Wimborne Athletic Club

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Inter Counties XC Championships – 13 March 2010

Six WACers race for the County team.

Last year three Wimborne cross-country runners were selected to compete for Dorset. In 2010 double that number won selection. Graeme Furley is currently based in Cirencester, so he Rachel and his parents made their own way to Cofton Park in Birmingham. For the remaining five runners and their entourages it was an early start. We hired a minibus and left QE at 6.30am for the 150mile-plus journey to Birmingham. Also travelling with us was Tom Austin an U17B from Weymouth St Pauls who would meet up with his club mate Ben Westhenry (U15B).

It was beautiful bright sunny morning and we made good progress on the road, finding the venue without any difficulty. The course was in attractive parkland, with the conditions for cross-country running perhaps a touch too firm underfoot. As this event boasts the cream of the UK’s cross-country runners it was televised and shown live on Sky TV.

The first race that had a Wimborne AC interest in it was the under-13 boys. We had Piers Copeland and Ryan Walbridge in this race and they proudly pulled on those hard won green Dorset vests. Ryan was quiet and looked as nervous as we had ever seen him pre-race while Piers was hyper and most definitely up for it. The lads, having had the timing chips checked lined up at the start. Of our two, Piers made the better start with Ryan having to battle his way through the field. It was pretty congested out there and Piers took a severe spiking out on the circuit (which required medical attention later). At around 2km Ryan passed Piers, and although they were only 8 seconds apart at the finish line it made a difference of 32 places (an indication of just how competitive the races would be). Our runners played their part in an excellent team result, 4th, just outside the medal positions. Surrey won the team prize with Hampshire second. This emphasises just how strong our local XC league is, as our young athletes regularly compete against Hampshire- and Surrey-based runners. Also ahead of us, by a narrow margin, was Yorkshire which has a population more than five times that of Dorset. ‘Who’s Afear’d’ indeed!

The next WAC runner to race was Callum Kennedy in the under-15s race. Of our six racers he was the only one to have competed in this event in 2009. Callum’s race was 50 per cent further than the U13 boys’, being 4.5k. He had been struggling with a cold and as a precaution had skipped a training session the previous week, and Piers and Ryan’s race had proved the point that even a few lost seconds would cost you a lot of places. Callum had a brave run and got stronger in the latter stages although he had left himself a little too much to do. The Dorset team finished 30th in this age group.

Abbie in her Inter-Counties Championship hoodie with Sharon in Dorset Green

Abbie Hine and Sharon Hutchings lined up in the under-13 girls race. Abbie was completely unfazed by the environment and took it all in her stride while Sharon had pre-race nerves. Sharon got off to a great start. Despite recording some great results this season Sharon has had a tough time of it with chest infections. She is still not completely in the clear after those setbacks and we had seen in the earlier races in the day how crucial a few seconds are. Abbie ran a good and steady race and caught and passed Sharon. They crossed the line just over 20 seconds and 60 places apart. Abbie has had a fantastic debut cross-country season and for Sharon we are looking forward to seeing her at the top of her game when completely recovered. The Dorset team finished 29th in this age group.

The final WACer to race was Graeme Furley. Graeme’s extraordinary comeback story is well known to his team mates. As a junior Graeme was a fine runner and Dorset Champion at under-20. Fair play to the medics who helped him on his way, but after almost a year in a wheelchair how many people have the mental strength and resolve to come back in the manner he has?  Graeme finished third in the County Championships at Bridport and that performance guaranteed his selection for this event. After a gap of a few years, Wimborne’s very own bionic man was back in Dorset green and heading off to the start line with the nation’s finest. International athletes were at the front of the field and it was the mighty Mo Farah who took the win but back down the field in came the first Dorset runner, and the only bionic one! A tremendously proud moment for all who have signed up for Team Furley over these past couple of years!

It was a happy team that headed back on the three hours-plus drive back to Wimborne. All our athletes really benefit from the support and camaraderie of their parents and team-mates so a big thank you to all who came along and helped make the occasion. A lot of hard work is put in behind the scenes on our behalf so we would like to thank all of those who put a shift in for us on the Dorset county team, especially team managers for our runners’ age groups – Mark Pauley and Rob Kellaway of Poole AC, Jan Westhenry of Weymouth St Pauls and Jon Sharkey of Bournemouth AC.

Congratulations to Dorset’s and Weymouth St Pauls’ Ben Westhenry (U15B). Apart from this race being the Inter-Counties Cross-Country Championships it was also one of a series of four that formed the McCain Cross-Country Challenge. Ben had already recorded two third places in the series (at Gateshead and Liverpool) and a second place at Cardiff. He was another one under the weather on the day but he had enough in the locker to finish in 20th place and take the series win. Very well done also to Millie Courtney of Poole AC who took the under-17 girls title after claiming a 4th place at Cofton Park.

For a broader perspective and report of the day click here.

WAC results

U13G (3k)

198 – Abbie Hine – 12:57

257 – Sharon Hutchings – 13:21

(Dorset U13G team came 29th)

U13B (3k)

50 – Ryan Walbridge – 11:08

82 – Piers Copeland – 11:16

(Dorset U13B team came 4th)

U15B (4.5k)

282 – Callum Kennedy – 18:08

(Dorset U15B team came 30th)

Senior Men (12k)

265 – Graeme Furley – 44:28


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