The hills’ really were alive!

Rich Shephard leads Ned Campbell
Georgie Campbell and Charly Marshall
Emmy Orton and Vicky Sharpe ready for a sprint finish
The hills really were alive last weekend, alive to the patter of tiny and not so tiny feet with over 100 club members across all age groups competing in XC.

On Saturday over 50 Senior members were racing on  the Welcombe Hills, supported by a small army of club members marshalling and officiating and on Sunday it was the turn of 50+ juniors, ably supported by parents and coaches, who were competing at Warley Woods. 

Seniors and juniors alike were competing on what are referred to as “proper cross country courses” i.e. really, really hilly.

Both our seniors and juniors were extremely successful as you will read in the reports form Paul, Vicky and Malcolm for the seniors and Rachel Stevens for the juniors. Thanks to the four of you for your superb reports.

It was wonderful to see John Turner turn up to support the runners on both days, on Sunday accompanied by his son Andrew.

This weekend it’s another bumper weekend of XC with the County XC Championships taking place in Rugby. Once again this will feature all age groups but with the exception of U11s.

This week’s newsletter also reports on 3 of our, shall I say, more mature runners, with Phil Brennan grabbing yet another gold medal, this time in the BMAF 5k championships, youngster Kate Wright finishing 1st lady and 3rd overall in the 22 mile Worcester Ring and John Butler achieving his target time in the Downton Half Marathon.

Huge congratulations are also due to Olivia Robinson and Taylor Stubbins who had to forgo competing at Warley Woods so that they could compete in the Gloucestershire Schools XC Championships. Olivia claimed a magnificent bronze and Taylor took the gold medal, ending up as the Gloucestershire Schools Senior Cross Country Champion. Pretty impressive. Well done both.

Take care

Best Wishes

David Jones
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Joe Lee, Nick Cooper and Richard Dobedoe
Emma Bexson
Matt Burdus-Cook and Alex Pester

Welcombe Hills Cross Country

A message from Sally Bliss

A HUGE THANK YOU…. To everyone named below for turning out to marshal and support your fellow runners on a dry but very cold winter’s afternoon.

There was a fab turn out of SAC runners for both the women’s and men’s races, some of who helped out and then raced.

The praise from other clubs was phenomenal. That couldn’t have happened without club members giving up their time on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. It is really appreciated.

Thank you to Sarah Bland for organising and overseeing everything, which she always does so brilliantly. She does so much behind the scenes.


Taylor Stubbins, Jan Tuner, Richard Eden, Mike Sheppard, Phil Marshal, Phil Brennan, 

Mark Illingworth, Paul Hawkins, Paul Faithfull, Mike Barrie

Richard Shephard, Kat Barney, Huw Crosweller, Peter Sugden, Sam Swanepoel, Pip Bell, 

Hannah Osbourne, Kate Sergent, Tim Hutchinson , Jo Hutchinson, Rosie Slocombe

Karen Gisbourne, Sophie Dobedoe, Josh Dobedoe, Jan McLure, Tilley Campbell, Emma Parkin

Rob Greenwood, Katie Wilcox, Brian Boyle, Roger Gerke-Bonet, Andy List, David Jones and Pete Law.


Senior Cross Country Leagues 

Saturday 3 December

Report – Paul Hawkins,, Vicky Sharpe & Malcolm Bowyer

Both men’s and women’s teams from Stratford Upon Avon Athletics Club were racing in their second league match of the season and were hosting on the home ground of the Welcombe Hills and Clopton Park. 

First off were the ladies in the 24 strong team racing in the Division 1 match. Despite some fog and lack of sunshine everyone raced valiantly placing Stratford 6th out of 18 teams in the top midlands division.

The team were led into the finish by the junior pair of Georgie Campbell (26:13) and Charly Marshall (26:36) who finished 11th overall, 4th Junior and 17th overall 6th Junior respectively. A great first race in the senior league for Charly Marshall and a sign of good things to come! 

Next and leading the masters charge was Emma Bexson (28:52), 11th Master overall. Working together on the second lap to push each other and run some very tactical lines to stop others overtaking were Emmy Orton (30:21) and Vicky Sharpe (30:22), both putting Monday night’s track work to good use for a brilliant sprint finish.

Next through the line and getting a course PB was Suzie Ross (31:17) closely followed by Ceri Shephard (31:19) in her return to cross-country after a break for several seasons and a cross country debut for Bronwen Mansel (33:27). 

