We are top of the league !!

Tessa Parkin and Annie Silvers striding out at the start of the U11 girls race. Lois Ford and Marijke Tear-Verweij are also in the photo.
Despite lots of doughty and resilient performances on the punishing Welcombe Hills at the weekend, where 40 of our finest competed on a proper XC course, doing themselves and the club proud, pride of place this week must surely go to our superlative junior XC team, 60 of who were competing at Perry Park, Birmingham, in the latest West Midlands Young Athletes’ Cross Country League fixture.

This league is recognised as the strongest XC league in the UK for younger age groups.

There are 21 teams competing, including many from the so called ‘bigger clubs’. These include Birchfield Harriers, Wolverhampton & Bilston, Rugby & Northampton, Royal Sutton Coldfield, Bromsgrove & Redditch etc.

Guess what, at the end of the day and with two more fixtures to go, we are TOP OF THE LEAGUE, which is unprecedented for our club.

However, it is by the narrowest of margins, just 67 points with only 265 points separating the top 4 teams.
Stratford 12475 points
Royal Sutton Coldfield 12408
Wolverhampton & Bilston 12363
Rugby & Northampton 12210
What this fixture really emphasised was how vitally important it is to be able to field a full team in all of the 8 races and also that every one of our team members’ contribution is vital.

Nothing illustrated this better than the U15 girls race. It was the 8th and final race of the day and the 16th race of the season. Wolverhampton and Bilston, who were league leaders at the start of the day, were only able to field 3 athletes. The scores of 5 athletes count. This cost them between 250 and 300 points. They ended the day 265 points off the top.

We, however, were able to field a full team as we had done in all of the races, this was due in no small part to the endeavours of team manager Paul Hawkins.

Our 5th finisher in that final race, Georgia Pridham, dug really really deep to finish and in so doing gained us an invaluable 126 points, without which we would not be top of the league but in 3rd place.

The next and penultimate fixture of the season is on 12th January at Nuneaton.

Bring it on.

Also in this week’s newsletter you can read about Rich Shephard’s superb run in the Bedford half marathon, where his time of 1:13.46 was just 5 seconds off his joint club record. 7 mudlarks ‘enjoyed’ themselves in the Coombe 8, while James Coy and Ryan Bakewell, who is in the form of his life, competed in the Keyworth Turkey Trot half marathon.

In the Telford 10k, Yvonne Gajny and Phil Brennan were competing and Phil’s run earned him yet another England international call up.

Georgie Campbell at the start of the U17 women’s race.
Alex Adams approaches the final ascent, to win his 16th successive WMYACC league race.

West Midland Young Athletes’ Cross Country League 2019/20.

Report – David Parkin

After a very wet autumn, athletes were delighted to find the Perry Park cross-country course not nearly as muddy as it might have been. But, cross-country weather certainly did turn up, with buffeting wind and cold squalls passing through, making it quite an ordeal for some of the races.

The club had another excellent result with full teams competing in all eight of the races and while we finished fourth on the day, this was enough to move us up to first in the league out of 21 clubs, with two fixtures remaining.

Leading the performances for Stratford were Alex Adams winning his sixteenth race in a row and Tessa Parkin, who richly deserved to win her first race in the league after five second place finishes over the last two seasons.

The U17 women competed in the first race over a 4km, 2.5 laps of the course. Georgie Campbell (2nd, 16:45) started strongly to compete with Ella Semple of Birchfield Harriers, who was running on her home course. By the end of the first lap Semple had a five second advantage which continued to grow over the course of the race, despite a fine, battling performance from Campbell.

Ellen Taylor (21st, 19:11) and Gigi Thomas (19:26) ran much of the first lap very close together, with Taylor pulling ahead in the second half of the race. Charlotte Gravelsons (38th, 23:14) will have been pleased with her performance, finishing several places further up the field than her previous race.

Maxime Verstraeten (10th, 06:29) found himself a little boxed in as the U11 boys got off to a very fast start but he should be pleased to have secured his second successive top ten finish in a competitive race.

Joel Ledgard (23rd, 06:47) improved 5 places on the previous race and was closely followed by Joshua Davies (27th, 06:51) and Samuel Plumb (31st, 07:00). Arthur Mansbridge (39th, 07:07), Aran Cooper (40th, 07:08) and Alfie Musk (41st, 07:10) clearly enjoyed the team approach, as they appeared to run the entire race three abreast. Harry Francioni (47th, 07:19), Ewan Sparrow (56th 07:36) and Henry Sims (79th, 07:54) completed the team, which finished in 3rd place.

