THE 2017 National Cross Country Championships took place at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham on Sunday when Stratford Athletic Club was represented in healthy numbers.
On a suitably tough course to test the country’s best, the first event was the U17 women’s race. Edie Hutchinson (228th, 25.23) and Hannah Bexson (248th, 28.08) had the honour of being first out for the club and clearly demonstrated the clean to extremely dirty transformation that would befall every athlete who raced on the day.
Both Hannah and Edie put every ounce of effort into their 5km race and were both pleased with their reward.
Six U15 boys took on the challenge of the 4.5km course. Four athletes are needed, and hence Stratford AC would feature, in the U15 boys’ team competition.
Owain Jones (167th, 16.52) led the team home, as he has all season, with a great performance that clearly demonstrates where Owain is at a national level.
Cameron Collins (286th, 18.20), Archie Musk (295th, 18.31) and Josh Angus (322nd, 18.57) all ran well and Fin Hutchinson (370th, 21.52) really helped Ollie Adams (371st, 22.02) finish his first national competition, demonstrating the Stratford AC team ethos. The U15 boys’ team finished 33rd overall.
Only one athlete represented Stratford AC in the U13 girls’ race over 3km. Ellen Taylor (154th, 15:10) paced herself well, looking strong on the second lap and being justly rewarded by improving on her performance of the previous year.
Five U15 girls represented the club, making up a team which finished 30th overall for the second year in a row.
Georgie Campbell (48th, 17.39) made a strong start, taking full advantage of the favourable pen draw, and then continued to battle hard against the country’s best cross country athletes. A top 50 finish represents a fine reward and a good benchmark to improve upon next season.
Abbie Wootton (233rd, 19.30) managed to edge out club-mate Imogen Sheppard (19.35) in the closing stages, while Daisy Musk (340th, 20.57) and Charlotte Gravelsons (399th, 22.43) both enjoyed the tough test and are looking forward to the more predictable track conditions over the summer.
Only one athlete represented Stratford AC in the highly competitive junior men’s race over 10km. Oscar Barbour (140th, 38.45) ran strongly, picking up a few places in the latter stages. This was the first time Oscar has competed in this age category at a national level and thus it gives a good benchmark to measure himself against over the next couple of years.
Seven U13 boys took on the two smaller laps which totalled 3km. This was almost enough for two teams, demonstrating the commitment that has been welcomed all season in the U11-13 boys’ age category.
Alex Adams (76th, 13.30) led the team home with another brilliant performance. This is the biggest race Alex has so far been involved in and he met the challenge with his usual calm maturity.
Josh Mitchell (218th, 14.21) and Adam Taylor (373rd, 15.32) both impressed with their hard work and determination and Ned Campbell (401st, 15.56), Matthew Bexson (426th, 16.25) and Harry Gravelsons (452nd, 18.06) all thrived in the tough conditions.
Louis Kendrick (457th, 20.12) deserves a special mention as it would have been the easy option to stop, but he bravely completed the second lap despite suffering with his breathing. Overall the team finished 42nd.
Following no representation last year, it was really good to see five senior women represent Stratford AC and so enable the club to feature in the team rankings.
Alice Reed (70th, 32.49) looked like she was on home soil, which effectively is the case as the course is within a few miles of where she is currently studying, so most of Alice’s long runs take place in Wollaton park at the moment!
Alice led the team home with wonderful, high-tempo running over the 8km which fully deserved the creditable top 75 finish.
Emma Bexson (269th, 37.48) and Sheila Lammas (328th, 39.14) both ran strongly and finished in the top half of the field of competitors. Suzi Graham (607th, 45.49) completed a cross country season she can be proud of and Phillipa Abrams (768th, 57.32) really rose to the challenge and completed the team which finished 41st overall.
Six Stratford AC senior men competed over the 12km course, which everyone agreed represented a real tough test, and finished 126th overall.
The competition was fierce with some 1,800 senior men taking part, led home by Ben Connor, representing Derby Athletic Club, in an amazing winning time of 39.35.
Tim Hutchinson (628th, 50.42) led the Stratford AC team home, spurred on by the fantastic support from the junior athletes, improving his performance by almost 50 places on the previous year.
Malcolm Bowyer (1,069th, 56.13) was very pleased with his run, being able to keep a consistent pace throughout and finishing strongly over the last half a kilometre.
David Smyth (1,121th, 57.03) was, on the starting line, not looking forward to the tough task ahead, but put in a strong, solid performance.
Mike Sheppard (1,375th, 1.00.57), found the latter stages tough going and said after the race that the hour he was running seemed to last all day, but he still managed to broadly maintain his position of last year.
Brian Gravelsons (1,677th, 1.10.55) was delighted to have an opportunity to run in a National race held in one of his favourite parks. Evocative of racing in his university days, he savoured every lap of what may prove to be his valediction to cross country running.
David Wolstencroft (1,699th, 1.12.20) suffered a tight leg muscle throughout and did well to finish strongly.
Report compiled by Brian Gravelsons.