BARELY six weeks into the track and field season, Stratford Athletic Club have retained the Warwick Vase with victory at the Warwickshire County Championships in Nuneaton.
This remarkable feat of winning the vase two years in succession at the championships has established the club as the best overall club within the old county boundary, taking in Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry against the traditional big clubs.
Stratford had almost 100 juniors and two seniors taking part, which meant there were yellow club vests competing in all parts of the track virtually non-stop over the two days.
Points are allocated to performances (eight for a win, seven for second, etc) to find the best overall club which then receives the Warwick Vase. The medal haul was an incredible 75 but it was the fourth to eighth positions that massively helped the club to what in the end was a very comprehensive win.
In addition, the club had four junior athletes competing in both the Gloucestershire & Worcestershire Championships and their success bought the total Stratford medal haul to 81.
Warwickshire AA president Ray Morgan said: “I am pleased to say Stratford have retained the Warwick Vase for a second year with a huge total of 797 points. What a terrific performance, scoring 250 more points than Coventry Godiva Harriers and 350 more than Birchfield.”
There were a huge amount of outstanding performances across so many variable events, none more so than club chairman Paul Hawkins who was cheered resoundingly throughout his 3,000m walk by all the team as he won gold in a time of 19.23.27.
First year under 15 multi-eventer Adam Farrow was busy across the weekend and came home with five medals, winning gold in the high jump, silver in the triple jump and bronze in the javelin, long jump and shot put.
The Sheppard sisters Jess and Imogen also had a very successful weekend. U20 Jess won gold in both the gruelling 400m and 800m and silver in the unfamiliar 200m.
U17 Imogen emulated her sister by winning gold in the 300m and 800m and then rounded her weekend off with silver in the shot put and bronze in the triple jump.
U20 Emily Madden Forman went into the championships with a degree of trepidation after a relatively low-key start to the season, but she astounded herself by winning gold in the 100m hurdles in a new PB, another gold in the long jump just outside her PB and finished off with silver in the triple jump.
The middle distance runners are really stepping up this year in competition and for the first time the U15 girls had the opportunity to run 3,000m in which Georgie Campbell and Ellen Taylor finished 1-2 to win the gold and silver.
Georgie came back the next day to win silver in the 1,500m and Olivia Hall took the journey to Worcester to win the bronze medal in the U17 800m.
U17 Owain Jones was another to do the double, winning gold in the 800m and 1,500m and U20s Fergus Allison won bronze in the 1,500m and Oscar Barbour silver in the 3,000m.
U15 Millie Leighton took advantage of being able to triple jump in a big event and won gold with 10.43m in a new championship record and Alex Powell won bronze in the U15 boys’ event.
The club has a deserved reputation as producing very good hurdlers and the athletes showed their class by dominating the age groups.
U17s Jack Sumners and Ollie Cresswell had the expected 1-2 in the U17 100m race, as did Georgia Clark and Tazmin Chape with Lucy Smith just outside the medals in fourth place.
The U13s are only just starting to learn the skill of sprint hurdling at full speed but Freddie Clemons won silver in the U13 75m hurdles, with Taylor Holton just missing a medal in fourth.
Lucy Lane won silver in the 70m hurdles and Holly Newton was another outside the medals in fifth. George Fox-Rowe won bronze in the U15 boys’ hurdles.
Leaping to success
Long jump was another consistently successful event for Stratford athletes as Jack Sumners and U20 Dan Boyd struck old. Barunka Lowe won silver in the U17 girls’ event and Grace Fairweather silver in the U15s. Charlie Whorrod was the silver medallist in the U13 boys’ long jump.
The throwers were all in good form as U17 Lewis Byng won a hat-trick of medals (shot put gold, javelin silver and hammer bronze) in the Worcester event.
Freddie Clemons had a busy weekend and went home with gold in the U13 javelin and silver in the shot put. U15s Maddie Clark and Sarah Evans were silver medallists in the shot put and discus respectively and their success was replicated by Aran Wooger in the javelin and Finlay Hutchinson in the discus. Issy Newton won bronze in the U13 girls’ shot put.
In a very rare success for a Stratford athlete in the event, Dion Love won gold in the U17 pole vault.
Slightly disappointing was the numbers of U11 athletes competing in the four-event Quadkids competition, but Fred Williams won silver in the boys’ event, closely followed by Alex McMillan winning bronze. Tom Whorrad was fifth.
The female high jumpers probably had to contend with the most unfavourable conditions as a strong swirling wind messed up the run-up rhythm of the athletes. However, despite only achieving relatively modest heights, U17s Ollie Cresswell and Jodie Watson won gold and Rowan Love won silver and Will Wren an unexpected bronze.
U20s Issy Cain and James Gionis both won gold and Taylor Holton was the silver medallist in the U13 boys’ event.
Wherever the spectators looked it seemed that one of the Williams family of senior Paula and U15 twins Jasmine and Cole were competing over the weekend.
Cole had the edge on his sister in their respective hurdles, winning silver in a new PB of 11.92, and Jasmine won bronze again in a new PB of 12.27. Although they both won medals in other events, mum Paula had the edge on her progeny by winning gold in the triple jump and silver in the shot put and javelin.
The sprinters had a good weekend with the highlight being a hat-trick of medals and PBs for U15 Beth Cate in the 100m (gold) and 200m and 300m (silver).
Dani Horton won the bronze medal in the U17 girls’ 100m in a new PB of 12.68 and Grace Fairweather followed Beth home in the 100m and 200m, winning silver and bronze.
U17 Anna Gionis and U15 Gabriella Porter finished their 300m races with bronze medals and U17 Adam Bayliss chose the tough 400m in the variable wind and came home in 55.5s with a bronze medal.
Stratford coach Paul Bearman said: “We are incredibly proud of the club, not just winning the Warwick Vase again which is a big deal for the whole club and the incredible amount of ‘bling’ that the athletes won, but also the huge points tally accumulated across the championships by so many athletes that contributed to the club’s success.
“However, this isn’t an overnight success. It’s taken many years of hard graft to build the club to this level by so many volunteers and, whilst it’s the athletes who perform on the track and in the field who get the plaudits, it’s the brilliant support they get week in, week out from all our wonderful volunteers across the club, particularly the coaches, which makes this happen.”