Simply Amazing.

Our U13 girls team.
Somethings just can’t wait.

Yesterday was a remarkable day for our junior XC team at Warley Woods.

I know I’ve waxed lyrical about these fixtures in the past but I make no apologies for doing the same again this week.

These fixtures really are the most wonderful of experiences.

Read Dave Parkin’s superbly detailed report below.

Overall the team came second out of 21 teams competing. We were a mere 20 points off the number 1 slot, scoring 6303 points to Wolverhampton and Bilston’s 6323. There is also a 274 point cushion between us and the 3rd placed club.

Last year the gap between us and the top spot was 731 points. A truly remarkable improvement.

The full results are available here :

Team Manager and club Chairman Paul Hawkins confirmed that this was the club’s best ever performance with also, the highest number of individual top 10 finishers.

It’s tempting for me to name names, but to do so would inevitably mean denying credit to those not named. It is fair to say that every one of our 65 team members deserve huge credit, as do the many parents who made the 80 mile round trip.

As is often the case at these fixture there were plenty of laughs and also a fair few tears. Tears shed because team members thought they hadn’t done enough. They had. Tears shed due to the absolute physical exhaustion experienced by completing the demanding course. It was really really tough.

We had members who continued the success they had enjoyed in previous seasons, members who were moving up an age group and thus experiencing longer distances, members who were determined to build on the big improvements they made last season and those making their debuts for the club, in itself a daunting task.

There were several of our runners who had competed for Warwickshire at Lilleshall, just 24 hours earlier, with the stiffness still in their legs.

There were also a few regular team members who couldn’t compete due to injury and a few who were returning to XC after prolonged injuries.

The camaraderie, sense of unity and togetherness on display was once again exactly what you would expect from this wonderful club of ours.

Attending one of these fixtures really should be on everyone’s bucket list.

This was not the only XC fixture of interest to the club this weekend. Up at Aintree, seasoned international runner Phil Brennan once again reinforced another great strength of our club, the competitive age range of members. While the juniors at Warley Woods contained many 8 year olds, Phil is getting on for 70 years older than those youngsters and yet he is still a regular international. Truly an inspiration to us all.

Finally, we had 3 members competing in the extremely challenging Broadway Trails half or full marathons in The Cotswolds.

Enjoy your week.

Best Regards

David Jones.

From the top:
U11 girls, U11 boys, U13 boys, U15 girls, U15 boys, U17 women, U17 men.
West Midlands Young Athletes Cross Country League 2019/2020.

Report – David Parkin

We are midway through November, and, remarkably, this was the first cross-country race of the season for many of the club’s junior athletes, due to numerous weather-related cancellations.

The first race of the season is always compelling, as some of the younger runners are competing for the first time and many of the more experienced are moving up into new age groups and longer distances.

It also allows coaches and runners to get a sense of how the league is going to play out for the rest of the season as old rivalries are renewed.

For Stratford, Georgie Campbell and Alex Adams once again excelled, both dominating their races. Just as pleasing for coaches, parents and athletes was the large number of top ten finishes for Stratford, with many of the club’s 65 runners achieving best ever placings and positioning Stratford in 2nd place overall out of 21 clubs, our highest ever finish.

The U17 women are the first to race, and have the benefit of a fresh course before it has been churned up by hundreds of pairs of feet over the afternoon. Georgie Campbell (1st, 16:44) was fast off the start, in the lead at the first bend and never looked back. A five-second lead soon became fifteen as she gave a masterclass in cross-country running. Younger athletes take note – dedication to training pays off.

Ellen Taylor (16th, 18:54) and Gigi Thomas (21st, 19:11), both running their first races at this distance, battled hard throughout the race, with Taylor pulling away in the final lap. Charlotte Gravelsons (44th, 23:25) completed the Stratford contingent, which finished 3rd overall.

The U11 boys were led home by Maxime Verstraeten (4th, 6:57), who reflected his significant improvements at parkrun and on the track with an excellent placing, up from 32nd last season.