As in the previous fixture, the U17 men fielded a strong team, with Will Crowfoot (23rd, 18:26) leading the team home over the 4.8km distance. Second for Stratford, in one of the most improved Stratford performances of the day, was Josh Dobedoe (29th, 19:06) up ten places from his previous race. Ned Campbell (38th, 19:49) also looked good, managing to just get the better of team-mate Cameron Thomas (39th, 20:00). Joel Watson (41st, 20:11), Thomas Mayes (45th, 20:44), Fin Hutchinson (48th, 21:26) and Harry Gravelsons (55th, 22:06) completed the team.

Team performance of the day went to the U11 girls, with two finishers in the first three. Tessa Parkin (1st, 06:34) had another fast start, and was comfortably into second place by the halfway mark. Keeping close on the heels of the leader, she accelerated sharply up the final hill to the finish to secure her first ever league win.

Annie Silvers (3rd, 06:47) had a fabulous race and was justifiably proud of her highest ever finish. Marijke Tear-Verweij (23rd, 07:34), Lois Ford (28th, 07:43) and Amelia Peeke (56th, 08:21), all running a year under-age, completed a strong team performance cementing their 2nd place in the league.

A very special mention should go to Harriet Black (61st, 08:28), who was running well in around 30thplace, when she lost her shoe in the mud – most of the field went past as she got it back on, but she battled back through with great determination.

The phenomenon that is Alex Adams (1st, 11:12) led from the start of the U15 boys race and again looked comfortable throughout, putting in a burst of acceleration to the finish to settle the matter in fine style.

Adam Taylor (25th, 12:53) had a good day, getting ahead of team-mates Theo Skirvin (31st, 13:07) and Taylor Stubbins (32nd, 13:08) who battled it out throughout the race. Caleb Spriggs (38th, 13:28) showed an astonishing turn of pace into the finish, to claim another point and Joe Warner (51st, 14:09) and Ed Holcroft (53rd, 14:13) both also ran well to improve their positions on the previous fixture.

The U13 girls enjoyed another fine team performance finishing second overall. Maddie Linfoot (6th, 10:43) looked particularly determined as she overtook up the final hill to achieve her highest ever finish in the league. The ever-battling Niamh Hillard (11th, 11:00) continued her excellent season and Abbi Cooper (22nd, 11:17) and Maisie-Joy Spriggs (28th, 11:35) both pushed hard in the second lap to consolidate their positions. The team also included Caitlin Boyle (37th, 11:49), Emma Francioni (50th, 12:14), the strongly improving Tilly Campbell (51st 12:17), Lucy Thomas (53rd, 12:22), Martha Peters (55th, 12:27) and Ella Peeke (75th, 13:16).

William Mayes (29th, 10:43) again looked assured in the U13 boys and was closely followed by James Day (31st, 10:46), who ran well to move up 5 places from the previous fixture. Flynn Dathan (52nd 11:26), Barnaby Richards (57th, 11:34) and Oliver Hemming (62nd, 11:49) made up the scoring positions and the team also included Ben Herbert (69th, 11:55) and Seb Hillard (70th, 11:57) who was running his first race of the season due to injury.

The U15 girls have to endure going last and this was made worse by the weather closing in with a heavy rain shower just as the race was about to start.

Charlotte Marshall (5th, 13:21) had another barnstorming performance, moving up from ninth at the end of the first lap to eventually claim a very impressive fifth position. Poppy Fox-Rowe (32nd, 14:36), making her season debut after a successful summer on the track ran well, as did Holly Newton (51st, 15:22). Molly Bullock (61st, 16:19) managed to compete despite also juggling a swimming fixture, and Georgia Pridham (75th, 19:12) dug deep to earn valuable points for the team.

So, despite a slightly weakened team, Stratford go onto the next fixture at Nuneaton on 12th January in the unprecedented position of being first in the league. Exciting times indeed.

Stratford’s Got Talent – Our women’s and men’s XC teams.
I’m trying to think of a funny caption to do this photo justice but I just can’t!

Birmingham League & Midland Women’s League on Welcombe Hills

Report – Paul Hawkins and Malcolm Bowyer.

We hosted the major senior cross country leagues on the Welcombe Hills, with both the women’s first division and the men’s second division racing.

The heavy rain leading up to the event ensured that the there was heavy going for the runners, with one part of the course having to be rerouted to avoid the worst of the mud. However, it was perfect cross country weather on the day, dry and relatively mild.

The women’s race was first with just over 250 of the leading midland runners heading up the first hill from the start, including 17 Stratford runners.

We were fielding a young team with four of last season’s successful under 17 team racing.

After a steady start, Sophie Dobedoe worked her way through the field with excellent pace judgement to finish 41st in 30.24 and as with the first league race, she was first Stratford runner home.

