A LATE change of venue saw Stratford AC’s senior men head to Coombe Park for the third fixture of the Birmingham & District Cross Country League Division Two season where a relatively flat, but muddy and wet parkland course awaited.
Pre-race favourite Shaun Evans (Royal Sutton Coldfield, 31:30) was a comfortable winner, with 13 intrepid Stratford runners behind him giving chase.
It was perhaps no surprise that the first three back for the club were Rich Shepherd (17th, 34:20), Josh Newman (18th, 34:26) and Matt Burdus-Cook (31st, 35:09).
Behind them was an intriguing battle of experience versus youth and while Tim Hutchinson (54th, 36:54) was behind Owain Jones (59th 37:05) for most of the race, his relentless pacing finally saw him assert his authority in the latter stages.
However, Jones, who finished as sixth junior, can take great credit out of this race which saw a huge improvement in his placing from his previous run.
Completing the A team was John Raby (95th, 38:28) with a very sold run and the overall team score of 275 points resulted in an eighth position of the day and after the three league rounds the team maintain their very satisfactory eighth position overall.
New member Richard Liggatt (118th, 39:20) had a good run and he led home the B team.
There was a close race for the next three positions, with team captain Malcolm Bowyer (155th, 41:24) reversing the form of recent races to finish ahead of Max Ross (163rd, 41:38) and David Smyth (165th, 41:51).
Ben Twyman (219th, 48:37) is always a consistent performer and it was great to see Mike Barrie (225th, 50:20) tackling the elements and he managed to hold off Phil Marshal (229th, 51:21) to complete the B team scorers.
The B team score of 1,045 points meant they finished tenth on the day and slipped back down a couple of places in the league table to sixth.
As for the individual competition, Richard Shepherd is fourth position and the final race of the league season is on Saturday, 8th February in Telford.
Meanwhile, Stratford’s women’s team had a longer journey to Park Hall Country Park on the outskirts of Stoke.
There was a disappointing number of Stratford runners with the team hit by various absences, but the seven athletes who made up the team all had strong runs and did the club proud, finishing 14th and confirming their place in the top division with a match to spare.
Cadie Hibberd (19th, 29:12) had travelled up from university in Bristol and was delighted with her top 20 position.
The next Stratford athlete to finish was Sophie Dobedoe (47th, 31:15) who is in her first season with Stratford AC and has been the leading light of the league team since joining.
Daisy Musk (80th, 33:51) who has just moved up from the junior team, was pleased with her run while another newcomer in Vicky Sharp (89th, 34:46) showed her importance by being the final counter for the club.
Sarah Vernon (103rd, 37:05) completed the team with her best performance of season so far.
In the masters’s competition, Amy Hinton (94th, 35:21) found the hills tough but led the team home, coming 40th in the separate scoring race followed by Liuba Pasa (105th, 37:14, 46th master).
Despite being ill, Yvonne Gajny (106th, 37:23, 47th master) showed fantastic commitment to make sure Stratford finished in 11th place.
The final race of the season for the women’s team takes place at Leamington on Saturday, 8th February.