Wimborne Athletic Club

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Cross-Country Awards Night 2011/12 Season – 25 March

Our best cross-country season yet.

The rain and the cold can’t wash away the smiles at Kingston Lacy. Just part of our big medal haul from the Wessex League. From left to right: Charlotte Bourne, Ella Hearne, Ryan Long, Grace Copeland, Ryan Walbridge, Piers Copeland, Tom Bourne, Abbie Hine, Maddie Williams, Tom Boulton, Callum Kennedy and Sharon Hutchings.

We returned to Snowtrax (formerly Christchurch Ski Centre) for this years’ cross-country awards night. It was unseasonally warm, and we were rewarded with a terrific turnout. Twenty-five of us clambered into the ringos – rubber tyres that skitter down a ski slope at some velocity – while around another 20-odd WACers took refuge on the outdoor decking and enjoyed a drink in the sunshine. Tim Walbridge provided the sort of quality entertainment on the slopes that Buster Keaton fans would have enjoyed! Dragging the tyres back up the slope was a decent workout on this warm evening.

Once the ringos were returned we commandeered a part of the bar/lounge area in order to present this season’s awards. The first awards to be presented on the night were for ‘Rookie of the Year’. These went to Ella Hearne for the girls and Ryan Long for the boys. Both these athletes have distinguished themselves in club colours this season, so much so that both have gone on to represent Dorset. Both made their cross-country debuts in the opening fixture of the season at Farley Mount back in October, and both have firmly established themselves as key performers for the team and have become deeply embedded in the WAC cross-country family.

The ‘Most Improved Runner’ awards, were the most difficult to place as almost the whole of the junior squad has made big progress. Mister 110% - Tom Bourne – saw his total commitment style bring rewards. Tom’s leap in form from last season was a major factor in the significant progress the under-13s boys team made this season. On the occasion he wasn’t available to run, at Popham, the team score that day showed how significant his contribution was. It was a really difficult call deciding on who to award the ‘Most Improved Female’ because there was such fierce competition for that accolade. Well done to Maddie Williams who took the award ahead of a number of worthy challengers who could have come out on top in another year. Both Maddie and Tom took their first steps with the club in cross-country the previous season and during this season both were selected to represent Dorset.

The next trophies to be awarded were for the top male and female cross-country runners. This turned out to be a family affair – the first time that this has ever happened. Those who have been in the orbit of the Wimborne AC cross-country team over the past couple of years would have been aware of the potential that Grace Copeland was showing. Grace turned eleven this season and this meant that she was able to compete in the Hampshire as well as the Wessex League. Grace probably feels that she has been waiting forever for the opportunity to prove what she could do. However, when that opportunity finally came she grabbed it with both hands. At the Hampshire League races in particular, where the meeting starts with the under-13 girls race, Gracie never once failed to lift the spirits of the whole team with her performances and set the mood for the whole day. She finished the Hampshire League season in second place in the averages. Prior to this season, that is by far the best achievement by a Wimborne cross-country athlete (but see below). It is an even more noteworthy achievement as Grace was running against Year 7 girls while she is still in Year 5. An extraordinary year … and well worth the wait.

The other half of the Copeland double-act is brother Piers. We have been competing in the Hampshire League since 2008, but we have had to wait until the first race of the 2011/12 to record our first winner in any age category. This first win was noted by the league itself, who wrote up Piers’ win on its home page and also Nigel Harding reported it for the Bournemouth Echo. This was just the start of what turned out to be a fine season for Piers. He went on to record a further two Hampshire League wins as well as two second places. The most telling of those was in the final Hampshire race at Salisbury.  Piers had an ankle niggle, and had already got the age-group win sewn up, but he decided to run in a bid to help the under-13 boys to a team medal (something that a Wimborne team had yet to achieve in the Hampshire League) and reward the hard work of his team-mates Tom Bourne, Tom Boulton and Ryan Long over the course of the season. The team’s cause was also helped significantly by superb under-13 debuts from Liam Murphy-Parry and Elliott Symes that day. Unfortunately Piers’ unselfish commitment to the team wasn’t rewarded with team medals, as, although the boys got the job done on the day, they were playing catch up and were relying on results from other teams going our way. They missed out on medals by the narrowest of margins, finishing on equal points with the third place team, but we had slightly lower accumulated positions when totalled over the five race series. It was a heroic team effort and these boys came very close to pulling it off. If all that were not enough, Piers’ greatest moment of the season was when representing Dorset in the South West Championships at Bicton. He took his race by the scruff of the neck and was in imperious form that day and went on to record a convincing victory. Piers had made a little bit of WAC history by being the club’s first ever South West Cross-Country Champion.

With such terrific form from our ‘Top Male/Female’ runners it meant we had a whole raft of other runners amongst our junior age-groups who in a typical year could have laid claim to the title. It’s a pity that there superb efforts are not recognised with medals also, but having more outstanding performances than we have medals is a very nice problem to have for a Wimborne cross-country team manager!

Followers of the club website will know that each event we compete in is posted on the internet, and last year for the first time we had a ‘reporter of the year’ award. Even here the standard set by the team reached new heights. The winner of this trophy was Charlotte Bourne for her superb report from the South Of England Championships at Brighton. Charlotte subsequently went on to contribute a piece on the forthcoming Olympics for the Spring 2012 edition of Wimborne A.C. News.

The Jean Frost Trophy takes the form of a silver cup, and this prestigious award is presented to someone who has made a significant contribution on behalf of the WAC cross-country team. This year it was awarded to the Burley family. We hit the ground running at the start of the cross-country season, and a big factor in this was access to the excellent facilities at Canford School over the summer for which we have Mark Burley to thank. Mark and Canford School are also to be thanked for making the school’s grounds available to us for staging the first Wessex League of the season – it is a fabulous venue. The Burley family also of course furnishes us with an important team member – Bethan – in the under-13 girls age-group, and thank you also to Megan Burley for the support she brings to the team too.

Finally Fidelity medals were awarded to those who competed in all the Hampshire League fixtures. The number of Hampshire ‘Fidelities’ reflect the high level of commitment that has been shown within the team. Well done to: U13G – Grace Copeland; U13B – Tom Boulton, Piers Copeland, Ryan Long; U15G – Charlotte Bourne, Ella Hearne, Abbie Hine, Chloe Morris; U17M – Callum Kennedy; SW – Lynn Hutchings; SM – Mark Copeland, Ian Kennedy. An enormous haul of medals was won in the Wessex League by Wimborne athletes (see photograph at top) – but as the results for the final two Wessex meetings are still unpublished at the time of writing, it was decided to defer the presentation of Wessex ‘Fidelities’.

It has been a fabulous cross-country season. The spirit and commitment in the team reached a new level, and so it’s no surprise that the results reached a new level too. Thank you to all who have contributed, there are many who have played an important part who are not mentioned above. Thank you all.

Well, that’s it, until October, what shall we do now? … It’s time to get the shorter spikes screwed in and get on the track and take on the 200, 300, 400, 800, 1500, 3000, 5000 metres and perhaps some hurdles and the steeplechase too. Bring it on!



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