Next to finish were some consistent members of the Stratford team in Emily Carr (33:45), Hannah Osborne (34:02), Kate Barney (34:33) and Kim Lee (34:43). The next close group through were Fran Doran (35:03), Suzi Graham (35:32), Clare Goodwin (36:09), Philippa Paddock (36:14), Beth Swain (36:15) and Clare Weatherhead (36:29) who made real differences to the score sheet by helping push other clubs Master’s runners further and further down the finishing order.

The first of the finishers to receive the soon to be trademarked Stratford Wave was Pip Bell (39:54), followed by Lisa Lambourn (40:40), Sam Swanepoel (41:51), the race walker turned XC runner Gemma Smith (45:12) and Sandie Owens (45:40).

Keeping sweep Kate Sergent company was Miranda Maloney (53:28) who learnt lessons from last year and was ready to run two laps of the challenging Welcombe Hills. 

Next up it was the men’s team racing in Division 3 of the Birmingham League, with 246 runners taking part in this race, including an amazing 28 runners racing for Stratford. As you would expect it was a hilly course but over three laps and 10km, compared to the women’s two laps.


Stratford’s Rich Shephard took the lead on the first lap but was then unfortunately overtaken on lap two but still finished a close second at the end. He was closely followed by Ned Campbell finishing 3rd and first junior, Matt Burdus-Cook was 6th, Alex Pester was 7th and second junior. Next was Alex Hill who came in 15th closely followed by Jamie Hall in 20th. These runners were the finishers for Stratford A-team so it was fantastic to have four finishers in the top ten and all the first team in the top twenty.

The next six runners for the B team also finished close together. Adam Linforth was 26th, Koda Spriggs was 28th and fourth junior on his senior debut, Dave Teasdale was 37th, Tim Hutchinson was 42nd, Phil Reading was 48th and Paul Faithfull was 50th.

Never to be put off the rest of the Stratford runners battled on to fantastic finishing times as well.

Sam WIlks was 51st, Hue Crossweller was 76th, Max Ross was 82nd, Rob Gisbourne was 86th, John Raby was 88th, Joe Lee 93rd, Nick Cooper was 94th followed by Richard Dobeboe was 95th. These runners kept this close together over the whole race.

Never slowing down Nick Campbell was 116th, Will Dyche was 119th, David Battersby was 125th, Chris Spriggs was 141th, Owen Lewis was 166th, Dave Wolstencroft was 221th and finally the longest serving club member Allan Coldicott finished for the Stratford team in 245 place. Unfortunately, Damian Wheeler had to pull out during the race with illness.

It was an outstanding team performance by the Stratford team on a wonderful cross country course and meant that the A team and the B team both finished first overall on the day and go top of the league after two matches.

Both teams are back in action in the league on 14 January but first it’s the County Championships on 10 December.

Our U11 girls: Ruby Whyman Bean, Maggie Silvers, Layla Sparrow, Amelie Marshall and Jasmine Mothershaw
U11 boys: Toby Wilkinson, Tom Yates, Eli Ford, Toby Ledgard and Tyler Li
U13 girls: Marijke Tear-Verweij, Amelia Peake, Ava Sheppard, Georgia Sharpe, Lois Ford, Rachel Sparrow and Portia Nabney
The all conquering U13 boys team of Aran Cooper, Will Hovell, Arthur Mansbridge, Sam Plumb, Toby Spriggs, Joel Ledgard, Arthur Williamson and Kipp Stevens
The battle of The Lamberts. Sam (748) and Zak (749) with Will Mayes behind 272
Marijke Tear-Verweij, Ava Sheppard and Lois Ford
Running down the hill is the easy bit guys. Our U13 boys who  went on to dominate their race.
The U17 ladies get off to a flying start

West Midlands Young Athletes Cross Country League.

Warley Woods

4th December


Report – Rachel Stevens

‘Wait, what? It looked flat on the map!’ was the irked reaction of one of Stratford’s younger newcomers to Warley Woods. So cometh the hills. To add to the trepidation, it was the bleakest of days for the third meet of the WMYACCL 22/23 season. Whilst for some it appeared a foreboding  lung-buster, for others it was a welcome return to their favourite course or, as one of our more seasoned members put it, to ‘proper cross-country.’ 


