STRATFORD Athletic Club runners enjoyed a fantastic day at the Warwickshire County Cross Country Championships as the juniors led the way with some tremendous performances and deserved honours.
The club’s senior athletes were clearly inspired by what preceded them at the Newbold Comyn course in Leamington as they too impressed in Saturday’s event.
The course included the unforgiving and infamous ditch and leg-sapping climb up Beacon Hill.
In the opening race of the day, 30 U13 girls from Warwickshire finished the 3km course and Ellen Taylor (5th, 13.43) led the Stratford AC team home.
A steady, well-paced race enabled Ellen to improve on her position compared to last year by a couple of places despite suffering from a stitch in the final 800m.
Both Eliie Deaner (19th, 15.07) and Freya Fines-Allin (26th, 16.24) appeared to enjoy the challenging course. The first three home in each age group count for the overall team performance and the U13 girls’ team finished sixth overall.
The U13 boys’ race is over the same course. Alex Adams (2nd, 12.26) stepped up an age group for the day and clearly demonstrated his maturity.
Alex started comfortably and worked his way through the field, making light work of the water-filled large ditch. In the home straight Alex battled hard for first place and only just missed out, but he was delighted to take silver in the knowledge he should have a further two attempts to achieve the county champion title in the years to come.
Matthew Bexson (28th, 14.21) pulled out an amazing finish to catch two other athletes in the closing stages, one of whom was team-mate Ned Campbell (29th, 14.21) who had paced himself well throughout.
Christopher Hunt (35th, 14.53), Harry Gravelsons (38th, 15.39) and Jude Greenwood (40th 16.48) all put in determined performances and the U13 boys’ team finished sixth overall.
In the U15 girls’ race Georgie Campbell (1st, 16.20) continued her recent good form and made extremely light work of the one 4km large lap of the common, taking the lead from the start.
For the first half of the race Megan Taylor from Coventry stayed in contention but, when Georgie put in a mid-race increase in pace, she moved away to eventually win by an enormous 25 seconds.
Georgie was the U13 girls’ Warwickshire county champion in 2016 and is the first ever Stratford junior athlete to defend the title across an age group.
Imogen Sheppard (4th, 17.46), Daisy Musk (11th, 18.44) and Charlotte Gravelsons (22nd, 20.43) backed up Georgie’s inspired performance, enabling the U15 girls’ team to finish first overall.
Olivia Hall (9th, 19.05), competed in the Worcestershire County Championships (the overall event on the day was a joint Warwickshire and Worcestershire affair). Olivia recaptured some form of old to finish an excellent ninth, so should be very pleased with her progress over the season.
Eight U15 boys represented the club and all put in tremendous performances. Owain Jones (2nd, 15.13) led the team home in commanding style. A confident start, and good pace throughout, enabled Owain to take second place, some 16 places higher than the previous year.
Cameron Collins (19th 16.51) and Archie Musk (27th, 17.47) completed the team counting positions which enabled the U15 boys’ team to finish fifth overall.
Other results were: Josh Angus (28th, 18.01), Adam Pomeroy (33rd, 18.44), Fin Hutchinson (36th, 19.24), Henry Tombs (38th, 20.20) and Sean Mata (42nd, 21.20).
Fin’s performance was particularly pleasing as he started steadily and gradually worked his way through the field to complete probably his best race of the season so far.
The U17s and U20s race together, which mean that with both Warwickshire and Worcestershire County Championships, there are effectively four races within one race.
Georgina Mitchell (6th, 23.05), Edie Hutchinson (17th, 26.14) and Hannah Bexson (19th, 28.02) made up the U17 women’s team which finished fourth overall.
Seren Mahon (6th, 27.03) was the sole Stratford AC U20 women’s representative and seemed to really enjoy the challenge of the 5km course.
The U17 and U20 men are required to complete 6km, with Seb Hopper (19th, 26.51), Ollie Best (21st, 27.18) and Murray Jackson (22nd, 27.23) forming the U17 team which finished a creditable third overall to claim their bronze medals.
Fergus Allison (12th, 25.21) and Sam Weaving (15th, 26.14) powered their way around the two laps in the U20 race.
Following the junior athletes’ lead, the senior athletes took to the stage. Both the seniors and masters race together, but compete in different races, with the only difference being the delicate question of age, with the relevant threshold being 35 years.
Alice Reed (7th, 25.20) led the senior women’s team home in her usual metronomic style. Lucy Kershaw (11th, 26.33) and Ceri Shephard (24th, 30.17) ran superbly to complete the senior women’s team which finished fourth on the day, narrowly missing out on the bronze position by two places.
Emma Bexson (15th, 29.30) kept at bay a strong challenge from Seanin Gilmore (16th, 29.33) and Sarah Bland (20th, 29.59) continued to enjoy the cross country season.
Rebecca Pridham (47th, 35.16), Suzi Graham (50th, 36.03), Kate Sergent (63rd, 39.20) and Gemma Smith (67th, 40.31) all had good, solid runs and enjoyed the tough conditions just like many of the junior athletes.
Emma, Seanin and Sarah made up the master women’s team which finished fifth on the day.
With no senior men taking part, it was down to the master athletes in the last race of the day and the team was led home by Rich Shephard (3rd, 37.19), who gave the tough course short shrift to claim the first masters men’s individual medal by a Stratford athlete.
Tim Hutchinson (25th, 41.59), Ivan Sarti (42nd, 44.14) and David Smyth (59th, 45.27) completed the team counting positions.
Wayne Vickers (73rd, 46.33), Kieran Tursner (79th, 47.03), Mike Sheppard (94th, 48.53), David Jones (116th, 52.59), David Wolstencroft (117th, 53.21), Ben Twyman (119th, 53.30), Phil Marshall (138th, 57.41), Neil Musk (149th, 61.53) and Martyn Sergent (152nd, 77.06) all performed well and made up the rest of the master men’s team which finished a creditable sixth out of 15.
Report compiled by Brian Gravelsons and Paul Hawkins.