STRATFORD-upon-Avon AC junior cross country runners created club history yet again at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton, with two individual age group winners, another overall third place finish, and their highest-ever points total of 6,110 for a single match.
It was only last year that the Stratford AC registered its first individual race winner, and now, a year on, Alex Adams has been crowned the overall Under-11 boys’ champion having won all five races through the season, and Georgie Campbell has won the overall U15 girls’ crown, winning three individual races through the season.
The overall team has improved its performance too. Although Stratford AC finished in third place for the second consecutive season, further distance – more than 1,700 more points – was achieved compared to the fourth place team.
The league champions are Wolverhampton & Bilston who narrowly edged out Rugby & Northampton by a mere 168 points in a thrilling final day.
The first event, on an extremely cold, wet and windy morning, was the U17 women’s race over a tough, undulating, rain-sodden 4km course. Jess Sheppard (19th, 17.32) led the team home followed by Edie Hutchinson (43rd, 20.53) and Hannah Bexson (45th, 21.19).
Hannah has been ever present all season and indeed over the past six years.
Her commitment through the season has made a tremendous difference to the team.
It was both Hannah and Jess’s final race in this league, as they now move into the seniors. The U17 women’s team finished 10th on the day and eighth in the overall league.
In the U11 boys’ race, Alex Adams (1st, 5.32) made it five wins out of five in commanding style.
Alex paced himself perfectly, moving up from eight after the uphill start to second as he exited the woods before taking full control in the closing stages to become the overall individual U11 boys’ champion.
Alex said afterwards that he felt amazing and really proud of his achievement.
Spencer Corder (13th, 6.00) ran well, followed by a good finish from Adam Taylor (22nd, 6.12). Flynn Dathan (42nd, 6.29) kept in front of a strong-running Hugh Markham (46th, 6.31) who finished just ahead of James Day (67th, 6.49).
Great performances from George Baxter (80th, 6.59) and Jake Deaner (108th, 7.15) completed the team that finished fourthh on the day and fourth overall in the league.
The U17 men’s race is always a high quality one and three Stratford AC athletes equipped themselves well over the 4.8km course. Seb Hopper (26th, 19.20), Ollie Best (33rd, 19.44) and Murray Jackson (37th, 20.39), all enjoyed making their last appearance as juniors.
The team finished eighth on the day, and end up in eighth overall in the league.
The U11 girls’ race was a very tense affair.
At the start, the team were in third place, a mere 27 points in front of Wolverhampton & Bilston who were clearly geared up to win the overall league, and only six points behind RSCAC in 2nd, so it was all to play for.
Every girl put in a tremendous effort, with Leah Bowen (5th, 6.22) leading the team home closely followed by Molly Bullock (9th, 6.29), Maddie Linfoot (13th, 6.34), who impressively managed to keep a strong start going, and Maisie-Joy Spriggs (18th, 6.39).
Niamh Hillard (67th, 7.32), Lucy Thomas (74th, 7.38), Ruby Edwards (81st, 7.45) and Kate Pridham (106th, 9.18) completed a good team effort that unfortunately was just not enough as the team finished third on the day, just ahead of RSCAC but behind a strong Wolverhampton & Bilston team performance.
The U11 girls’ team ended up in fourth overall in the league, just four points behind third place.
The U15 boys’ team has been strong all season and 12 Stratford AC athletes completed two large laps totalling 3.2km.
Owain Jones (8th, 11.41) led the team home with his fifth straight top-ten finish. Ben Jones (22nd, 12.22) showed improved form from the first match, with Rhys Mahon (33rd, 12.45) finishing strongly claiming his now almost customary position.
Adam Bayliss (41st, 12.55) won the tussle with clubmate Archie Musk (43rd, 12.56), who completed his impressive 30th straight league match.
Inseparable until the finish line, Will Crowfoot (46th, 13.09) and Tom Crowfoot (47th, 13.09) finished just ahead of a consistent Cameron Collins (49th, 13.10).
Josh Angus (59th, 13.24), Matthew Ross (75th, 14.40), Oliver Adams (78th, 14.57) and Sean Mata (80th, 15.20) completed the team that finished fourth on the day to ensure they achieved fourth place overall in the league.
Both the U13 boys and girls race over 2.5km. The U13 girls’ team was led home by Ellen Taylor (28th, 10.17), who tested herself with a very fast first kilometre, and was almost caught by Ellie Deaner (29th, 10.18), with Helena West (36th, 10.33) close behind.
Both Ellie and Helena had their highest place finishes this season.
Both Millie Perkins (83rd, 11.47) and Sophie Ross (87th, 12.00) ran strongly to complete the team that finished ninth on the day and ended in 12th overall in the league.
Louis Kendrick (7th, 8.57) continued to improve following his recent injuries and led the U13 boys’ team home in strong style.
Joel Watson (34th, 9.54) made the best of the deteriorating conditions, with Caleb Spriggs (42nd, 10.10) maintaining his highest place finish of the season.
Christopher Hunt (47th, 10.18) produced a brilliant run, with Mathew Bexson (50th, 10.26) staying ahead of Ned Campbell (51st, 10.31). Cameron Black (55th, 10.38), Alfie Organ (66th, 10.51), and Harry Gravelsons (80th, 11.42) completed the team that finished seventh on the day and ended in fifth overall in the league.
As the U15 girls waited at the start line, the weather deteriorated and it started to lightly snow.
Undeterred, Georgie Campbell (2nd, 12.41) completed a strong run over the 3.2km to secure the title of overall individual U15 girls’ champion.
Georgie said that she was extremely happy and content with her achievement. Georgie will continue to be in the U15s next season and so has the chance to defend her title.
Kate Dufty (15th, 13.23) ran incredibly fluently to her highest position of the season, closely followed by Imogen Sheppard (19th, 13.32) and Abi Wootton (21st, 13.36).
Olivia Hall (40th, 14.45), who continues to recapture her form, finished ahead of Daisy Musk (53rd, 15.20) and Charlotte Gravelsons (61st, 16.00).
Both Isla Jackson (72nd, 17.17) and Isobel Hopper (75th, 17.45) ran very well and should be pleased with their contribution to the team that finished third on the day and take bronze in the final league standings.
The team members from Stratford AC that often do not get enough recognition are the officials. John Turner and Andy Turner have done a fantastic job all season, keeping time, marshalling and operating the “finishing funnels”.
Without such people who selflessly give their time, the cross country league would simply not exist. A big thank you.
Report by Brian Gravelsons