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Runners compete in freezing conditions

STRATFORD Athletic Club’s 12-strong ladies cross-country team took on a frozen course at Wolverhampton’s Aldersley Stadium in the Midland League with temperatures reaching highs of -2C during the race, reports Sam Swanepoel.

The frosty conditions made the ground firm to start with, but it soon became churned into slippery mud, making for more traditional cross-country conditions.

Stratford finished 13th out of 18 teams so will need two strong final races to stay in in Division 1 next season.

There were 162 women competing and first home for Stratford in 21st place – and fourth junior – was Charly Marshall (26:55).

Competing in only her second race at the full ladies’ distance was Olivia Robinson (27:39) who finished ninth junior. She was followed by Emma Bexson (28:53) who was 20th in the masters’ event. The other Stratford AC runners were Suzie Ross (32:07), Bronwen Mansel (33:17), Sarah Gillard (33:29) and Emma Vickers (33:50), Emma Davis (35:51), Pip Bell (35:56), Emily Adams (36:32), Sam Swanepoel (40:40) and Kath Pester (40:53).

The conditions were just as tricky when the club hosted the men’s and women’s Birmingham League second division races at Clopton Park and the Welcombe Hills, the freezing fog ensuring the runners were often completely out of sight.

Stratford AC’s Matt Burdus-Cook (right) in cross-country action.
Stratford AC’s Matt Burdus-Cook (right) in cross-country action.

The course was a challenging three laps over wet and soggy hills and first home from a field of more than 200 was Ben Holmes of Solihull in a time of 33.51.

Stratford had 25 runners competing and Ned Campbell led the home contingent, finishing in 17th place with a time of 36.17.

There was a brilliant performance from Rich Shephard who fought this way back to overtake some of his teammates for his 36th place in 37.57, just ahead of Robin Hughes in 37th place in 37.58. Next was up-and-coming junior Tom Cox in 43rd and seventh junior. Cox was making his senior debut and completed the course in 38.27. The ever-reliable Matt Burdus-Cook was 53rd in 38.43 and first-time runner Tom Southall finished 65th in 39.48. These first six Stratford runners made up the club’s A team.

The next six who made up the B team were Dave Teasdale in 66th (40.01), Drew Sambridge in 96th (41.26), Sam Mercer 99th (41.36), Tim Hutchinson 110th (42.07), Rob Gisbourne 115th (42.50) and Hue Crosweller 124th (43.39).

The other Stratford runners were Max Ross in 129th (44.04), Steve Batsford 134th (44.28), Joe Lee 140th (44.57) and Damian Wheeler 147th (45.29) – all securing hard-earned points for Stratford – ahead of David Battersby 158th (46.28), Chris Spriggs 161st (46.46), Richard Erasmus 171st (47.47), Mike Sheppard 178th (48.38), Stuart George 191st (50.30) and debutant Paul Baird 204th (56.53).

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