Maxime was followed home by Joshua Davies (18th, 7:32) who also improved significantly over the previous year. Aran Cooper (26th, 7:42) and Joel Edgard (28th 7:43) ran well together, as did Samuel Plumb (39th 7:59) and Harry Francioni (40th, 8:02). The team finished in 3rd place overall, with the other Stratford athletes Arthur Mansbridge (44th, 8:08), Alfie Musk (47th, 8:11), Ewan Sparrow (62nd, 8:29), Josh Harrison (71st, 8:37) and Henry Sims (84th, 9:01).

The club had an unusually large turnout in the U17 men’s race, with many of last year’s U15s competing for the first time at this 4.8km distance.

James Mucklow (14th 18:52) announced his arrival in this age group with a strong run, picking up on his U15 form from last season. Tom (24th, 19:32) and Will Crowfoot (27th, 19:39) ran well together to complete the scoring positions, both up 8 places from last year.

Joel Watson (32nd, 20:01) charged spectacularly down the hills and Ned Campbell – returning after a long period out injured (38th, 20:25) and Josh Dobedoe (39th, 20:29), Thomas Mayes (46th, 21:28) and Harry Gravelsons (49th, 24:04) all competed well. Finally, special mention should go to Fin Hutchinson (49th, 21:54) who was running his first race in a couple of years after a long battle with injury.

Taking her coach’s instructions to heart, Tessa Parkin (2nd, 7:32) led for much of the U13 girls race with a powerful, committed start and strong running up the first couple of hills. Unable to hold on in the middle section, she was overtaken by Tiffany Latham, the winner from Royal Sutton Coldfield, but continued to challenge right to the line in a close finish. Annie Silvers (6th, 7:53) achieved her best ever finish, winning the battle for 6th place on the finish line. Marijke Tear-Verweij (18th 8:21) is another athlete who gallops down the hills, passing athletes left and right and will be delighted with her improvement from 54th last year. Lois Ford (26th 8:33) ran well in her first race and Martha Bullock (47th, 9:05) and Lily-Mai Pagan (91st, 10:54) completed the team, giving them 2nd place.

Alex Adams (1st 12:03) marked his debut in the U15 boys with a comprehensive victory, his 15th in succession in the league. Leading from start to finish, he even found time at one point to give one of his long term rivals some encouragement. Taylor Stubbins (23rd, 13:23), Theo Skirvin (25th, 13:27) and Adam Taylor (28th, 13:34) worked hard together for a set of good results, as did Tom Francioni (37th 13:54) and Caleb Spriggs (38th 13:57). Joe Warner (55th 14:58) and Ed Holdcroft (56th, 15:00) completed the Stratford contingent, who finished in 3rd place.

The first four finishers in the U13 girls were all from Wolverhampton & Bilston, continuing their dominance in this age group. First finisher for Stratford was Niamh Hillard (7th, 10:50), who had had an excellent race the previous day at the inter-counties and who continues to go from strength to strength in distance running. Maddie Linfoot (15th 11:11) started strongly and was in 4th place on the first lap before slipping back in the second half of a tough race. Abbi Cooper (18th, 11:18) looked in fine form and will be very pleased by her performance, and Maisie-Joy Spriggs (29th 11:46) had an excellent, battling outing to move up significantly in the second half of the race.

The strong squad also included Caitlin Boyle (39th, 11:59), Martha Peters (46th, 12:12), Emma Francioni (52nd, 12:27), Lucy Thomas (59th 12:39), Tilly Campbell (62nd 12:43), Ella Peeke (77th, 13:23), Olivia Hawkyard (79th 13:28), Ruby Edwards (87th 14:10) , Katie Pridham (88th, 14:12) and the team finished 4th overall.

William Mayes (28th 10:48), making his club debut, and fresh from some excellent parkrun performances, made his way through the field in the U13 boys race to finish first for Stratford. Close behind were Flynn Dathan (36th 10:56), James Day (37th 10:57), both running at this distance for the first time, followed by Henry Wheeler (43rd 11:02), Ben Herbert (54th 11:21), Hugh Markham (73rd, 11:58). The team finished in 6th place.

