A TREMENDOUS collective performance enabled Stratford Athletic Club to score their highest points total of the West Midland Young Athletes Cross Country League season at Sunday’s third round at Perry Park in Birmingham.
Stratford’s juniors finished third on the day and remain third overall, extending their lead to 1,142 points over fourth placed Royal Sutton Coldfield Athletic Club.
For the second successive fixture the team featured two individual winners on the day, whilst there were a plethora of other improved performances.
There were five athletes, each thoroughly enjoying themselves, who made their debut for the club in the U11 age group.
Tulah Searle (29th, 7.08) Niamh Hillard (49th, 7.31) and Lucy Thomas (80th, 7.54) all equipped themselves well with brilliant performances in the U11 girls’ race and, likewise, Hugh Markham (56th, 6.56) and Theo Skirvin (69th, 7.04) ran delightfully in the U11 boys’ event as all put down good markers to improve upon in the future.
Alex Adams (1st, 5.49) made it three wins out of three as he led the U11 boys’ team home in fine style. Alex made a composed start, not going out too quickly, and this held him in good stead as he entered a compelling battle around the lake, eventually shaking off the Northampton & Rugby athlete in the final uphill climb to the finish.
Spencer Corder (6th, 6.11) made a very welcome return to cross country and should be delighted with his highest ever finish in a league race. Adam Taylor (16th, 6.25), Flynn Dathan (67th, 7.03), James Day (70th, 7.05) and Alex McMillan (93rd, 7.27) completed the team with solid, consistent performances.
The U11 boys’ team finished third on the day and remain fourth overall.
The U11 girls’ team was led home by Leah Bowen (8th, 6.46) who paced herself well, spurred on by her fabulous debut in the last race, showing her strength to claim a top ten finish.
Only a couple of seconds behind Leah was Molly Bullock (9th, 6.48) who has now made it three top ten finishes in a row and Maisie-Joy Spriggs (11th, 6.50) who decided to test her endurance by starting fast and held on to her best finish this season.
Holly Newton (26th, 7.06) and Maddie Linfoot (28th, 7.07) appeared to really enjoy their run and continue to make good progress.
Maria Watkins (43rd, 7.24), Annabella Williams (50th, 7.31), Olivia Clayton (69th, 7.45) and Ruby Edwards (76th, 7.50) completed a fabulous team performance.
The U11 girls’ team finished third on the day and move up to second place overall, a mere three points ahead of third place.
There were only four U13 Stratford girls so unfortunately points were lost as five are needed to complete a team.
However, Ellen Taylor (14th, 10.21) made effective use of the fast downhill start, placing herself in the leading group after the first small lap, and held on to secure her best finish this season.
Evie Lowe (57th, 11.26), Ellie Deaner (93rd, 12.16) and Helen West (104th, 12.57) were all slightly off-form due mainly to recent illnesses but nevertheless earned valuable team points.
The U13 girls’ team finished 13th on the day and are now 12th overall.
Joel Watson (37th, 10.24) patiently made his way through the field as he led the U13 boys’ team home.
Caleb Spriggs (48th, 10.44), who followed a similar strategy to his sister and reaped the same rewards, gained his highest placed finish of the season and was closely followed by Ned Campbell (50th, 10.46) who did his best to catch his team-mate in the finishing straight.
Matthew Bexson (62nd, 10.58), Christopher Hunt (76th, 11.30) and Harry Gravelsons (81st, 11.50) completed the team with good, improved performances over the 2.5km course.
The U13 boys’ team finished eighth on the day and slip one place to eighth overall.
Georgie Campbell (1st, 12.28) produced another determined run as she battled her way to victory around the 3.2km course.
In a thrilling race, it was not until leaving the lake on the second lap that Georgie had full control and even then she had to produce a strong finish to ensure her second straight win of the season.
Imogen Sheppard (12th, 13.11) was delighted to continue her inspired form, as was Kate Dufty (17th, 13.23) who, fresh from an outstanding performance in the Gloucestershire Schools’ cross country the day before, made impressive progress through the field during the second lap.
Abi Wootton (29th, 13.52) finished ahead of Daisy Musk (45th, 14.20) who continues to make steady progress.
Ellie Bryan (54th, 14.43), Charlotte Gravelsons (67th, 15.02), Olivia Hall (70th, 15.08), Anna Gionis (72nd, 15.13) and Isobel Hopper (92nd, 19.31) completed a stunning team performance which head coach Paul Hawkins was extremely happy with.
The U15 girls’ team finished third overall and remain in third place.
The U15 boys also ran the two large laps totalling 3.2km. Owain Jones (9th, 11.40) led the team home with another solid run and top ten finish.
In-form Adam Bayliss (34th, 12.36) was just caught on the long finishing straight by Rhys Mahon (33rd, 12.32), who produced an amazing second lap.
Dylan Williams (47th, 13.05) and Archie Musk (52nd, 13.20) completed the team counting positions with robust performances.
An improving Henry Tombs (61st, 14.16) finished ahead of a strong finishing Oliver Adams (72nd, 14.56), with resolute running from both Fin Hutchinson (81st, 16.14) and James Bexson (83rd, 18.58) completing the U15 boys’ team which finished fifth on the day and remains fourth overall.
The U17 men’s race over three laps totalled 4.8km and Ollie Best (24th, 18.24) seems to enjoy each one more than the last as he powered his way to his highest position this season.
Seb Hopper (29th, 18.38) can be relied upon for consistent cross country running, while Murray Jackson (37th, 19.25) started faster than his team-mates and then struggled slightly to maintain the pace.
The U17 men finished sixth on the day and are now seventh overall.
In the U17 women’s race over 4km, Jess Sheppard (23rd, 18.36) led the team home followed by Edie Hutchinson (37th, 20.16) and Hannah Bexson (42nd, 22.38) as all three enjoyed their best performances so far this season.
The U17 women’s team finished eighth on the day and remain eighth overall.
The next fixture is at Abington Park in Northampton in January when the Stratford AC team will look to build on this delightful performance.
Report courtesy of Brian Gravelsons.