STRATFORD AC rose to the occasion as they hosted the second cross country fixture in the Midland Women’s League and Birmingham Cross Country League at Welcombe Hills.
There were compliments in abundance for the race organisation and no praise is too high for chairman Paul Hawkins, who co-ordinated the whole event and the club members, who volunteered their services to ensure everything went smoothly.
Making good use of home advantage and the abundance of local, vocal support was a large Stratford running contingent and there were plenty of excellent performances in the two races.
First off were the ladies in division one of their league, who were without team captain Sarah Bland who was committed to organisational duties.
However, the team were strengthened by the presence of Kate Wright (28th, 27.36), who was first back followed by another whole-hearted effort from Rachel Pearce 36th (28.55).
Nobody is ever more committed than Emma Bexson (54th, 30.26) and she was closely followed by Sheila Lammas (58th, 30.51).
The A team finished tenth on the day but the same four combined to finish second masters team and it is in that competition that the club is shining brightly.
Next back and having a good run was Hannah Osbourne (69th, 31.21) whilst Ceri Shepherd (78th, 32.13) just got the better of Alison Bagnall (80th, 32.39) although they were always close together during the race.
Seren Mahon (96th, 34.37) was again just ahead of fellow junior Harriet Flynn (100th, 35.22) but the gap between them is closing and they were just ahead of Suzi Graham (103rd, 35.35) and Rebecca Pridham (110th, 36.52). Phillipa Abrams (118th, 43.30) and Gemma Smith (119th, 43.48) were another couple who were battling each other all the way to line.
In the men’s Birmingham League division two race, Rich Shephard (16th, 35.57) was again first back for the club and he was followed by probably the stand-out performance of the day as Oscar Barbour (34th, 37.17) learning quickly in the senior ranks improved by over 30 places from the first race after a steady start he maintained the pace well to work his way through the field.
He was followed by fellow junior Fergus Allison (51st, 38.41) who turned in another solid performance and it was great to see Neil Wicks (58th, 39.05) back in a Stratford AC vest and performing with distinction on an all too rare occurrence.
Behind him were two eye-catching performances from Robin Kindersley (87th, 41.18) and Sam Weaving (108th, 41.18) both competing for the club for the first time albeit at different ends of the age spectrum. Kindersley has shown notable improvement over the past 12 months and he used his experience to good effect as he started slowly and then steadily moved through the field whilst junior Weaving was working hard throughout.
The B team were led home by James Cusack (134th, 42.52), with B team stalwart Malcolm Bowyer (141st, 43.07) finally getting the better of David Parkin (143rd, 43.13) with new member Ollie Cannon (148th, 43.35) settling in quickly as an asset to the club.
Overcoming the initial trauma of forgetting his running spikes on his return from injury, team captain Kieran Tursner (156th, 44.11) eased himself back into competitive running and Matt Lyness (175th, 45.43) completed the B team.
After Mike Sheppard (192nd, 47.07), there was a group of members running close together which inevitably helps as inter club rivalries come to the fore.
Dave Wolstencroft (206th, 48.43) was in sparkling form ahead of an improving Stuart Griffiths (210th, 49.21), a determined James Deacon (214th, 50.43) the evergreen David Jones (215th, 51.04) and the consistent Mike Barrie (223rd, 52.17).
Last home for the club was Allan Coldicott (242nd, 57.33), who has suffered serious illness problems over recent years and it was great to see him back competing.
Inadvertently demonstrating the undulating nature of the course the two Tims — Hutchinson and Tandy — both succumbed to sprained ankles which forced their withdrawal from the race.
The Stratford A team finished eighth team in the 17-team division, maintaining their seventh position in the league.
Both men’s and women’s teams are looking forward to the next matches in January in Telford and Wolverhampton respectively.