It's that time of the year again! - The Stratford Observer
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15th Aug, 2022

It's that time of the year again!

Liam Moakes 17th Nov, 2016

THE TRADITIONAL opener to the winter cross-country season was again held at Newbold Comyn in Leamington, although this year the conditions meant the infamous ditch was bypassed.

Stratford Athletic Club sent ladies’ and men’s teams which both included a healthy mix of stalwarts, newcomers and a warm welcome to juniors stepping up to senior competition for the first time.

For the first time the ladies’ competition has been split into two divisions and Stratford are in a very strong first division and avoiding relegation will be their priority target.

In ideal running conditions the ladies were led home by the ever-dependable Rachel Pearce (57th, 28mins, 13secs), followed by team captain Sarah Bland (68th, 29:05) who is showing increasing signs of returning to form.

Joining the club on the eve of the season specifically to compete in cross country, Seanin Gilmour (73rd, 29:17) showed what an asset she will be as she moved steadily through the field and Hannah Osbourne (82nd, 29:51) completed the A team scorers.

Ceri Shepherd (90th, 30:29) and (Tina Clemmenson 102nd, 31:34) were followed by two juniors (Seren Mahon 105th, 31:57) and Harriet Flynn (117th, 33:30) debuting for the senior team who both enjoyed the day and who can only benefit from the experience.

Rebecca Pridham (123rd, 34:13) has a love of cross-country which showed in her face as she smiled her way around the course, improving by more than three minutes on last year’s time and next was Jo Young (132nd, 35:53).

Emma Vickers (147th, 40:28) would have had ambitions of a much higher placing but an injury during the race saw her courageously hobble the last mile to the finish.

Another newcomer Phillipa Abrams (151st, 42:45) enjoyed her day in the mud and Nicola Reynolds (153rd, 43:36) was pleased to get a round safely after a period of illness which has limited her running recently.

The ladies’ team were 12th on the day but there was better news in the separate Masters competition in which Rachel, Sarah, Seanin and Ceri combined to finish seventh.

Unfortunately, new men’s cross-country captain Kieran Tursner was sidelined with injury but he was there to lead his team and he will have been impressed with what he saw as the A team total of 311 put them eighth on the day and on track for their targeted top ten finish for the season.

Equally impressive were the B team who also finished eighth.

Leading the team home and taking up seamlessly from where he left off last year was Rich Shephard in an excellent 11th (38mins, 18secs).

Behind were a couple of brilliant inter-club rivalries which pitched the stalwarts against the new seniors and the former came out on top.

Still not fully recovered from his knee injury and concerned about his fitness, Tim Hutchinson (42nd, 41:22) still matched his performance of 12 months ago and he just got the better of Fergus Allison (43rd, 41:23), whilst Josh Newman (68th, 42:28) likewise just pipped Oscar Barbour (69th, 42:29).

Nevertheless, both Fergus and Oscar had excellent runs and this will have been a great learning curve that augurs well for future races. Completing the scoring six was true stalwart Rob Minton (78th, 42:45).

The B team were led home by Tim Tandy (140th, 45:38) and behind him and easing himself into the race following his New York Marathon exploits was Malcolm Bowyer who was very pleased with 145th (45:45).

Graham Taylor was disappointed with his 157th (46:18) but is motivated to improve over the season.

Next was Antony Howell (167th, 46:56) whilst David Parkin (172nd, 47:21) ran a well-paced race that saw him move through the field throughout the race.

Matt Lyness (197th, 49:28) just held off Ivan Sarti (198th, 49:41) to take the final scoring position in the B team.

Ivan was late arriving for the race and gave the whole field more than three minutes’ start. If he can improve his timekeeping he can be a big asset for the club.

Dave Wolstencroft (242nd, 53:27) and James Fidoe (243rd, 53:31) had a great battle throughout whilst David Jones (247th, 54:22), newcomer Stuart Griffiths (251st, 54:38) and Mike Barrie (252nd, 54:42) were all close enough to initiate a new team rivalry to see them through the winter.

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