NEW men’s cross country team captains Malcolm Bowyer and Danny Tolhurst got their tenure got off to an encouraging start as Stratford Athletic Club lined up for the first Birmingham Cross Country League fixture of the of year hosted by Telford AC.
In bright sunshine and on a flat, grassy course, hopes were high that a strong team could continue the progress the club made last year and they did not disappoint in Division Two, which consists of 17 teams.
Newly-crowned Athlete of the Year Oscar Barbour led the team home with an excellent 18th place (31mins, 57secs). Barbour was also second U20 (junior man).
He was followed by Tim Hutchinson 34th (32.32) who is in terrific form at the moment and who was moving through the field in the second half of the race.
It was great to see Rich Shephard 48th (33.00) back racing after his serious injury and his battle with debutant Mark Hamer 51st (33.05) gives both a solid base from which they will look to improve over the winter.
Fergus Allison (59th and seventh junior, 33.22) possibly paid for an enterprising start that saw him competing in the lead group for the first part of the race and Josh Newman 71st (33.51) completed the A team scoring six with a typically gutsy race.
The team score of 281 points for seventh place is arguably one of the best ever Stratford team performances and, with positions in the team fluctuating throughout the race, there is plenty of internal competition to drive future improvement.
A schoolboy error meant Wayne Vickers (105th, 35.03) had to twice stop to retie his laces and he was followed by Kieran Tursner (115th, 35.29) who looked very strong throughout and was picking up places in the latter part of the race.
Next was David Smyth (143rd, 36.12) with a typically consistent run and James Cusack (156th, 36.28) continued the excellent form he has been showing during the triathlon season.
Malcolm Bowyer (193rd, 38.17) was disappointed with his run although he partially restored his reputation with the post-race goodies and completing the B team with another solid run was Mike Sheppard (237th, 41.18). The B team also finished seventh.
Completing the Stratford contingent were David Jones (255th, 43.09) who was always just ahead of Mike Barrie (260th, 43.29) despite the latter’s efforts all the way to the line to close the gap. A season-long battle between the two beckons.
Another debutant was Gavin Lambert (275th, 46.29) and now he has sampled the delights for the first time he will be much better prepared for future races.
Report compiled by Tony Jackson.