Emily Field in her first senior season, does not enjoy a hilly course but still ran well to be next back (63rd, 31.07) and was followed by the first of Stratford’s masters, Emma Bexson (73rd, 32.07) in her best race for a couple of seasons.

Just behind and closing fast was junior Daisy Musk (74th, 32.09) to close the team of four. This was Daisy’s first senior race and she was delighted with the race. Only another ten seconds behind was Annie Cox (79th, 32.19).

Imogen Sheppard is more at home racing 400m on the track so this race was out of her comfort zone but she made a strong start and held her form well to finish 89th (33.14). Imogen will now turn her attention to the indoor season in the New Year.

Suzanne Ross (95th, 33.45) is in her first season with the club and ran strongly on the tough course. The second finisher in the Stratford Masters team was Emma Parkin (102, 34.38) followed by newcomer Vicky Sharp (107, 35.01) and junior debutant Abbie Wootton (108, 35.20).

The final counter in the Masters team was Clare Weatherhead (123, 36.28) closely followed by Liuba Pasa (124, 36.31).

The remaining team members were Rebecca Pridham (138), Julie Gilson (143), Hannah Finch (145), Kate Sergent (155) and Pip Abrams (160).

The Stratford team came 14th on the day and 11th in the Masters competition.

The senior race was won by Sophie Turner in 25.17 and the masters race was won by Jane Evans in 26.21.

Next off was the men’s race where we had 23 runners taking part.

Rich Shepherd came 3rd – 36.57, just 30 seconds off 1st place, Josh Newman was 9th in 37.43, so it was great to have two runners in the top ten.

The ever improving Matt Burdus-Cook was 31st in 39.45, Ollie Senior was 39th in 40.17, Tim Hutchinson was 57th in 42.08 and Drew Sambridge was 80th in 43.25 and they were the six runners who made up the A team.

The next six runners to finish were the B team and they were Adam Evans 93rd in 43.53,, Richard Liggatt 97th in 44.15, James Cusack whose late arrival spurred him on to overtake many runners in the race and finish 100th in 44.26. John Raby was 106th in 44.44 Simon Hanagarth 108th in 44.56 and finally for the B Team was team manager Malcolm Bowyer – 122nd in 45.34.

The remaining Stratford runners to finish were Adrian Mason 145th, Martin Forster 154th, Guy Roberts 157th, Mark Hateley 169th, Ryan Bakewell 174th, Max Ross 190th, Mike Shepard 203th, Damien Wheeler 204th, Ben Twyman 216th, Simon Curran 230th and David Maundrell 233 – this was David’s first cross country after many years of him being a club member.

Malcolm said Stratford runners once more came up trumps on a fabulous day as the A team came 8th to maintain their 7th place in the league. The B team came 5th and remain 6th overall. 236 runners took part and the race was won by Ian Allen in 36.27


Rich Shephard.

Bedford Half Marathon.

Report – Phil Brennan.

One week after winning the Tempo 10k, the club’s in-form distance runner Rich Shephard took on another stiff challenge, this time a half marathon.

The Bedford Half was well organised and well marshalled, a single lap on rural roads near the county town. Despite the undulating nature of the course, Rich was close to his best with a time of 1hr 13:46, just 5 seconds off his club record equalling performance in 2015. This gained him 3rd place overall in a field of over 700, and, even better, was inside the qualifying time for a London Marathon Championships place.

Chris Whately, Claire Weatherhead, Lisa Dallison, Jean Hill, Tony Tomecek and Becks Pridham.

Coombe 8.

Report – Phil Brennan.

Coombe Abbey Country Park was the scene for a tough multi-terrain race on wooded paths and undulating farmland, of just over eight miles.

As with all off road events this year, mud was the main feature, but this was offset by the crisp, sunny conditions. Seven mudlarks from SAC were still smiling at the end, so they must have enjoyed it.

Claire Weatherhead, 70:25, 130th, led the SAC contingent home, followed by Lisa Dallison, 71:14, 136, Chris Whately, 74:31, 174, Rebecca Pridham, 75:52, 189, Tony Tomecek, 76:48, 200, Pippa Abrams, 87:27, 277, and Jean Hill, 92:21, 294. 339 competitors completed a race where finishing was an achievement in itself.

James Coy.
The Keyworth Turkey Trot Half Marathon.

Report – Ryan Bakewell.

This was one of those races I entered months ago but forgot about until the race pack dropped on my doormat the week before.

