a magnificent 28 points on the day.
Phil Brennan has been competing at the World Masters Championships in Malaga this week and his parting shots were fifth and fourth-placed finishes in the M70 100m and 200m races.
The performances and commitment of Christine Coote, Rachel Clark and Elaine Ledden were absolutely heroic. Between them, they competed in 18 of the 30 women’s events, 11 of the 12 field events and secured 64 per cent of the women’s team’s total.
Christine’s third-placed finishes in the W60 100m, 400m, hammer, long jump and triple jump included club records in the 400m by 22 seconds and the hammer by 6m.
On the morning of the cup final, Clark felt she would be unable to compete. However, and typically, she did turn up. Not only did she turn up but she competed in eight events, contributing 29 points in her individual events and helping earn another seven in the relays.
Raising the bar
Elaine Ledden’s contribution took commitment to another level. Unable to compete for the first half of the year due to injury, she fought back from that injury and then, cruelly, in the week leading up to the cup final she caught a nasty cold which went on to her chest just 48 hours before the big day.
Many others in that situation would have opted not to compete, but Ledden is made of sterner stuff. She turned up, competed in seven events and helped contribute 24 points to the total as she broke age group club records in the long jump, high jump, shot and discus.
If one moment summed up the whole day, it was the sight of Ledden running the last leg of the 4x400m relay, virtually on her knees and with a bottle of water in hand due to the dryness of her throat. She did this, she said, because “the team might need the points”.
There was a track and field debut for Ruth Calderbank who finished fourth in the W60 3,000m in a race in which Rugby & Northampton’s Angela Copson broke the W70 world record with 12:13.12. Calderbank’s time of 15:28.58 is a W65 club record.
Gemma Smith was fifth in the W40 2,000m race walk, while Emily Adams picked up valuable points by competing in the W35 400m, 1,500m and 200m.
Kate Sergent will do anything asked of her for the sake of the team and was fifth in the W60 1,500m and third in the 2,000m race walk.
Matt Burdus-Cook has been a wonderful addition to the team. His first 3,000m race resulted in a second-placed finish in 10:47.03. Malcolm Bowyer was third in both the M50 3,000m and M40 2,000m race walk.
David Smyth was fourth in both the M50 400m and then, 35 minutes later, in the M35 1,500m. Dave Battersby is enjoying an injury-free period and has had a superb season. His second-placed finish in the M40 400m, just 0.14 of a second off first, was a highlight of the day. He was then third in the M35 200m before running superb legs in both relays.
There was a welcome track and field debut for 74-year-old Pete Law, competing in his first shot put competition. Team coach Tony Humphries was fifth in the M40 high jump and M50 discus and fourth in the M35 pole vault.
For Paul Hawkins, it was a case of another day, another PB and another club record. Having achieved two PBs and broken two club records the previous weekend at Alexander Stadium, he proceeded to break his own club record in winning the M60 2,000m race walk.
His next challenge will be the World Masters Championships in Malaga later in the month, when he will be taking on the world’s best in his event.