SARAH Wheeler led the Stratford AC contingent home at the final Midland Women’s Cross Country League match of the season at Cattle Country Park in between Gloucester and Bristol.
At 4.5 miles, it was also longer than usual due to changes to avoid floods.
Seven Stratford AC athletes made the journey to the race knowing that, barring disasters, they would finish mid-table in the masters’ competition and in the lower half of the senior league – and so it proved.
Wheeler has raced sparingly over the winter and this was only her second cross-country race, but she showed her strength in the tough conditions and led the Stratford team from the start to finish 63rd in 35:53.
Sheila Lammas, who has been struggling with an injury, finished exactly a minute behind (74th, 36:53) and her appearance was a relief for the team manager.
Lynne Hinson (76th, 36:58) is in her first season of cross country and has been an ever-present on the team and continually improved as the season has progressed.
Her season was summed up in this race and she started conservatively and battled through the field to finish only two places and five seconds behind Lammas.
Emily Adams (90th, 37:58) is another ever-present and ran strongly, enjoying the muddy conditions.
Close behind and next for the team was Yvonne Caswell (94th, 38:07) in her comeback season.
Edie Hutchinson (113th, 42:25) is in her debut season in the senior league, having progressed from the juniors and has improved well through the season.
Hutchinson and Rebecca Pridham (118th, 42:59) exchanged places throughout the race, spurring each other on with Hutchinson getting the upper hand at the end.
The team finished in 13th place both on the day and in the final league table for Division One, while the masters’ team came a creditable sixth place. n More athletics on page 14.