West Midland Young Athletes’ Cross-Country League 2021/22
16th January 2022
Report – David Parkin
The 4th race of the 21/22 season saw athletes travel to a new venue at Walsall Arboretum on a bright sunny morning to find a well laid-out course that was beyond flat – barely a foot of elevation gain around the whole course. This left some bemoaning the lack of hills, but, as conditions deteriorated during the day, there was more than enough mud to guarantee that true cross-country feeling.
The race of the day for Stratford was the U17M, which saw a 1-2 finish for Alex Adams (1st, 15.55) and Taylor Stubbins (2nd, 16:27). Alex, as ever, led from the start, but the chasing pack at least kept him in sight for much of the race. Stubbins fought hard amongst the small group of chasers, eventually breaking 5 seconds clear in the final lap to earn a very well-deserved 2nd place.
Ben Stockhill (18th, 17:52) made a welcome return to the team and helped the team to 1st place. Caleb Spriggs (29th, 18:44) and Tom Cox (30th, 18:45) ran neck and neck throughout the race before Spriggs managed a last ditch overtake in the finish straight.
This victory confirmed Adams’ league title with a race to spare, leaving him unbeaten in 22 races over 5 years since the 2016/17 season. A remarkable feat.
In the U17W, Charlotte Marshall (4th, 15:54) ran a fine race to secure her highest place of the season, moving up the field in the second half of the race. Olivia Robinson (10th, 17:05) couldn’t quite sustain her early pace, but will still be pleased with her first top 10 finish this year, and Abigail Skinner (41st, 20:43) ran well to complete a strong team performance.
In the short, fast and furious U11B race, Stratford were led home by Harrison Geden (25th, 06:38), closely followed by the sprinting Toby Spriggs (36th, 06:59) who went round the outside to get past a few more runners in the finish straight. Henry Sims (56th, 07:17), Callum Linforth, making his debut (57th, 07:19) and Henry Thomas (59th, 07:21) were well bunched in the middle of the field and Toby Wilkinson (78th, 07:48) and Ben Harrison (93rd, 08:29) made up the remainder of the team.
Stella Sant (14th, 06:54) continued her strong season with her highest place finish of the season in the U13G, holding off a strong challenge at the line. Jasmine Mothershaw (46th, 07:28), Rachel Sparrow (47th, 07:29) and Georgia Sharpe (55th, 07:36) ran well together to finish in the middle of the pack.
The U15B had an excellent team performance with 5 finishers in the top 40, finishing 2nd overall. Milo Cullimore (12th, 11:42) continued his excellent first season with the club with his highest finish position after a particularly fast second lap. Henry Wheeler (18th, 11:48), also finishing strongly, led home a closely bunched group of James Day (30th, 12:07), Zak Lambert (33rd, 12:14) and William Mayes (34th, 12:16). Hugh Markham (53rd, 13:00), Seb Hillard (66th, 13:18) and Joe Lewis, making a welcome return to the team (73rd, 14:17) completed the team.
Marijke Tear-Verweij (26th, 11:02), who has been one of this year’s standout performers for Stratford, unfortunately fell at the start of the U13G race. Quickly back up on her feet, she rapidly made up some lost ground, but was unable to connect with the leading group. Lois Ford (39th, 11:34) was in third place going into the first corner, but was unable to maintain her quick start and had a difficult second lap but kept just ahead of Ava Sheppard (42nd, 11:40). Tessa Parkin (47th, 11:50) and Amelia Peeke (53rd, 11:58) battled it out together, with Parkin just getting ahead in the final quarter of a mile.
In the U13B race, Aran Cooper (13th, 09:48) had a phenomenally fast start and was up to third on the first lap. While he couldn’t quite keep up the pace on the second lap, he remained determined and dug out a fast finish to continue an excellent season. Joel Ledgard (18th, 09:56) and Sam Plumb (20th, 10:11) were next home, with Plumb taking an aggressive line and a fast sprint at the finish to pick up an extra place. Alfie Musk (24th, 10:23) was on form and had his highest finish of the season. Arthur Mansbridge (56th, 11:45) held off a strong challenge at the finish and Ewan Sparrow (71st, 12:56) completed the team.
True to tradition, early sunshine had turned to drizzle by the time of the U15G race, and the course that had been so pristine early on had become steadily muddier. This didn’t deter a strong Stratford team, with Maisie-Joy Spriggs (2nd, 12:17), Niamh Hillard (5th, 12:36) and Maddie Linfoot (8th, 12:52) in second, third and fourth place on the first lap. Spriggs had another great race and has now secured her second place in the league with a race to spare. Hillard matched her position from the previous race with another strong run, closely chased throughout by Linfoot. Lucy Thomas (31st, 13:56) and Martha Peters (36th, 14:10) will both be pleased with their races and completed the scoring positions, giving Stratford 3rd place overall. Alice Cottam (45th, 14:21), Abbie Cooper (46th, 14:21), Caitlin Boyle (49th, 14:36), Charlotte Skinner (51st, 14:37) and Emily Cottam (55th, 14:44) gave a strong Stratford flavour to the middle of the race, and the team was made up by Hannah Wilkinson (65th, 15:42) and Ella Peeke (68th, 15:52).
The Stratford team finished 4th overall on the day with 6017 points, just 82 points off 3rd place and are in a strong 4th place in the league of 21 clubs. A 3rd place finish is within grasp in the final race of the season at Nuneaton on 20th February. The club have an overall score of 23996 points, just 218 points behind 3rd placed Wolverhampton.
As ever, a huge well done to all athletes, coaches, parents and supporters for a great Stratford team effort. And, perhaps most importantly, welcome back to the world of junior cross-country for club chairman Paul Hawkins after a long absence.
For the full results please follow the link below: