STRATFORD Athletic Club aces are celebrating after clinching their second successive Midland Track & Field League promotion with one match to spare, writes Paul Hawkins.
At Newport, Stratford made it three wins from three in this Division Four campaign to guarantee a top-two finish and they should be confirmed as champions at the final fixture at Solihull on August 5.
Stratford won with 387 points at the weekend, with Sutton Coldfield second on 370 and Newport Harriers third on 359. Stratford top the table with 21 points, with Sutton second on 17 and Bromsgrove & Redditch third on 13.
There were various absences from the team but Stratford were fortunate to be able to bring in new athletes, showing the growing strength in depth.
Maddie Clark made her debut in the senior team and won both the long jump and sprint hurdles B events. At the other end of the age range, David Battersby regularly runs in the master team but looked comfortable in the 800m race.
In the women’s 800m race, Daisy Musk led from start to finish to gain maximum points and then won the 400m B race in a personal best.
Despite the very hot conditions, surprisingly there were many personal bests in the middle distance events as Oscar Barbour and Matt Burdus-Cook came second in the A and B 5,000m races – both in best times.
Both the steeplechasers – Martyn Helliker and Kieran Tursner – also achieved bests although neither was happy with their time and felt they could improve.
Neil Musk was also making his debut in the team and was pleased with a 1,500m PB. Pride of place though must go to Cadie Hibberd who ran a 70-second PB in the 3,000m to come second and then half an hour later improved her 1,500m best by 18 seconds and came third.
The sprinters were not so fortunate as there were strong headwinds on the home straight which slowed them but nevertheless there were very strong performances from the sprint squad of Cole Williams, James Gionis, Andrew Reeves, Adam Bayliss, Jess Sheppard and Imogen Sheppard.
Gionis and Reeves both gained second places in the high jump, while Gionis was second in the B triple jump.
James Chamberlain and Ianto Davis covered the men’s throws between them with excellent results including a win for Chamberlain in the javelin.
Similarly, Paula Williams and Sarah Bland excelled in the women’s throws which included a win for Williams in the shot. Williams also found time to come second in the triple jump and win the B high jump, while Bland earned valuable points in the pole vault and came second in the B triple jump.
Emily Madden-Forman has been a mainstay of the team over the last couple of seasons and won both the sprint hurdles and high jump. She was in the sprint relay team which came a close second and then ran her first ever leg in the 4x400m to help the team of Jess Sheppard, Cadie Hibberd and Daisy Musk to a deserved win.
Stratford team manager Paul Hawkins said: “We had a smaller team than usual but there was an amazing team spirit with everyone pulling together to get the win.
“When we were promoted last year, I didn’t expect to be so successful this season with a 100 per cent record. We just need to finish it off at the last match and then we can look forward to Division Three in 2019.”