Wimborne Athletic Club

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Inter-County Cross-Country Championships, Birmingham – 10 March

WAC athletes in HD as they represent Dorset.

As the cross-country season draws to a close, the club’s finest cross-country runners are selected to represent the county in the ‘Inter-Counties’. This event sees the very best runners in the UK and the whole event was transmitted live on Sky Sports One (and in high definition!) . Each county can be represented in each age-group by a team of up to eight runners. Across the ten categories 14 Wimborne AC athletes were selected and competed on the day.

The venue once again was Cofton Park (south-west Birmingham). It was an early start, many of us travelled up together from Wimborne in a minibus (a 6am getaway). Others made their own way to Birmingham so were able to leave a little later. As daylight came it became clear that we were going to be blessed with a fine day – a massive difference to the conditions we raced in the previous weekend at Kingston Lacy in the Wessex League!

The course is familiar to us, and the unusually dry winter meant that the ground was firmer than usual and would not degrade too much as the hundreds of competitors ran over it in their spikes. In each race, each county was allocated a starting gate, and then each runner would line up single file behind the county’s nominated No. 1 runner. The starting position really was the luck of the draw, there was a definite advantage for those starting on the right-hand side. This was due to the congestion that occurred in every race at the first left-hand turn. Dorset had its fair share of both left-hand and right-hand starts in the various races. For all but the very quickest, the start position was to impact on the results.

Racing got underway with the under-20 men. The highlight of this race was the 5th place recorded by Jack Partridge of Poole Runners. He was cautious in the early stages and we were able to enjoy cheering him on as he progressed through the field as the race unfolded. It was a good start for Dorset as Richard Horton and Frank Bailey (both Poole AC) also claimed top 30 finishes.

The first race with Wimborne interest in it was the under-13 boys which was the next race on the schedule. This was the only age group in which the county fielded a full complement of eight runners. Half the team was made up of Wimborne athletes. In two races and we had our second top 10 finisher – Harrison Yarnold (Dorchester AC). Also in the top 30 was our own Piers Copeland who looked to have improved on his performance in the ‘Nationals’ a few weeks earlier. Tom Bourne had, as is customary, another fine run and it’s good news for both club and county that he has another year in this age group. Allocating the funnel positions was a tricky one between Tom Boulton and Ryan Long (both WAC) and Glenn Balfour of Bournemouth AC. These three athletes have raced against each other quite a few times over the course of the season with (almost) a differing finishing order each time. I’m sure Glenn must have gone home with a big smile on his face, because this, surely, was his performance of the season.

Next up were the senior women. We only had three runners for the team – Sian Thomas (Chiltern) and Lynn Hutchings (WAC) who were Dorset’s top two at the South-West Championships along with Angie Brown of Poole Runners, who more often is associated with road races, and ‘Canicross’ (cross-country running with dogs). In this race, as in the senior men’s, the difference between the super elite cross-country runner and the good club road runner looks enormous. Our Dorset ladies found themselves sharing the start line with the likes of Internationals Gemma Steele and Steph Twell!

The under-15 boys were next on. Wimborne supplied two of the five runners –  Ryan Walbridge and Jordan Symington. Both had good races, but the stand-out Dorset performance was Andy Smith’s (Poole Runners) 22nd place.

The under-17 women’s team consisted of just four runners with Hilary Hansford of Dorchester AC the first county vest in.

In the under-20 women’s race the county had but one solitary runner. Although we lacked quantity, we did have quality. Millie Courtney of Poole AC claimed 29th place in a very competitive field.

The under-13 girls age group is one of Wimborne stronger ones in cross-country league races, and we supplied two runners for the county team. Bridget Dence (Bournemouth AC) and Grace Copeland (WAC) were the class of the Hampshire League over the winter, coming 1st and 2nd in their age group, so it was no surprise when the led the county team home. Bess Bickel of Poole Runners offered excellent support. Maddie Williams, who only made her first tentative steps into cross-country at the end of last season, put in yet another solid performance.

Five Dorset runners lined up in the under-17 men’s race. Dan Mulryan (Poole Runners) and Callum Kennedy (WAC) continued their cross-country rivalry here. Despite the congested field and the ensuing chaos they were just four seconds apart at the finish line. The county’s outstanding athlete in this category is undoubtedly Ben Westhenry (Weymouth St Pauls), he was clearly out of sorts on the day. Ben’s and Jack Partridge’s (u20) performances at the Nationals and the Inter-Counties were polar opposites. Ben ran superbly in the Nationals while Jack pulled up in that one, the tables were turned in Birmingham (although Ben did tough it out and stick with it as he was still in a scoring position for the county despite his difficulties). When Ben and Jack are at the top of their game, Dorset can boast two of the finest cross-country runners in the UK.

Another of Wimborne’s stronger age groups is the under-15 girls, and they lined up for the penultimate race. WACers Sharon Hutchings and Abbie Hine were selected and we had more who made it onto the reserves list. Sharon was the first Dorset runner home. Within 20 seconds two more Dorset runners crossed the line, rising to the occasion was Charlotte Baker (Yeovil/Wells City) followed by Emma Butterworth of Poole AC. Abbie was the next green shirt home.

