Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.


Some well-dressed representatives from the U15 group collect their spoils from Olympic medallist & UK 400m record-holder Iwan Thomas MBE
It’s been another of those weeks that separates us from mere athletics clubs.

On Friday the club had no fewer than 5 finalists at the Stratford-on-Avon District Community Sports Awards, hosted by Olympic medallist and UK 400m record-holder Iwan Thomas. MBE.

Our U15 T&F team picked up the Junior Team of the Year award, with Lewis Byng being victorious in arguably the most competitive award of the night, the Junior Sports Person of the year Award.

We had 3 of the 6 finalists in this category, with Freddie Clemons and Alex Adams losing out to Lewis. Other finalists in this hotly contested category included a couple of World and European record holders.

The club’s Couch to 5k initiative was a finalist in the first Getting Stratford-on-Avon District Active Award. It was always going to be a tough one to win, as the we were up against the hugely successful Stratford Parkrun and so it proved to be, with the Parkrun team picking up the award.

Paula Williams, another club member was also a finalist in this category for her work with both Walking Netball and Back to Netball.

On Monday, the latest of our C25K groups, supported by volunteer helpers, met for the first time to embark on their running journey. Good luck. You won’t regret it.

Elsewhere, it was another extremely successful race for Senior club members at the 4th of this season’s Winter Series races held at Ilmington. Rich Shepherd and Matt Burdus-Cook finished 1st and 2nd respectively, separated by just 6 seconds and club members occupied 4 of the top 10 places.

It’s the time of the year when our T&F athletes, young and old, find out if their winter training has really been worth the effort as they venture out into the indoor season.

It would seem, that despite the atrocious conditions this winter, all of that hard work has indeed been worth it and is already paying dividends.

Last night we were visited by Chris Jones – CEO of England Athletics, along with other members of his team. They came along to our Senior’s club night and the highlights of his visit should soon be available as a podcast on the England Athletics website.

Finally, Paul Bearman has produced a pretty comprehensive fixture list for the year, across all age groups. It’s way above my pay grade to be able to include it in this newsletter, if that’s even possible but it is on the club’s website as Fixtures 2020. Please have a look at it.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

Best Wishes

David Jones

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The victorious Lewis Byng.
Stratford-on-Avon District Community Sports Awards.
Mike Sheppard

Hi everyone, as many of you will be aware, on Friday Stratford AC U15 Track & Field Teams’ were crowned Junior Team of the Year at the Stratford-on-Avon District Community Sports Awards.

Congratulations to everyone who has contributed to this success, whether through individual medal-winning performances or, equally important, by battling for the crucial points that delivered team victories in the County Championships, Heart of England League and Sportshall League.

Huge thanks are also due to our volunteer coaching team and to all parents and helpers who have stepped up over the last 12 months to assist with officiating and the many other support tasks that make this success possible.

Whilst it was the U15s who won the Award this year, this is of course a reflection on the whole junior club and the hard work that starts with the U11 age group and then feeds all the way through to he U20s and beyond.

Both Freddie Clemons and Alex Adams were also nominated in the very competitive Individual Junior Sports Person category, narrowly losing out to SUAAC shot put giant Lewis Byng.
Well done all!
Mike Sheppard
Stratford-Upon-Avon AC – U15s

Below are the nominations for both of our successful Award winners – The Junior Track and Field team and Lewis Byng
Paul Bearman.

Stratford upon Avon Athletic Club Junior Track and Field.

The Stratford upon Avon Athletic Club Junior Track and Field overall junior section has grown to over 300 athletes, supported by over 40 qualified coaches, plus officials and helpers and the combined Under 15 T&F team, supported by their team of coaches, has been the backbone, the dominant and most successful age group behind the overall junior club’s success in 2019.

At an age when there is significant drift away from active sport, our U15 team train all year round, including outside during the winter, often in harsh, inclement and unpleasant conditions, which is testament to their commitment to be the best they can be.

The most prestigious championship that the overall club won in 2019 was the Warwick Vase for winning the Warwickshire County Championship for an unprecedented 4th year running. The championship is run in discrete age groups and the combined point’s totals determine the overall champions.

The SUAAC U15 T&F team won 8 Gold, 3 silver and 7 bronze medals and were the most successful team within the championships. Freddie Clemons also won the coveted U15 “Athlete of the Championship”.