I’d already planned to do the cross country on the Welcombe Hills on Saturday, so I thought I should probably find someone to transfer my place to – especially as the SAC Xmas party was on the Saturday night!
However, I’d entered with a friend and I didn’t want to let him down. In the end, I was glad I didn’t pull out!
The Keyworth Turkey Trot has been going for 36 years now and is a popular fixture for local runners in Nottinghamshire – it’s one of those races that sells out very quickly. On the Sunday morning the weather was almost perfect; it was cold, clear and crisp but a little windy. I lined up on the start with no plan at all other than to get some miles in and enjoy it.
The first 2.5 miles were downhill which gave my legs time to loosen up from the tough cross country the day before (well done to all those who ran that by the way!). As I hit the first hill I felt surprisingly fresh so I thought I’d stick with the pace and see what happens. Overtaking people up the hill felt good after feeling like I was reversing up them the day before!
I spotted an SAC vest ahead of me at about 3mi – it was James Coy. Good to see a fellow Stratford runner on route!
The course ran through beautiful countryside on quiet roads from Keyworth to Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, Widmerpool and back. In the villages there were plenty of people out clapping and offering up sweets, fruit and on one stall MINCE PIES!.

The hills in the last few miles combined with a 2-minute hailstorm weren’t so welcome but it wasn’t too long before the end was in sight.
I finished the hilly and rather windy race with a surprise PB of 1:28:01 and James finished in 1:31:00.

Sometimes our best performances come when we’re least expecting them!

It’s not recommended to do races on back-to-back days but this time I think I got away with it. Now for some R&R I think…
Yvonne Gajny and Phil Brennan.
Telford 10k.

Report – Phil Brennan.

Flat, fast and furious, the Telford 10k is claimed to be one of the fastest 10k courses in the country and attracts a big field, with over 1100 runners starting and a large element of elite runners.

The two lap course consists mainly of punishing straight sections of over a mile, along a narrow track between tall trees, with overtaking sometimes difficult in a crowded field.

The club’s Yvonne Gajny, 48:31, 685, was hoping for better, but her time was close to her season’s best, just inside the top twenty in the competitive W45 category.

She overtook me early on, and although I gained on her at the finish, she managed to hold me off by some 50 yards.

My time of 48:43 put me 3rd in the M75 category, with the bonus of achieving qualification for the England Masters team in an international next year.
And Finally.

More photos from the weekend’s XC fixtures.
Left – Sophie Dobedoe and right – Emily Field, our first two women to finish.
And you’re going to have to go up it again ladies.
Left – Ollie Senior leads Matt Burdus Cook and right – Rich Shephard leads Josh Newman
Left – Daddy, I want to be a XC runner when I grow up. Damien Wheeler’s son gets ready to greet a weary dad.
Right – John Raby can still manage a smile despite the course and conditions.
These events don’t go ahead without a lot of hard working volunteers and planning.
Top – A pair of Peters – Sugden and Coote
Below – The morning after the day before – Sarah Bland’s photo of some of the equipment ready to be stored.
Glory Girls – Tessa Parkin and Annie Silvers.
Not content with finishing the day top of the league, we also made an attempt to get in to the Guinness Book of Records for the most parents, coaches, competitors and cup-cakes in one tent.
Ellen Taylor and Maddie Linfoot.
Arthur Mansbridge and Aran Cooper battle it out.
Right – Cameron Thomas.
Henry Sims and Seb Hillard.
Martha Peters and Emma Francioni.
Butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths! The U11 boys team.
L to R : Barnaby Richards, Flynn Dathan, Seb Hillard, Ollie Hemming, James Day, Ben Herbert and William Mayes.
Adam Taylor and Joel Ledgard.
Niamh Hillard and Tilly Campbell.
Ben Herbert and Gigi Thomas.
Alfie Musk, Arthur Mansbridge and Harry Francioni.
Right: Abbi Cooper.
Our U15 boys team. L to R: Joe Warner, Adam Taylor, Theo Skirvin, Ed Holcroft, Caleb Spriggs, Alex Adams.
Back row: Taylor Stubbins
William Mayes and Fin Hutchinson.
Caleb Spriggs and Thomas Mayes
Harry Gravelsons and Ned Campbell.
Our U11 boys team.
L to R: Aran Cooper, Joel Ledgard, Alfie Musk, Max Verstraeten, Henry Sims, Josh Davies, Arthur Mainsbridge,Sam Plumb.
Back row: Ewan Sparrow and Harry Francioni.
Sam Plumb.
James Day and Maisey Joy Spriggs.
Will Crowfoot and Barnaby Richards.
Ready for the off.
Left : Josh Dobedoe. Right: Theo Skirvin and Taylor Stubbins battle it out on the home straight.
Max Verstraeten.

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