The final race of the day was the senior men. The observation made in the summing up of the women’s race earlier regarding the quality at the head of the field holds very true here. Ben Davis of Egdon Heath Harriers led the team home, ahead of Wimborne pairing Graeme Furley and Mark Copeland. Graeme improved by 20 places on the performance from that emotional day when he had pulled on a Dorset vest in 2010 for the first time since his very serious car accident. For Mark it was his first time racing in a field of this caliber. Over the course of the season Graeme and Mark have consistently headed Wimborne’s senior men’s cross-country team results. Mark’s time of 49:04 for 12k over a cross-country course would hold up very well against those competing in road races. Here, for three of the four laps Mark was dead last, but he chased down another runner and so finished 277th of 278. Watching him hunt down his quarry made for an entertaining end to the day. As if to amplify the difference in quality between the standard in cross-country and road races Baz (who Mark has raced against four times in the XC season over the winter with the score in head-to-heads being 2-2) was to run the next day in the March Hare 10 mile road race finishing 4th of 114! The message is, if you want to test yourself amongst the best then get a pair of cross-country spikes, but if you suffer with a fragile ego then stay well clear! Cross-country is for those who are both physically and mentally tough. All those mentioned in this report and results most definitely have the ‘Right Stuff’.

The team is not just about those who competed, because they did so with a hefty chunk of support from quite a few others. No attempt will be made to name them for fear of the list being incomplete. So well done to all who played their part on the day, and also to Rupert Pepper of Poole Runners who couldn’t be with us, but who made his important contribution in the weeks leading up to the event.

Dorset runners times and results were:

Under-20 Men 8k (196 finishers)

5 – Jack Partridge (Poole Runners)  – 25:30
17 – Richard Horton (Poole AC) – 26:09
28 – Frank Bailey (Poole AC) – 26:36
98 – Fergus O’Reilly (Aldershot, Farnham & District) – 28:15
143 – Alex Sampson (Poole AC) – 29:32
170 – Tom Austin (Weymouth St Pauls) – 30:32

Under-13 Boys 3k (306 finishers)

7 – Harrison Yarnold (Dorchester AC) – 10:29
27 – Piers Copeland (Wimborne AC) – 10:56
117 – Tom Bourne (Wimborne AC) – 11:32
219 – Glenn Balfour (Bournemouth AC) – 12:02
239 – Luke Baker (Yeovil) – 12:07
288 – Tom Boulton (Wimborne AC) – 12:53
298 – Ryan Long (Wimborne AC) – 13:10
304 – Michael Biss (Wells City) – 13:26

Senior Women 8k (268 finishers)

122 – Sian Thomas (Chiltern) – 32:06
218 – Lynn Hutchings (Wimborne AC) – 35:47
247 – Angie Brown (Poole Runners) – 41:15

Under-15 Boys 4.5k (291 finishers)

22 – Andy Smith (Poole Runners) – 15:20
98 – Ryan Walbridge (Wimborne AC) – 16:14
158 – Louis Kellaway (Poole Runners) – 16:42
168 – Jordan Symington (Wimborne AC) – 16:48
194 – Corrie Norton (Bournemouth AC) – 16:59

Under-17 Women 5k (261 finishers)

104 – Hilary Hansford (Dorchester AC) – 21:40
146 – Anna Roberts-Wray (Dorset Schools) – 22:24
248 – Wendy Robertshaw (Dorset Schools) – 25:36
254 – Ornella O’Brien (Bournemouth AC) – 27:01

Under-20 Women 6k (144 finishers)

29 – Millie Courtney (Poole AC) – 22:55

Under-13 Girls 3k 

16 – Bridget Dence (Bournemouth AC) – 11:40
43 – Grace Copeland (Wimborne AC) – 12:02
76 – Bess Bickel (Poole Runners) – 12:15
161 – Rachael Jeffries (Poole AC) – 12:52
196 – Emma Martin (Poole AC) – 13:04
203 – Maddie Williams (Wimborne AC) – 13:07
237 – Abi Rutter (Poole AC) – 13:27

Under-17 Boys 6k (255 finishers)

84 – Dan Mulryan (Poole Runners) – 20:32
87 – Callum Kennedy (Wimborne AC) – 20:36
117 – Ben Westhenry (Weymouth St Pauls) – 20:56
184 – Declan Toth (Poole Runners) – 21:44
247 – Brendan Kirkton (Bournemouth AC) – 24:05

Under-15 Girls 4k

91 – Sharon Hutchings (Wimborne AC) – 17:29
106 – Charlotte Baker (Yeovil/Wells City) – 17:38
131 – Emma Butterworth (Poole AC) – 17:50
175 – Abbie Hine (Wimborne AC) – 18:19
229 – Annabel Arnold (Yeovil/Wells City) – 19:02
237 – Abi Rutter (Poole AC) – 13:27

Senior Men 12k (278 finishers)

75 – Ben Davis (Egdon Heath) – 38:04
243 – Graeme Furley (Wimborne AC) – 42:54
277 – Mark Copeland (Wimborne AC) – 49:04

Full results for the Inter-Counties 2012 will be found at




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