League successes include :-

Heart of England League Division 1

25 U15 athletes competed in 3 matches over the season with the boys becoming the Under 15 Male Champions.

The outstanding contribution from the U15 team significantly contributed to SUAAC winning the Overall Male & Female Championships and becoming Division 1 Champions.

Warwickshire Sportshall League

26 Under 15 Male & Female athletes won every match and were Warwickshire Champions in their respective age groups.

The excellence of the U15s consistent performances made the team the outstanding contributors to SUAAC winning the overall league title.

5 athletes represented Warwickshire in the inter County Regional finals with Millie Leighton becoming the West Midlands overall champion. The 4 SUAAC athletes in the 6 man team won the Overall West Midlands and represented Warwickshire in the National Finals.

In addition:

15 of the U15 SUAAC team represented South Warwickshire schools in the county finals. 7 were County School champions/medallists and qualified to represent Warwickshire in the Mason Trophy Inter-county Championships against 11 other counties.

3 of the U15 team achieved the stringent ESAA standards to again help form the backbone of the Warwickshire English Schools T&F team with SUAAC providing a total

9 U15 athletes competed for Warwickshire in the AAA Inter County Match against 7 other counties which they won.

9 U15 athletes finished the 2019 season either leading or in the top 10 in the West Midlands T&F rankings with 1 leading the national ranking and another in the top 10.

Within the SUAAC personal athlete development programme 5 U15s who have been a part of the club from 9 years old are coaching younger athletes to pass on their experience and knowledge. They also take this experience and knowledge back into their respective schools.

Lewis Byng

2019 Achievements

  • UK No1 for U20

  • Personal best as an U20 @ 19.14m ranks Lewis 2nd in the UK of all time.

  • Represented Great Britain in the U20 European Championships in Boras Sweden.

  • First person to reach a European U20 throws final since 1989

  • 8th in European Championships Final.

  • UK U20 & U23 Outdoor Shot Champion.

  • UK U20 Indoor Champion

  • At 17 years of age Lewis is the only male athlete ever to have won both UK U20 & U23 Championships in the same weekend).

  • English Schools Athletics Champion

  • Manchester International Champion

  • Currently ranked 19th in the World in his 1st year U20.(At 17 the other competitors are either 1 or 2 years older)

  • Aged 17 indoor and outdoor record of all time

  • Welsh International Indoor Champion

Finalist on the night : Alex Adams, Freddie Clemons and some graduates of our Couch to 5k initiative.
Stratford-on-Avon District Community Sports Awards.

The Finalists

Below are the nominations put forward by the club for Freddie Clemons, Alex Adams and the club’s Couch to 5k initiative, resulting in all 3 being named finalists at Friday’s Awards

Freddie Clemons.

2019 Achievements.

Freddie is the top ranked U15 hurdler in the UK and his performances during the season saw him climb to 7th in the all-time list for U15 UK hurdlers.

  • During the year he won all 22 of his races including becoming the UK indoor and outdoor champion and the English Schools champion as well winning the regional & county championships.
  • UK U15 Outdoor Champion

  • UK U15 Indoor Champion

  • English Schools’ Champion

  • Midland Counties Outdoor Champion

  • Midland Counties Indoor Champion

  • Mason Trophy Inter Counties Schools’ Champion

  • Warwickshire County U15 Champion

  • Warwickshire County Schools Champion

  • U15 Inter County Champion


    Alex Adams

    2019 Achievements.

    At just 14 years of age this talented and likeable young athlete from Stratford upon Avon Athletic Club (SUAAC) is quickly maturing into a runner of the highest calibre and 2019 was the year he announced himself on the national stage.

    His string of victories in the 1500m was truly impressive, with 1st place finishes in the Gloucestershire School Championships, The Heart of England League Division 1 fixtures at both Abingdon and Banbury and in his own club Championships. However, it was his victory in the U13/U15 Inter County Championships in Hull in September that he truly announced himself as a 1500m runner of stature. On that day his time of 4:20.87 was a 10 seconds PB, enabling him to win the race by a comfortable margin of 2.37 seconds, which in terms of a 1500m race is considerable to say the least. This stunning performance saw him shoot up the UK rankings and placed him comfortably inside the top 10 for someone of his age. It also broke the SUAAC club record for U15 boys.

    In the 3000m, he was 1st in the Warwickshire County Championships with another club record performance of 9:53.91, beating his closest rival by a hugely impressive 54 seconds. In a distance that he is not at all familiar with, this performance placed him 11th for his age in the UK rankings.

    Alex also holds club records at U13 level in both the 800m and 1500m.