The U17 Women kicked off the day with a steeply banked 200m dash across the hill to the first of many climbs. Maisie-Joy Spriggs (9th/18:30) played perfectly to her strengths to finish inside the top ten, followed by an ‘over the moon’ Abbi Cooper who, with utter determination, powered up the final 100m and pipped a competitor on the line for her highest placing of the season (14th/19:06). Then, with strong and steadfast runs and also impressing with their highest finishes this season were Tilly Campbell (37th/24:33) and Abigail Skinner (39th/25:38). Unfortunately, Niamh Hillard was forced to pull-up due to illness. In fact, the day saw a number of athletes across all clubs and age-groups hoping to have fought off their winter coughs and sneezes but succumbing in one way or another – Warley Woods took no prisoners.

Whilst she was missed, a special note of congratulations must go to Olivia Robinson who competed in the Gloucestershire Schools Cross Country Competition and won a brilliant bronze medal. An awesome achievement!

At the mid-way point of the WMYACCL, the Stratford ladies lie in third.

Next up were our U11 boys. Toby Ledgard (28th/07:55), seemingly having drunk rocket fuel for breakfast, powered his way at the start to finish inside the top thirty for the first time this season. After a steadier start, Eli Ford’s training on the Welcombe Hills paid dividends as he doggedly picked off, not one or two, but five athletes on that exhausting final 100m to finish second for Stratford (33rd/08:04). Then just three seconds later, it was debut runner Tom Yates with a terrific first performance in at 37th (08:07) – well inside the average time for the field. Next was Toby Wilkinson (89th/09:37) running steadfastly in his first race of the season and then Tyler Li (93rd/09:52) beating his previous best placing by a noteworthy ten spots.

After improved performances all round, the U11 boys climb up the league to ninth spot. 

From the youngest to our oldest lads. The U17 Men’s race was dominated by Alex Adams (1st/16:41) who seemingly cruised his way round to win the race utterly comfortably by a huge 56 second margin In stark contrast and despite having the advantage of short-cuts, his mother’s attempts at photographing the event were foiled by her son’s speed and Emily Adams finished exhausted. It’s not often you hear a parent shout, ‘Will someone please tell that son of mine to slow down!’

Second in for Stratford was the impressively calm Milo Cullimore (19:21) who cleverly picked his way up the pack to finish in 24th position equalling his best performance this season. Racking up another solid and well-paced performance was Jaicob Ford (27th/ 19:37) who was challenged all the way by the superb run of Henry Wheeler (28th/19:39). To boot, Henry improved nine places up the finishing board.

Adding to the success of the Men’s efforts was Taylor Stubbins who also competed in the Gloucestershire Schools event, taking gold to become the Gloucestershire Schools Senior Cross Country Champion. Congratulations, Taylor!

Meanwhile, the U17 Men maintain their fifth position in the league. 

In the largest pack of the day, it was yet another fabulous fight between two of our U11 girls: Amelie Marshall (25th) and, this time, Maggie Silvers (27th). Both kicked home in exactly 08:29 but it was Amelie who pipped Maggie over the line. Jasmine Mothershaw (32nd/08:35) was not far off after a terrific run to become the third Stratford girl home. Then Ruby Whyman Bean (108th/11:08) ran solidly to progress one place up on Newbold Revel; and Layla Sparrow (109th/11:30) improved by a pleasing five spaces.

The Stratford U11 girls are currently in seventh position. 

In the largest team of the day and fielding an impressive eleven runners, it was progress abound for the U15 boys. Heading the team’s news was the stupendous run of Will Mayes (10th/12:23) who not only took top slot in the team but broke into that elusive top ten for the first time this season – a well-deserved double whammy!

Close behind, the two Lambert brothers were neck- a-neck the entire course. In an agonisingly close charge for second Stratford slot, they gave their poor mum the impossible choice of whom to will over the line but for the first time this season, it was Sam (13th/12:28) who proved the victor over Zak (14th/12:29). However, he generously acknowledged Zak had caught the dreaded lurgy in the week and promised to go easy with his bragging rights.

It was great running and great news for Tom Fisher too as he improved by four places to break into the top twenty (18th/12:49). Not to be out-done, James Day (13:03) had another impressive run to finish up three spots with a season’s best place of 22nd. Then came a strong Charlie Clayton (38th/13:57), jumping up fourteen places and a mere three seconds later was James Mayes (33rd/13:45) up fifteen places on Newbold Revel. Similarly, a focussed run from Luca De Freitas Pires (13:57) saw him leap twenty-one places to 38th

In the most day’s most superlative demonstration of grit and vigour was the ascent of Josh Harrison (41st/14:03) on that gruelling final 100m: he simply powered past his competitors to finish fifteen places higher than his next best placement. Seb Hillard was in next (58th/15:02); he too ran off the back of a week of illness and demonstrated great commitment to getting the job done under trying conditions. Rounding off the U15’s progress was a focussed Ewan Sparrow finishing in a season’s best 68th in 17:54.