One of the most notable performances of the day was Charlotte Marshall (5th, 13:56) in the U15 girls, up from 48th last year and just a day after an excellent inter-counties result. Battling all the way with Marshall was Olivia Robinson (6th, 14:03) who was in her first race in this age group and looked in excellent form. Holly Newton (51st, 16:39), Molly Bullock (61st 17:19), Martha Hodgson (71st, 18:16), Georgia Pridham (79th, 19:35) completed the team, which finished in 7th place.

The next fixture is at Perry Park, Birmingham, on 8th December, with the club excited at the prospect of continuing the strong start to the season.

Phil Brennan in action for England.
British and Irish Masters Cross Country International.
Seasoned International Phil Brennan was on international duty yet again at the weekend. He was representing England at the British and Irish Masters Cross Country International held at Aintree.

Finishing 4th in an age category of 16 internationals, Phil helped England to a comfortable victory and added another gold medal to his collection.

His comments on the race were ” Don’t make me do XC again. Weather perfect, no jumps involved, 3 x 2k circuit inside the horsey course. The fun ended shortly after the start. Flat as a pancake, saturated tufty grass all the way round, lots of artificial twisty turns, absolutely no respite from flogging through it. I lost the plot early on. I’m just not that strong when it comes to flogging through that sort of terrain”
L to R : Richard Liggatt and Ryan Bakewell.
Broadway Trails half and full marathon.
Report – Phil Brennan
Even the friendly Cotswolds can pose risks at any time of the year, particularly in winter. Unusually, competitors in these long distance trail runs around Broadway cannot take part without a mandatory survival pack.

The three SAC adventurers didn’t need theirs as it turned out but it was a major achievement for them all, not only to finish but to do so in excellent times for the conditions.

In the half marathon, in conditions variously described as “insanely “ and “comically” muddy and hilly, first back for the club was Richard Liggatt, 8th overall, in 1hr 53.49, followed by Ryan Bakewell, 16th overall in 1hr 58:17. 138 competitors finished.

In what was another outstanding feat of endurance, Neil Wicks took on the treacherous conditions for the full marathon, to finish in 3rd place overall, first in category in 3hr 43:00. There were 97 finishers, the last home taking a mere 7 hours on the course.
Junior Cross Country photo selection.

With thanks to Mike Sheppard and Dave Parkin.
Boys just wanna have fun. The U11 boys warming up.
Georgie Campbell and Alex Adams. No they weren’t running on there own! The fact that there are no other runners in sight reflects the fact that they comfortably won their races by 17 seconds and 10 seconds respectively.
Charly Marshall and Caitlin Boyle & Maisy Joy Spriggs.
James Mucklow and Abbi Cooper.
Martha Bullock and Josh Dobedoe.
Maddie Linfoot and Lois Ford
Caleb Spriggs and Holly Newton.
Charlotte Gravelsons and Ned Campbell.
Flynn Dathan closely followed by James Day. Ella Peake.
Joel Watson and Georgia Pridham.
Gigi Thomas and Max Verstraeten.
Molly Bullock and Olivia Robinson.
Ben Herbert and Hugh Markham.
Henry Wheeler & Flynn Dathan. William Mayes.
Katie Pridham and James Day.
Martha Peters and Lucy Thomas.
Niamh Hillard and Caitlin Boyle.
Tom Francioni and Joe Warner.
Ed Holcroft and Adam Taylor.
Tessa Parkin and Annie Silvers.
Martha Bullock and Lily-Mai Pagan.
Thomas Mayes and Theo Skrvin.
Ruby Edwards and Fin Hutchinson.
Tom Crowfoot and Ewan Sparrow.
Alfie Musk and Josh Harrison.
Joel Ledgard and Harry Francioni.
Aran Cooper and Henry Sims.
Sam Plumb and Ellen Taylor.
And Finally

Big oak trees from little acorns grow !

Photos of Alex Adams in his first race for the club, in October 2014 aged 9 and yesterday. Bless. Not that I want to embarrass you Alex!