STRATFORD Athletic Club’s Alex Adams and Georgie Campbell were the top finishers for their county teams at the English Schools’ Cross Country Championships, which were again held at Temple Newsam Park in Leeds.
For the leading Stratford junior cross country runners, this event is often the climax to a long season and the setting is not a place for the faint-hearted. Last year it was bitterly cold winds with sleet whereas this this year there were very strong winds, again with heavy rain.
Conditions rapidly deteriorated as runners in the 59th edition of the championships churned up the ground on the undulating course.
Both of the Stratford runners in the junior boys’ 4.1km race were making their debuts at this level and will be pleased with the experience.
Adams, representing Gloucestershire, started a little slower than in his previous races and was boxed in but moved through and had a fine finish to gain a top 20 place, placing 19th in 14:11. He will be running in the same age group next season so will be looking to make progress then.
In the Warwickshire team, Caleb Spriggs (309th, 16:24) ran well but had some breathing problems in the latter half of the race and dropped some places then.
Stratford AC had two athletes in the Warwickshire team in the intermediate girls’ race, held over 3.7km. Leading the way for the team was Campbell who ran with the leading group early in the race before finally finishing 31st in 14:25.
Gigi Thomas (271st, 16:14) was making her debut for the county team and was very strong throughout the race and will be pleased to have been the third finisher for the team.
The senior girls’ race over 4.1km had four Stratford runners, which meant a race within a race developed. Emily Field, Gloucestershire, had a strong start and initially was well clear of her club-mates. However, Warwickshire girls Imogen Sheppard, Daisy Musk and Abbie Wootton seemed to get stronger as the race progressed. In the final 300m of the race Musk and Sheppard battled each other up the finish straight as both got past Field to finally finish Musk (166th, 17:58), Sheppard (174th, 18:02) and Field (188th, 18:09).
Musk and Sheppard were third and fourth in their county team. Unfortunately, Wootton (265th, 19:11) was feeling below par and dropped back in the final part of the race.
James Mucklow (237th, 19:35) has had a tremendous first season of cross country and finished third in the team.
“Considering the conditions, I enjoyed the race and thankfully made it around without falling, although I’ll need to get some longer spikes for next year!” he said.
“I’ve really enjoyed my first season of cross country which I can hopefully build on for next year. Now I’m really looking forward to the track season.”
The senior boys’ race was the last race over the longest distance of 6.7km with the worst conditions and the two Stratford athletes both found the going tough.
Owain Jones (262nd, 26:15) battled well through the mud but will be pleased to be moving on to track races, while Ben Jones (297th, 27:59) looked comfortable throughout, maintaining an even pace, although he would have looked to have been a little quicker.
Report by Paul Hawkins.