The U15 boys maintain a sterling second position in the league at the mid-point mark.

In the U13 girls’ race, Marijke Tear-Verweij yet again showed her magnificent running prowess as she challenged for top slot for much of the first half of the race. After the longer second lap, she finished fourth but, phenomenally, remains in overall equal second in the league – a position bettered by but one other member of the club!

Lois Ford, with her steadfast focus and strong running style, yet again put in another stellar performance. Moreover, she goes into Match 4 in overall tenth position. This time third Stratford slot went to Portia Nabney (24th/12:30) who made light work of the hills and looked as strong as an ox as she approached the line to finish in her highest placement this season.

A determined Ava Sheppard (32nd/ 12:34) was the fourth Stratford girl home, followed by Amelia Peeke (36th/13:02) who, match on match, never fails to finish way inside the race average time.

Next in were the reliable Rachel Sparrow (57th/14:07) performing well to maintain her team position of sixth and the young Georgia Sharpe (73rd/14:53) also performing consistently in team seventh.

Currently, the U13 girls lie in overall third position. 

To give some perspective to the accomplishment of the U13 boys, they have not only accrued the highest number of match points from a race across all age-groups and across all clubs this season, but they have done so for two consecutive fixtures. Whilst they uncannily totalled 974 points twice in a row, the specifics of the sums, nevertheless, read differently.

This time there were four Stratford vests in the top five positions, led home by the unassuming yet awesomely athletic Arthur Williamson (2nd/10:13). It was quite a sight to see Arthur release his potential and stride magnificently home to take overall second place in only his second cross-country race for Stratford.

Next up and as if to deliberately defy his mum’s earlier assertion that his ascending skills outshine his descending skills, Aran Cooper (10:18) flew down the final hill to pass the odd competitor. Having paced himself to perfection, he finished a season’s best and inched up a place to third on the finishing board.

Next Stratford lad in and new to hill-running was Will Hovell (4th/10:22) who needed to quickly learn the demands of running uphill and the quirks of running downhill. Then continuing the successful swathe of yellow was the steely stride of Joel Ledgard (5th/10:28) who worked his socks off throughout to finish yet again in one of the coveted top five positions.

Next it was Kipp Stevens who, generating a final burst of uphill acceleration, was delighted to discover he had not only conquered his finishing demons but had become fifth Stratford lad home thus contributing for the first time to his team’s haul of points (17th/11:14).

Within the blink of an eye it was Sam Plumb (18th/11:16) and, despite the after-effects of recent illness and with the untimely misfortune of a stitch from the off, he demonstrated impeccable resilience and mental fortitude to race as well as he did. Thereafter was Arthur Mansbridge (29th/11:48) who also ran with commitment, assurance, and focus and rounding off the team was Toby Spriggs (74th/14:23) showing improved determination to race well and was deservedly pleased with his performance.

Taking overall first position for the third consecutive match, the U11 boys team stretches its lead ever further away from its rivals.

No pressure, boys!

In defiance of the dropping temperature, the U15 girls finished the day’s racing on a team high with almost every girl having improved their finishing position. Annie Silvers (18th/14:53) ran superbly and broke into the top twenty and was soon followed by Warley Woods super-fan, Martha Peters (26th/15:25). Embracing the hills, Martha finished nine places on her next best finish. Knocking seven spots off her best finish, an invigorated Bo Algate (31st/16:05) made light work of that final assent to cross the line as Stratford’s third girl in. Before the minute was up, it was the solid performance of Tessa Parkin in fourth for the team (44th/ 16:51).

Thereafter, came the improved performances of Harriet Black (49th/17:27) jumping up an impressive fourteen places from Walsall Arboretum and Hannah Wilkinson (52nd/17:37) progressing by a pleasing twelve places on Newbold Revel. Super swimmer Charlotte Skinner placed 57th (18:23), jumping up ten places on her previous race and Brooke Rossney (18:52) rounded off the improvements placing twelve places above her previous best.

Overall, the U15 girls maintain their fifth position in the league.

Our young athletes had somewhat mixed feelings about Warley Woods with a few runners glad to see the back of the hills if not on the opening lap then certainly on the final one. But the majority were sad to say farewell to their favourite course because of the challenge and sense of achievement it reliably provides.

