West Midland Young Athletes’ Cross-Country League 2021/22
Pingles Stadium, Nuneaton
Adams’ 23rd successive win in cross-country league seals 4th place for Stratford
Report – David Parkin
The 5th and final league race saw Stratford finish the season in 4th place out of 21 competing clubs. The club continues to perform at the highest level, with outstanding individual performances alongside great team camaraderie. Despite a break for a year due to the pandemic, normal service resumed with Alex Adams winning his 23rd consecutive race and 5th championship in a row – he is now all set to perform on the national stage in the final few representative races of the season. Other strong individual performances across the season were Maisie-Joy Spriggs (2nd U15G), Niamh Hillard (4th U15G) and Charly Marshall (6th U17W).
In the U17W, Charly Marshall (2nd, 15:54) saved her best performance of the year for the final race – running strongly throughout, she finished well clear of the third place runner and should be very proud of an excellent season. Ellie Deaner (31st, 19:43) and Abigail Skinner (34th, 20:23) competed well, giving another solid team performance overall.
Toby Spriggs (37th, 08:39) ran his usual exuberant race to finish first for Stratford in the U11B in what was a very consistent first season. Toby Wilkinson (62nd, 09:12), Callum Linforth (76th, 09:41) and Henry Thomas (88th, 10:21) completed the team, which finished in 8th place overall.
In the 3-lap U17M race, Alex Adams (1st, 17:12) led from the start and opened out 10 seconds a lap to give him a comfortable victory with a 35s gap to the second place runner from Birchfield Harriers. Theo Skirvin (25th, 19:43) and Caleb Spriggs (34th, 20:33) both ran strong races to give the team 4th place overall across the season, only missing third place and a medal by a handful of points.
Stella Sant (20th, 08:36) had another excellent race in the U11G, once again leading the team home. Amelia Marshall (35th, 09:02), Rachel Sparrow (46th, 09:20), Jasmine Mothershaw (51st, 09:29) and Georgia Sharpe (53rd, 09:31) worked hard together in a blur of yellow and black in the middle of the pack.
The U15B have become one of Stratford’s strongest teams of the season – the boys work hard together in training and this is reflected in strength in depth in the team, with all of them fighting hard for a few more places in the final straight. Milo Cullimore (17th, 12:56), Henry Wheeler (21st, 13:10), Will Mayes (24th, 13:16), James Day (27th, 13:26) and Gabriel Gaiser (33rd, 13:35) were well bunched for the five scoring positions. Hugh Markham (39th, 13:55), Seb Hillard (47th, 14:23), Alex Macmillan (60th, 15:24) and Joe Lewis (64th, 16:10) all had strong finishes, and the team won a very well-deserved 2nd place overall.
Unfortunately, due to illness and injury, the U13G had a depleted team, but Lois Ford (16th, 11:07) had a great outing, holding her place throughout the race. Ava Sheppard (40th, 11:58) and Tessa Parkin (43rd, 12:02) ran together for much of the race, with Sheppard just managing an extra effort at the finish to gain a few places. The team finished in 7th place overall in the league, wondering what might have been having finished 1st in the first league race of the season with a full team.
Joel Ledgard (18th, 10:13) shot off round the inside of the first bend to get himself well up into the leading pack in the U13B race, and then managed to hold his position in a well-fought race. Alfie Musk (39th, 11:23), Arthur Mansbridge (50th, 12:13) and Ewan Sparrow (59th, 13:22) all worked well, with Mansbridge looking very determined at the finish, and Sparrow picking up a few places in a fighting second lap.
In the U15G race, all eyes were on Maisie-Joy Spriggs (2nd, 13:29). Having already secured second place in the league with a race to spare, Spriggs was aiming for her first league win. A group of three broke off the front of the race on the first lap, and, by the second lap, it was down to two. In the end Spriggs didn’t quite have enough left in the tank for the win but she should be delighted with her best ever season. Niamh Hillard (8th, 14:19) and Maddie Linfoot (12th, 14:47) both had excellent races to finish consistent seasons. Lucy Thomas (27th, 15:53), Martha Peters (37th, 16:07), Abbi Cooper (41st, 16:18), Alice Cottam (43rd, 16:20), Emily Cottam (49th, 16:46), Hannah Wilkinson (54th, 17:05), Charlotte Skinner (56th, 17:07) and Tilly Campbell (60th, 17:42) made up Stratford’s biggest team on the day. Great to see all their hard work training on the Welcombe Hills paying off as they consistently overtook on the uphill sections! The team finished with a very well-deserved third place medal.
And so another season in the West Midlands Young Athletes Cross Country League comes to an end. While this report usually focuses on the exceptional individual performances, we should very much applaud all those who participate in what is a tough way to spend your Sundays.
The sense of team is very strong, and it is always a delight to see our athletes, parents and coaches cheering on anyone flying past in the yellow and black of Stratford AC. Well done all.