Wimborne Athletic Club

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National Cross-Country Championships, Parliament Hill – 25 February

WAC at the 125th edition of the ‘Nationals’.

This was the 125th staging of the National Cross-Country Championships. A race with such a long history and tradition will have an impressive roll-call of famous names who will have competed here. In the early days the ‘Shapwick Express’ Charles Bennett, Britain’s first track and field Olympic champion won the Nationals twice. He is to be remembered in this Olympic year with the staging of the Charles Bennett mile on Sunday 22 July. More details can be found here www.shapwick.com/run/2012

But what of the current generation of athletes from the Wimborne area? We had an early start, with two team minibuses leaving from QE and more WACers meeting us at Parliament Hills Fields, Hampstead Heath having travelled independently. We made good time on the journey, and around 10am we arrived and set up camp.

The big red tent and our team banners were making their Parliament Hill debut. We sited ourselves right at the top of the hill and were able to survey the whole of the start and finish areas, with many of London’s famous skyline landmarks providing the backdrop. We’ve been to Parliament Hill many times over the last decade, never have we enjoyed weather like we did on this occasion. There was brilliant sunshine all day, little wind, and it was unseasonably warm for a February day. Conditions underfoot were unusually dry, and although you will never do a Parliament Hill without picking your way through mud somewhere on the course, the conditions were as good as we are ever likely to see them.

Watching a mass start at Parliament Hill is an impressive sight.

The racing started at 11.00 am with the under-17 women. That was one of the few categories where we had no runners, so we had arrived in good time for our first racer, Ryan Walbridge to prepare for his race, the under-15 boys. Ryan finished in the top 20% in the field. In the finishing position that Ryan claimed, runners are crossing the line at a rate greater than one per second. So a few seconds gained or lost can make a real difference. It was an encouraging start to our day.

Next up were our under-13 girls. Grace Copeland and Maddie Williams have both enjoyed excellent seasons. Grace is in her first season, and as she only turned 11 in October, she will remain in this age-group for a further two years. Finishing in the top 10% when racing against girls many of whom are two years older is a fantastic achievement. Maddie also had an excellent race, finishing in the top half of a very competitive field.

Callum Kennedy was next to head off to the start line, for the under-17s race. He is another Wimborne athlete who has made good progress in the past 12 months. Back in 2009 he came 382nd out of 398 in the under-15s race here. Since then he has shown real commitment when training, and that determination is bringing rewards. This time he finished 85th of 336 runners. If there is a message for all of us here it’s … keep pushing!

There were three more races to come with Wimborne runners in them. These were the under-15 girls, under-13 boys and senior men. In all three races we had enough athletes to record a team score. We needed four for a junior team and six for the senior team. This meant that the score from every single one our runners was going to count towards our team score … and they all had to finish otherwise there would be no team score. 

Where’s Scooter? Nearly all of our girls were rounded up for this photo.
Left to right: Grace, Abbie, Charlotte, Ella and Maddie.

The under-15 girls team have had a great season in the local leagues. They were going to have to do it at the Nationals minus a couple of key team members though. Abbie Hine led Wimborne home in London, with a confident looking run. Charlotte Bourne was next in, she is a real gutsy runner who thrives on the tougher courses, Parliament Hill suited her very nicely. Third to score for our team was Ella Hearne. In Ella’s short cross-country career, she has improved race-on-race, with only one slight blip, and that was last time out at Salisbury. It was great to see her back on top form. Bringing it home in that all-important fourth place for the team was Becca Skeats. Scooter is barely recognisable from the runner who made her cross-country debut at Ham Hill just over a year ago. The girls recorded 29th in the team competition.

What shutter speed do you need to ‘stop’ Piers Copeland?

Piers Copeland (South-West England Cross-Country Champion 2012) was our highest placed finisher on the day in any age-group, and he led our under-13-boys home. Piers has been struggling with a niggly ankle recently which has meant over the past few weeks he has had to restrict his training. No doubt without that he would have finished even higher. Tom Bourne was next in, he is still in the lower half of his age-group and it will be interesting to see where he will be in 12 months time. For most of the season there has been little to split Tom Boulton and Ryan Long. Tom is ahead on the head-to-heads but it is often by a very narrow margin. This pattern was repeated here, after 3k eight seconds split these team-mates. Our under-13 boys team came 25th.

The meeting concluded with the 12k senior men’s race, the biggest field of the day. The early stages of the race were chaotic. Was there a false start? If so how do you stop 1,700 runners? By the time the runners had reached the tight turn at the top of the first hill the field had concertinaed and for a short spell we found ourselves walking. An indication of the early congestion is that despite the tough nature of the course all the Wimborne men recorded faster times on the final lap. Graeme Furley was first Wimborne in. Graeme’s time of sub-45 minutes for 12k on a course as challenging as that, is remarkable. An indication of the quality of the field, however, is that there were just over 400 runners ahead of him. This is where you race if you want to take on the best runners that the UK has to offer. Next in was Mark Copeland, with Baz having been caught out by the early congestion being just under a minute further back. Rich House (who PB-ed over 10 miles the previous weekend) has hit a rich vein of form and he was next home with Iain Donnelly another 90 seconds back. Ian Kennedy was the last red shirt in and recorded the sixth score we needed for the team results. The Wimborne team finished 102nd.

Where’s Iain? Nearly all of our men were rounded up for this photo.
Left to right: Graeme, Mark, Ian, Rich and Baz.

It wasn’t all about the runners though, a big thank you to our travelling support, I swear at national level we get noisier support than anyone else. A big ‘Thank you’ to Paul Hine, who played a significant role in sorting out the transport arrangements for our big day in London.

WACers times and results were:

Under-15 Boys 4.5k (367 finishers)

72 – Ryan Walbridge – 16:29

Under-13 Girls 3k (368 finishers)

33 – Grace Copeland – 12:36
173 – Maddie Williams – 13:53

Under-17 Boys 6k (336 finishers)

85 – Callum Kennedy – 21:25

Under-15 Girls 4k (342 finishers) – 29th team (of 37) on the day

161 – Abbie Hine – 16:49
176 – Charlotte Bourne – 16:58
211 – Ella Hearne – 17:29
283 – Rebecca ‘Scooter’ Skeats – 18:41

Under-13 Boys 3k (373 finishers) – 25th team (of 39) on the day

32 – Piers Copeland – 11:40
106 – Tom Bourne – 12:16
300 – Tom Boulton – 13:48
310 – Ryan Long – 13:56

Senior Men 12k (1689 finishers) – Wimborne 102nd (of 125) on the day

423 – Graeme Furley – 44:32
946 – Mark Copeland – 50:47
1002 – Baz Barry – 51:23
1246 – Rich House – 54:55
1351 – Iain Donnelly – 56:24
1459 – Ian Kennedy – 59:09

Full results for the Nationals 2012 will be found at




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