    Also in 2019 he won the Stratford parkrun as both a 13 year old and 14 year old. At the time of writing his quickest time of 17.02 is just 14 seconds off the fastest time recorded for someone of his age in the UK during the year.

    If he has been successful on the track and in parkruns, then it his performances in cross country that really sets him apart.

    The West Midlands Young Athletes Cross Country League is the strongest cross country league in the UK for younger age groups. In November 2019 he recorded an unprecedented 15th successive victory in the league, winning the race by a comfortable 10 seconds while competing against 70 other runners, many of who were representing so called bigger clubs such as Birchfield Harriers, Royal Sutton Coldfield and Rugby & Northampton ( Alex has since stretched this to 17 successive victories ) This is a more impressive feat when you consider that it was his first year in this age group and he was competing against many older boys. He remains undefeated in the league since October 2016. He has won the league’s individual athlete of the year in his age group in 3 successive years and if he were to win it again in 2019/20, he would be only the 2nd male athlete in the league’s 44 year history to achieve this feat.

    2019 also saw him secure victories in both the Warwickshire/Worcester County Championships and The Midland Counties U13 Cross country Championships.

    Once again, the year saw him announce himself on the national stage with a 3rd place finish and bronze medal at the National Cross Country Championships in Leeds, moving up from 36th place in 2018. Competing against over 400 other athletes, he became the first male SUAAC member to win a medal at these championships

    If Alex continues to improve at his current rate and continues to commit himself and make the sacrifices he will have to make to get to the top, then SUAAC may well have another international athlete to boast about in the not too distant future.

    The Club’s Couch to 5k Initiative.

    The NHS website states :

    “ Taking up running can seem like a scary prospect, especially if you feel out of shape or unfit.

    Couch to 5K will help participants gradually work up towards running 5K in just 9 weeks.

    Running regularly will improve the health of your heart and lungs. It can also help you lose weight, especially if combined with a healthy diet.

    There is evidence it may help increase bone density, which can help protect against bone diseases like osteoporosis.

    There are also mental benefits of running. Taking on the challenge of Couch to 5K can help boost your confidence and self-belief, as you prove to yourself that you can set yourself a target and achieve a goal.

    Running regularly can also be a great stress reliever and has even been shown to combat depression “

    It was with the above in mind that SUAAC was something of a trailblazer in the Stratford area when it started its local Couch to 5K (C25K) initiative in 2017.

    For the past 3 of years the club have put on regular courses for people wanting to give running a try, or for folks who have just got out the habit of running or exercising.

    These courses are completely free of charge.

    Following the NHS C25K programme, which takes people from literally zero to being able to complete a 5K parkrun, the club has had great success with over 200 people taking part, very many of who continue to run after completing the course.

    Many of these have truly heartwarming stories to tell of their experience and many tell of not only the physical and mental benefits of the programme but also of the social benefits, enabling them to meet and socialise with like minded individuals. They also repeatedly mention the supportive nature of SUAAC members.

    The initiative also linked up with Arden Medical Centre, who used the programme to encourage patients who were looking to combat obesity and mental health related illnesses.

    Upon joining the course participants are given the opportunity to take part in 3 sessions a week over the 9 week programme. After completing this, they “graduate” by taking part in a Stratford parkrun, This is followed by a club organised celebration breakfast!

    The weekly sessions are led by fully qualified volunteer members of the club, supported by between 12-16 additional volunteer club members over the 9 week course.

    Just completing the programme is a huge achievement in itself but several 2019 graduates have inspirational tales to tell.

    There is Mark, who was admitted to hospital following a car accident. His main injury turned out to be a ruptured diaphragm with a diaphragmatic hernia. On impact his insides carried on moving and his stomach went through the diaphragm and into his left lung.

    In April 2018 he underwent a 10 hour operation to remove his stomach from his lungs.

    During the operation he had two cardiac episodes and another while in intensive care.

    After being signed off by the cardiologist to start to exercise again, a nurse who had treated him and had also attended a previous C25K programme, suggested he give it a go.

    He said that everyone at the club made him feel so welcome and this gave him the encouragement to carry on through the pain and discomfort he was experiencing.

    He finally ran the whole 5k park run earlier this year in under 35 minutes, less than one year after major surgery.

    Mark now feels that things are on the up and he says that it has not only helped him physically but also that mentally he is in a much better place. He also lost a lot of weight during the course.

