SOME of the country’s best runners headed to Nottingham’s Wollaton Park last weekend to compete in the National Cross Country Championships.
And there was plenty of local interest with a large number of Stratford AC athletes making the trip to compete around a tough course that included ditches, deep mud and pace-sapping undulations.
The first event was the U17 women’s race. Edie Hutchinson (228th, 25.23) and Hannah Bexson (248th, 28.08) had the honour of being first out for the club and clearly demonstrated the clean-to-extremely-dirty transformation that would befall every athlete on the day. Both Hannah and Edie put every unit of effort into their 5km race and were both pleased with their reward.
Six U15 boys took on the challenge of the 4.5km course. Four athletes are needed, and hence Stratford AC would feature, in the U15 boys’ team completion. Owain Jones (167th, 16.52) led the team home, as he has all season, with a great performance that clearly demonstrates where Owain is at a national level.
Cameron Collins (286th, 18.20), Archie Musk (295th, 18.31) and Josh Angus (322nd, 18.57) all ran well enjoying the challenge. Fin Hutchinson (370th, 21.52) really helped Ollie Adams (371st, 22.02) finish his first national competition, demonstrating the Stratford AC team ethos. The boys finished 33rd overall.
Only one athlete represented Stratford AC in the U13 girls’ race over 3km. Ellen Taylor (154th, 15.10) paced herself well, looking strong on the second lap and being justly rewarded by improving on her performance compared to the previous year.
Five U15 girls represented the club, making up a team that finished 30th overall, for the second year in a row. Georgie Campbell (48th, 17.39) made a strong start, taking full advantage of the favourable pen draw, and then continued to battle hard against the country’s best cross country athletes.
A top 50 finish represents a fine reward and a good benchmark to improve upon next season. Abbie Wootton (233rd, 19.30) managed to edge out club mate Imogen Sheppard (19.35) in the closing stages, while Daisy Musk (340th, 20.57) and Charlotte Gravelsons (399th, 22.43) both enjoyed the tough test.
The club’s sole runner in the highly competitive junior men’s race over 10km was Oscar Barbour (140th, 38.45) who ran strongly, picking up a few places in the latter stages. This was the first time Oscar has competed in this age category at a national level and thus it gives a good benchmark to measure himself against over the next couple of years.
Seven U13 boys took on the two smaller laps that totalled 3km. Alex Adams (76th, 13.30) led the team home with another brilliant performance in what was his biggest race to date.
Josh Mitchell (218th, 14.21) and Adam Taylor (373rd, 15.32) both impressed with their hard work and determination with Ned Campbell (401st, 15.56), Matthew Bexson (426th, 16.25) and Harry Gravelsons (452nd, 18.06) all thriving in the extremely tough conditions. Louis Kendrick (457th, 20.12) deserves a special mention as it would have been the easy option to stop, but he bravely completed the second lap despite suffering with his breathing. Overall the team finished 42nd.
Following no representation last year, it was really good to see five senior women representatives allowing Stratford AC to feature in the team rankings. Alice Reed (70th, 32.49) looked like she was on home soil, which effectively is the case as the course is within a few miles of where she is currently studying and most of Alice’s long runs take place in the park.
She led the team home with wonderful, high tempo running over the 8km that fully deserved the creditable top 75 finish. Emma Bexson (269th, 37.48) and Sheila Lammas (328th, 39.14) both ran strongly and finished in the top half. Suzi Graham (607th, 45.49) completed a cross country season she can be proud of, and Philippa Abrams (768th, 57.32) really rose to the challenge and completed the team that finished 41st overall.
Six senior men competed over the gruelling 12k course and finished 126th overall. The competition was fierce with some 1,800 taking part led by Derby AC’s Ben Connor who won in an amazing 39.35.
Tim Hutchinson (628th, 50.42) led the Stratford AC team home, spurred on by the fantastic support from the junior athletes, improving his performance by almost 50 places compared to the previous year. Malcolm Bowyer (1,069th, 56.13) finished strongly over the last 500m while David Smyth (1,121th, 57.03) also put in a strong, solid performance.
Mike Sheppard (1,375th, 1.00.57), found the latter stages tough going while Brian Gravelsons (1,677th, 1.10.55) was delighted to have an opportunity to run in a national race held in one of his favourite parks. David Wolstencroft (1,699th, 1.12.20) suffered a tight leg muscle throughout and did well to finish strongly.
All the junior and senior athletes should be credited for completing such a demanding course at a national level.