Stratford AC athletes show character at Heart of England Division One opener in Coventry
DESPITE gaps in Stratford AC’s team for the opening Heart of England League Division One match, a superb combined effort saw the club finish in a brilliant second place.
More than 60 of Stratford’s junior athletes headed to Coventry for the first fixture of the league campaign and there were some fantastic performances across the age groups, with only Rugby & Northampton AC managing to better them on the day.
U15 team manager Mike Sheppard said: “It was disappointing that we couldn’t fill all the events, with athletes unavailable for various reasons, but the upside is that it opened up opportunities for others and we saw some excellent individual performances with loads of PBs set.
“Particularly pleasing was seeing the middle-distance athletes performing so strongly, and new faces on their league debut combining with established performers and all doing their bit, sometimes competing in unfamiliar events for the team, to secure a very strong second place.”
The team of the day was the U17/20 females, as Maisie-Joy Spriggs, Maddie Linfoot, Olivia Robinson, Niamh Hillard, Tilly Campbell, Lucy Lane, Megan Thomas, Caitlin Boyle, Holly Newton and Issy Newton completely dominated their age group. High jumpers Lucy Lane (1.60m) and Caitlin Boyle (1.45m) won the A&B events respectively
The U15 girls’ team has a good blend of talent and they finished second in their age group, with Laura Talowska, Eloise Collins-Bliss, Tessa Parkin, Charlotte Skinner, Nikki Wodzisz, Ella Smith, Ella Peeke, Annie Silvers, Ruby Edwards all making a positive impact.
The stand-out performances came from Martina Grace in the 1,500m (5:21.76) and newcomer Charlotte Skinner (6:05.89) in the B race, who showed the strength in depth in the club’s middle-distance group with a second place.
Not to be outdone in the field events Nikki Wodzisz won the shot put with 7.94m and Tessa Parkin (6.10m) was second in the B event.
The U13 girls’ team of Ava Sheppard, Holly Clifford, Lois Ford, Luiza Talowska, Marijke Tear-Verweij, Martha Silvers, Rachel Sparrow, Scarlett Dawson and Stella Sant put in a strong all-round performance.
Marijke Tear-Verweij (5:34.09) won the A race and Rachel Sparrow (6:26.42) was second in the B race to add more valuable points. In her first year as an U13, Scarlett Dawson claimed a hat-trick of wins in the 100m (13.7s), 200m (28.5s) and the long jump (4.13m).
The cumulative points scored across the three girls age groups meant that Stratford finished 35 points ahead of R&N.
In the U13 boys’ category, a spirited team performance by Sam Plumb, Aran Cooper, Joel Ledgard, Arthur Mansbridge, Will Howell, Max Hutchings and Alex Wood meant they too finished second in their age group.
Cooper (5:05.76) led from gun to tape in the 1,500m and was second in the high jump (1.25m). He was back up by Plumb’s fifth place in the A 800m (2:39.35) and second in the B high jump (1.15m).
Joel Ledgard had a busy afternoon, finishing first in the B 800m (2:32.75), fifth in the 200m (30.22s) and second in the B long jump (3.98m). Thirteen athletes made up the U15 boys’ team; Alex McMillan, James Day, Josh Harrison, Keenan Stratford, Luca De Freitas Pires, Lucas Welzel, Sam Lambert, Sam McKenzie, Seb Hillard, Will Marriot, William Mayes, Zak Lambert and Jake Richardson.
Richardson (1.50m) and Lucas Welzel (1.35m) impressed when making their debuts in the high jump, as did Hillard in the 80m hurdles, knocking 0.5s off his PB with 13.2s. He also threw another PB of over five metres in the javelin, with McMillan winning the B event with a throw of 27.25m.
Stratford suffered with U17 athletes for the U17/20 male group. Despite this, U20 stalwarts Ben Stockhill, Caleb Spriggs, Ned Campbell and Taylor Stubbins combined with U17s Utkarsh Rawat, Alex Adams and Otis Tustin to put on a good show.
Even with a depleted U17/20 team, the cumulative points across the three male age groups meant Stratford finished behind the dominant R&N team.