    There is Jennifer who went from C25K to completing the London Marathon, raising much needed funds for the Miscarriage Society.

    Nina, who is diabetic, said that after completing the course, it so enthused her diabetic clinic, that they wanted her to talk to a few newly diagnosed teenagers who used to love sport, about her experience and how diabetes doesn’t need to stop you doing anything.

    Other successes include Jan, who in her seventies completed the course and then went on to help other participants. She then developed a taste for sprinting, competing for the club’s Vet’s track and field team and she is currently ranked in the top ten 200 metre runners in the UK for her age group, she is also the 6th best long jumper, thus proving that you are never to old to achieve your potential.

    Liz joined the group and then the club and this helped reignite her enthusiasm for the discus, which she used to excel at as a schoolgirl. She has also gone on to compete for the club at track and field.

    These success and these stories form part of the very ethos of SUAAC and the club remain committed to offering locals the opportunity to improve both their physical and mental health by taking part in the C25K programme, where they are supported and guided by qualified volunteer coaches at no cost to themselves. Indeed, the club remains committed to getting the Stratford on Avon district active.

    The club’s next Couch to 5k programme started on Monday.

Matt Burdus-Cook leads Rich Shephard. Their final positions were to be reversed with just 6 seconds separating them at the finish.
Our first lady finisher and age category winner Fern Hordern.

Tempo Winter Series Race 4.

Report – Phil Brennan.

With most of the 300 plus competitors still on course to complete all five races in the series and win the coveted series prizes, there was an air of expectation at the start of this challenging road race in hilly Ilmington.

For the fourth month, the weather appeared kinder than it could be, with bright sun at the start and finish. With the temperature close to zero however and fog and frost on the roads plus icy patches on the slopes, most runners to opted for caution rather than flat-out racing.

As ever, there was a strong contingent of over thirty from Stratford AC throughout the field, led home by Rich Shephard in overall first place, hotly pursued by Matt Burdus-Cook in second. Their times of 37:57 and 38:03 were exceptional given the conditions.

There were top-ten finishes for Richard Liggatt (7, 41:06) and John Raby (10, 41:38).

The front of the race continued to be dominated by SAC finishers, with Seth Turner (17, 43:26), Owen Goschen (20, 43:40), and Max Ross (21, 43:48) having a particularly close fight.

David Smyth (24, 44:35), Joe Lee (28, 46:25), Ade Mason (30, 46:34), Mark Hateley (36, 47:28) and John Bettles (49:11) were affected by the hazards but still comfortably inside 50 minutes.

Graham Hill, 72, 50:22, was just ahead of SAC’s first female finisher, Fern Hordern, who also won her age category (76, 50:32). Second and third females from the club were Clare Weatherhead (107, 54:04) and Cara Reynolds (109, 54:04) although they had chatted rather than raced their way round. A late surge by Carl James saw him move up the order in 115th, 54:10, overtaking Liuba Pasa (120, 55:05) and Phil Brennan (128, 55:33, 1st M75).

Daniel Hodgkin (133, 55:48) and Simon Curran (152, 58:28) came in under the hour barrier. Stuart McLeod (185, 1:01:31) and Neil Robertson (187, 1:02:07) paced each other round, while Rebecca Pridham (209, 1:04:08) was carrying an injury and well below her best but a spirited finisher.

SAC’s remains finishers were all intent on surviving the conditions rather than racing: Tom Horbury (1:08:00), Clare Eynon (1:11:45), Gemma Smith (1:15:36), Alice Baxendale (1:25:24) and Paul Nash (1:25:51) were shephered in by John Butler (1:33:26).

With one last challenge left in this series, the weather forecast in mid-February will be of considerable interest.

The Indoor Season.

And so it begins.

Report – Paul Bearman

Several Stratford AC Track and Field athletes are already showing encouraging signs of doing well in the various indoor Open competitions held around not just the UK but as far away as the USA.

Early competitive events give athletes and their coaches an indication of how the winter training has been going and what work still needs to be done to prepare for the upcoming indoor championships.

Stratford athletes are used to training outdoors in consistently poor weather and the last few weeks atrocious conditions have made preparation for competing in the technical events i.e. jumps and hurdles virtually impossible and so competing indoors is a welcome respite.

Jack Sumners is currently at Iowa University in the US and despite the -20 temperatures outside he has no problem training in the state of the art arena attached to the university.

Sumners has moved up to the senior height hurdles and in his first outing he ran 8.14s which puts down a good marker for the upcoming US collegiate championships.

