Historic moment as Stratford AC win Graham Heeley Trophy for very first time
THERE were golds galore for Stratford AC at the Warwickshire Cross-Country County Championships as they won the Graham Heeley Trophy for the very first time in their history.
An all-time best performance from the club at Welkin Farm, Easenhall, saw them come away with five team golds, three individual golds, four silvers and five bronzes. The success in the county championships goes alongside the track and field championship which they have dominated for the last six seasons.
And this result had been coming. Stratford were third in 2018 and 2019, before finishing second in 2020. This year, the team accumulated a whopping 973 points to comfortably beat Coventry Godiva to the Graham Heeley Trophy by 163 points.
Paul Bearman, head track and field coach, said: “It was a great job by Paul Hawkins (chairman) and his coaching team and the athletes.
“I believe this extraordinary success is one of the most significant things the club has achieved in recent years. Coupled with the track and field championships successes it establishes our club as the premier club in Warwickshire, if not beyond.”
First up were the U13 boys and leading the team champions home was Arthur Williamson (2nd, 9:21) followed by Will Hovell (3rd, 9:27) and Aran Cooper (4th, 9:31). Also running strongly were Joel Ledgard (5th, 9:35) and Kipp Stevens (12th, 10:41).
There was double glory for Marijke Tear-Verweij (13:15) in the U13 girls as she was first home for Stratford in the team gold performance and the individual county champion. Sharing the team victory were Lois Ford (5th, 14:05), Ava Sheppard (6th, 14:32), Amelia Peeke (7th, 14:33), Portia Nabney (9th, 14:41) and Rachel Sparrow (13th, 15:40).
There was another team gold in the U15 boys’ race for Stratford. Will Mayes (3rd, 13:08) won individual bronze with other team medallists being Tom Fisher (5th, 13:24) and James Day (8th, 13:51). Completing the team were James Mayes (15th, 14:30), Charlie Clayton (19th, 14:56) and Ewan Sparrow (22nd, 17:43)
The U15 girls secured team silver. Martha Peters (10th, 16:26) led the Stratford cohort home and she was followed by Bo Algate (14th, 16:41), Tessa Parkin (16th, 17:13), Hannah Wilkinson (18th, 17:49) and Charlotte Skinner (20th, 18:38). Alex Adams (17:36) secured first place in the U17 men’s race with Henry Wheeler (14th, 21:42) giving an assured run despite being unwell.
Stratford’s U17 ladies became the fourth team champions. Niamh Hillard (4th, 18:49), Olivia Robinson (5th, 18:59) and Maisie-Joy Spriggs (6th, 19:05) enabled the ladies to secure victory, supported by Abbi Cooper (10th, 20:17), Lucy Thomas (13th/21:13) and Tilly Campbell (16th, 24:06).
The penultimate race of the day was the combined junior, senior and masters women’s race over a 7km distance. The leading Stratford runners, both under-20s, were Charly Marshall (4th, 25:31) and Georgie Campbell (6th, 26:00) who finished as first and second juniors.
The Stratford senior team picked up an unexpected bronze team medal led by team captain Vicky Sharpe (15th, 31:06) followed by Suzie Ross (17th, 31:45) and Emily Carr (22nd, 32:57). Completing the team were Emma Bexson (5th, 29:02), Hannah Osborne (24th, 33:52), Suzi Graham (28th, 35:11) and Ginny Davis (46th, 40:27).
Finally, it was the senior men’s race including three age groups over the 10km course. The club’s junior U20 team dominated their race, being led home by Ned Campbell (23rd, 3rd junior, 35:03) and Alex Pester (26th, 4th junior, 35:09).
Taylor Stubbins (27th, 5th junior, 35:20) led the Stratford contingent for most of the race before illness took its toll. They were delighted to take team gold medals.
The fourth junior to finish for Stratford was Koda Spriggs (80th, 7th junior, 40:05) who limped over the line with a calf strain.
In the masters competition, the team won silver with Rich Shephard (29th, 35:31) taking individual bronze. Other members delighted to collect team medals were Tim Hutchinson (11th master, 39:40) Huw Crosweller (17th, 40:26) and Peter Sugden (24th, 42:14) supported by Max Ross (25th, 42:19), Richard Dobedoe (26th, 42:27) and Nick Campbell (34th, 43:47).