Wimborne Athletic Club

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WAC’s Parliament Hill podium and other heroics! – 30 January 2016

Jessica Eve Kennedy reports from the South of England XC Champs

Medallists Hannah Slater, Anna Kelliher, Caitlin Rogers and Grace Copeland

I don’t think there’s a race in the calendar that can match the hype of Parliament Hill, the host of this year’s South of England Championships.  It feels as though my dad has started every conversation for the past three months with, “Oh, are you coming to Parliament Hill? It’s the best!” and, in turn, everyone looks back at him with skeptical eyes that read:  “When Ian says it’s the best, what he means is that it’ll be muddy.  Reeeeally muddy.”  You are all correct.

It was a 5:20am start in the Kennedy household.  Not because it really needed to be but because my dad was in the mood to make enemies.  (My alarm had been rather reluctantly set for 5:45am.  And that would have been fine, Dad!)  With stinging eyes and buffering enthusiasm, we set off at 6:30am to catch a ride with the onesie-clad team on a plush, fancy coach.  Oh yeah, no minibuses this time.  It was a proper coach.  The kind of coach that provokes nostalgia for those old memories of school trips to the National History Museum.  In fact, the first thing the coach driver said to us was that he needed minimal mess because he had a corporate job with AFC Bournemouth the next day, so we had to leave it looking spick and span.  Not a problem, Tim.  Parliament Hill cross-country is renowned for cleanliness.

Upon arrival it became clear, to both Tim the coach driver and to me, the National History Museum this was not.  Those Sainsbury’s wellies that I splashed out on at the last minute were suddenly looking like a really good call.  For the dedicated runners among us, however, wellies weren’t an option; the Wimborne AC tent was spike city, with 43 runners preparing for their mudfest races with dangerous-looking footwear and a lotta moustache-patterned tape!

The under-15 girls race was undoubtedly the most eventful of the day, providing all the best and the worst headlines.  The great news was that our first four finishers – Grace Copeland (7th), Anna Kelliher (41st), Hannah Slater (55th) and Caitlin Rogers (75th) – placed third as a team, running so fast that half of them disappeared without a trace before hearing the exciting news announced over the tannoy.  Their success marks the first time a Wimborne AC team has ever made the podium at Parliament Hill.  When factoring in the population of the little town of Wimborne in comparison to the cities that we’re competing against, the result is even more extraordinary.  It really was a combination of efforts from the girls: Grace made her presence felt at the front of the field, earning a mention in the race commentary and finishing comfortably inside the top 10, while Anna had her best race ever, the always reliable Hannah continued great form and Caitlin proved that even when she’s not having her best day, she’s still capable of an impressive run.  These strong results reflected fine form from all of the Wimborne athletes in this race, with Beth Kingswell-Farr (104th), a confident-looking Amy Mercer (118th), Izzie Kingswell-Farr (202nd) and Elise Gill (243rd) also running well.

The bad news from the under-15 girls was the cross-country nightmare: Beth Kingswell-Farr got spiked at the start of her race.  Following in the Joe Miles tradition, she made it all the way around the course as though without a care in the world, only addressing her injury at the finish line.  When I asked Izzie Kingswell-Farr whether she had twin-sensed Beth’s injury, she replied, “Not really, but sometimes when Beth is hurt or ill or something, I do get a feeling.”  Beth, sitting beside Izzie with her thickly-bandaged foot elevated on someone’s camping chair, rolled her eyes at me.  She then spent the day getting piggyback rides and being waited on hand and foot, so it wasn’t all bad.  Besides, both KF sisters assured me that it was going to make a wonderfully dramatic Snapchat story – cue Beth lining up a particularly gruesome view of her muddied, wounded foot with the stunning London skyline in the backdrop.

Beth receives attention

Elsewhere, Holly Nixon earned an impressive result in the under-13 girls race, providing the other big Wimborne AC success story of the day, placing 23rd, and continuing the exceptional form that we’ve seen from her all season.  Teammates Ella Jeffery and Katie Warrack were both making their Parliament Hill debuts, running well to come in 237th and 256th respectively.

Our under-13 boys were also in good spirits when they returned to the WAC tent after their race and were quick to announce that they’d all finished in close succession, led by speedy Jack Moss-Willcox (120th) who had a particularly good day.  Hot on Jack’s heels were Tom Fuller (132nd), Josh Jack (150th), Ollie Rawles (192nd), Jack Wrann (193rd) and Joe Healey (236th).  Matthew Lissenberg had also joined them on the start line, but lost a shoe to the mud and didn’t quite make it all the way around.

We had decent performances from everyone in the under-15 boys race.  Michael Johnson led the way, finishing 97th, though he seemed more enthusiastic about the hot shower afterwards.  After Michael came Dan Baynham (152nd), Elliott Symes (162nd) and Zach Fenwick (235th), who were all in good form.

Now, you might think that as the athletes get older, they get wiser.  Not so.  Before the under-17 boys race, the oh-so-sensible Sam Davies declared his intention to be the first man to the top of the hill regardless of the rest of the course.  Preparation involved a Red Bull and his lucky Superman socks.  What could go wrong? …Well, before he even got to the hill, he’d lost both shoes in the mud.  Not quite first to the top of the hill after all, he instead ended up towards the back of the pack, though made up quite a few places to finish 137th.  A lesson learned, perhaps?  The first Wimborne runner over the finish line for the under-17 boys was Joey Kelliher who, after his sister’s success earlier in the day, had an incredibly good run and placed 60th.  Following Joey, consistent runners Matt Yates (117th) and Edward Dart (166th) both had solid races, with Edward making his Parliament Hill debut.

In the under-17 girls, we had a strong team made up of Lucy Ballam, Minty Stubbs, Maddie Williams and Grace Palmer.  I heard from Maddie that she had an impromptu extra warm-up when she forgot her chip tag, forcing her to make a quick dash up the hill to grab it only to get back to the start line out of breath, with barely a second to spare.  Luckily, she made it in time to complete the team.  Led in by Lucy in 45th place, we then had Minty in 69th, Maddie in 117th and Grace in 131st.

Both of the under-20s races were a little more sparsely populated, with no full team for the men or the women.  That didn’t mean we were without good results, though, as Ryan Walbridge made quick work of his 8k, earning 51st place.  In the women’s under-20s race, we had the reliably swift Mary Butler in 39th and Abbie Hine not too far behind, finishing 59th.

With no runners in the senior women’s race (#noregrets), the final race of the day was the grueling 15k men’s race.  Paula Hine, who was nearby as the race began, compared the start line hubbub to a deep-voiced hive of bees that were then abruptly silenced by the noise of the starting pistol.  With over a thousand men racing, it was a struggle to spot the WAC colours amidst the field but there were plenty of them out there.  Richard Davies was the first finisher, though under unfortunate circumstances as he pulled over with a hamstring injury, but Steve Wyatt was the first Wimborne runner to actually make it to the finish line, placing 457th, followed by great runs from Kerry Mapp (703rd), Rob Rawles (709th), Iain Donnelly (721st) and Mike Jurd (729th).  Pete Kingswell-Farr rolled his ankle during the race but, as per a brand new family tradition, soldiered on to come in 803rd.  Behind Pete, we also had Mark Wood in 831st, John Scott in 859th and Jason Hall in 939th.

And that’s all folks.  43 runners.  10 races.  Three injuries.  One podium position.  What a day.  Well done everyone who competed and to those who had to wash the kits afterwards.  This year’s Parliament Hill was a record turnout for Wimborne AC and marked our first ever podium position team.  Let’s do it all again next year.



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