Loughborugh student Ollie Cresswell has also moved up to the senior height and he opened his season in the Loughborough Open where he won both his hurdles races with a best time of 8.41s and for the 60m he won with a time 7.17s.

The Midland Open events in Birmingham are well organised and after moving up to U20 this year Cole Williams started his season with an encouraging run in the 60m hurdles in a time of 8.21s and despite a knock on his ankle ran a PB of 7.30s. in the 60ms

Despite very limited training time due to the weather, Under 17 George Fox Rowe jumped a new PB of 1.75 in the High Jump and ran another PB in the 60m hurdles in a time of 9.53s.

Lucy Lane decided to just run the U15 Hurdles and she finished with a PB of 10.00s.

Alex Powell has worked hard in the winter to improve his flat speed and it wasn’t reflected in his 60m time of 7.60s, just outside his PB which he was “disappointed” with. The adjustment from training outdoors in the wind and rain to the clam of the indoors is always tricky for the first time in the year and it played havoc with his run up but lessons were learnt for the upcoming Midland Champs.

Kaili Woodward has hardly been able to train all winter due to injury and was under prepared and found the competition to be too early for her to get into her rhythm finishing with 4.93m in the Long Jump and 9.94m in the Triple Jump.

U20 Harry Sugden is only just starting to learn the technicalities associated with Triple Jump but he had a good series of jumps finishing with a best of 12.73m.

Even with limited training U15 Zach Mckenzie still pulled out two PBs in both the Long Jump (5.08m) and Triple Jump (10.67m) and both Under 15 Antonia Leece in the Long Jump with 3.57m and Linden Williams (9.06s) were just outside their PBs.

Senior athlete Paula Williams stretched her legs over the 60m in a time of 8.59s and making his competitive debut indoors, David Wilson ran a club record time of 8.39in the 60m.

Me and my medals. The trick is, the older you get the fewer competitors you have.

Welsh Masters Indoor T&F Championships. Cardiff.

Report – Phil Brennan


David Jones, joint team manager of Stratford’s successful Veterans track team, opened the indoor season with a successful raid on the Welsh Masters Indoor T&F Championships in Cardiff.

Despite having been absent from the indoor arena for five years, he came away with no less than three titles. During a busy day, he posted competitive times to claim gold medals at 800m (2:52.09), 1500m (6:04.01), and 400m (79.49). In the 400m and 800m races he claimed new club records.

His winter preparation is clearly going well and putting him in a good state for his hoped for international Masters debut later this year.

Save the date.

Hannah Osborne.
Just a quick reminder to all senior members that this year’s Hilly 100 race will take place on Sunday 31st May.

Put it in your diary now and look forward to a day of running, team spirit, jelly babies, laughs, competition, hills and more hills.

I will be in touch nearer the time with more details and to ask for sign ups.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, put the date in your diary and know we’d love you to be involved and read on for more info:

The Cotswold Hilly 100 is a 100-mile road relay race divided into 10 legs each of approx 10 miles. The race starts at the American Fountain, Market Square, in Stratford and finishes at the Stratford Sports Club and follows a route of mainly minor roads that meanders through the Cotswolds.

The race has been held for more than 25 years and while there have been minor tweaks to improve the safety of the runners, the overall route is largely unchanged. As the name suggests, there are a number of undulations throughout the route!

The course record is held by Massey Ferguson Running Club, who in 1989 ran a combined overall time of 9:24.

Teams start at either 5am, 6am or 7am depending on their predicted overall time with a view to finishing at 6-7pm.

To ensure all teams finish at a reasonable time, there is the option of the ‘mass start’. This involves the leg 8 runners starting at 1.00pm and the last three legs completing the race. The leg 7 runner’s time will be recorded so that the overall team race time can be calculated.

Shields are awarded to the first men’s team, first women’s team, first ‘B’ team and first mixed team.

However, it is the club spirit this race generates that is the main attraction. Teams are responsible for supporting each runner on their leg (e.g. marshaling and first aid as required) and ensuring a successful handover at the end of each leg creates some logistical challenges. Despite the best laid plans, its not unknown for runners to lose their way or to have to continue onto the following leg because their colleague hasn’t arrived!

All profit from this race is donated to charity.

Any questions do get back to me!

And Finally.

A smashing photo of our press reporter for Junior XC events and photographer extraordinaire Dave Parkin on duty at the last Junior XC fixture in Nuneaton.