As we move to the penultimate match of the series at Pingles Stadium, SUAAC sits in third place with a good gap between themselves and fourth placed rivals Bromsgrove and Redditch.

Just the County Champs and Christmas to squeeze in between, then.

Olivia Robinson sporting her bronze medal
Taylor Stubbins – does he look happy or what ?
As mentioned in Rachel’s report above, a special note of congratulations must go to Olivia Robinson who competed in the Gloucestershire Schools Cross Country Competition and won a brilliant bronze medal. An awesome achievement!

Taylor Stubbins also competed in the Gloucestershire Schools event, taking gold to become the Gloucestershire Schools Senior Cross Country Champion. Congratulations, Taylor!

Well done both.
Kate Wright
Phil Brennan – no pain no gain Phil
Photo courtesy of Barry Cornelius
John Butler
Age Shall Not Weary Them

A trio of our more mature athletes have been out in action

Phil Brennan reports on his Gold medal winning performance – yes another one ! in the BMAF 5k Championships

“None for ages, then two at once. The BMAF 5k Champs consisting of two laps of Battersea Park. Even the most fiendish course designer couldn’t make it undulate. The best they could do to spoil it was make it a bit cold. There was no traffic but a minor hazard from friendly dogs.

The entry was closed at 250, which is a good field for a Masters-only event.

At last there was some competition with 4 M80 starters. The start was a bit crowded and then it got a bit lonely, so I wasn’t certain about my position at the finish but I thought I had a competitive time.
As it turned out, I got Gold with a time that is either 1 sec off top of this year’s rankings, or top, depending if you take gun or chip -24:46″

Sadly you’re ranked 2nd Phil!

Meanwhile Kate Wright opted for a slightly longer run, just the 22 miles of the Worcester Ring. she commented :

“My decision not to do XC on Saturday was to save my legs for the Worcester Ring run on Sunday, which is a 22 mile trail run along towpaths , through fields over styles and through gates.

There was a small field of 100 runners along this lovely route.
Having not run this distance since my last marathon in 2017 I was more than nervous. My plan was to start slow and increase pace every 7 miles.
With only 65 runners turning up this was going to be a lonely race . 
My pace plan went out of the window very fast as the second half of this race is where all the obstacles are, along with a head wind.

I did however manage to maintain a pace of 7.30’s all the way.

There were brief conversations along the way with some male runners but they soon dropped off the back and I was alone again.

I felt good for most of it and ended up with a time of 2.49. 3rd overall and 1st lady. The winner was in a time of 2.44.

The indefatigable John Butler competed in the Downton Half Marathon. He reports that the course was fairly hilly with pleasant scenery and reasonable weather on the day.

John was trying to run a sub 2hr 50 time and he succeeded in so doing, recording a time of 2:49.06. He goes on to say that he was 139th out of 147 finishers and 2nd M70 male finisher, somewhat behind the first place M70 who recorded a time of 2:06. He finished with a decent medal and a pack of bath salts which have eased his aching bones
And Finally

Lots more photos from the weekend’s XC fixtures. Huge thanks to  Tilly and Nick Campbell
Alex Adams
Henry Wheeler leads Jaicob Ford and Milo Cullimore
Harriet Black and Hannah Wilkinson
Charlotte Skinner and Brooke Rosney
Martha Peters and Annie Silvers
Tessa Parkin and Bo Algate
Charlie Clayton, Luca De Freitas Pires and Josh Harrison
Tom Fisher and James Day
Seb Hillard
James Mayes and Ewan Sparrow
Koda Spriggs & Tim Hutchinson and Nick Cooper & Max Ross
Miranda Maloney & sweep Kate Sergent and Bethany Swain & Clare Weatherhead
Fran Doran and Alex Hill & Jamie Hall
Adam Linforth and Gemma Smith
Hannah Osborne and Nick Campbell  – this is a lot of fun guys – honest.
Chris Spriggs and Kim Lee
Kate Barney and Drew Sambridge
Dave Teasdale and Philippa Paddock
Emily Carr and Allan Coldicote
Rob Gisbourne and Pip Bell
Sam Swanepoel and Dave Wolstencroft
John Raby and Suzi Graham
Suzie Ross and Phil Reading
Sam Wilks and Kate Barney
Ceri Shephard and Hue Crossweller
Sandie Owens and Lisa Lanbourn
Dave Battersby and Will Dyche
Paul Faithfull and Clare Goodwin followed by Bethany Swain