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Heroic WACers brave elements on a great day for Dorset – 6 February 2016

Ian Kennedy reports from South West Schools XC Champs

Minty and Caitlin battle the elements at Pittville Park

We approached the South West Schools Cross-Country Championships at Pittville Park in Cheltenham with a good deal of anticipation.  The excellent results from the Dorset Schools Cross-Country Championships meant that 19 Wimborne runners had been selected to represent Dorset with a further nine on stand-by as reserves.  Come race day 18 of the 19 are ready to race, Beth Kingswell-Farr being the odd one out.  Beth ran heroically at Parliament Hill the previous weekend in the South of England XC Championships despite suffering a foot injury on the start line (a spiking), she just needed a little longer to recover, and so she now turns her attention to the Inter-Counties Championships in March.  On the plus side three of our reserves got the call to represent the county, so Max Meadwell in the junior boys, and Minty Stubbs and Romilly Carrick all got the shout.  That gave us 21 official starters, plus one.

The anticipation of the event was perhaps replaced by trepidation once we had seen Met Office weather warnings in the 48 hours prior to race day.  However, being cross-country runners we were prepared to take whatever nature threw at us!  With some difficulty we found the venue and parked up.  It had started raining as we were driving up from Dorset; at no point in the day did we get a break from the rain.  Apart from the rain there were also high winds.  Ominously, on our arrival we saw a tent, of the same type as the one we were using as the Dorset team tent, in a broken heap on the ground.  The decision was made to erect our tent anyway.  It was just too much to expect anyone in the team to stand around in those conditions all day without some protection from the weather.  The tent went up in the lee of a building, and we hoped for the best.  Apart from the rain and the wind, the ground was severely waterlogged.  There was a sea of mud everywhere, presenting a challenge for both runners and supporters … the area near the start and team tents had the consistency of a sloppy semolina pudding!

The first race of the day was the minor girls.  What a fantastic start we get off to in this age-group with a team win.  Emilie Castagna (BCS) led the team home, and Dorset also had Ashia Wilson (BSG), Phoebe Clark (Woodroffe), Issy Colwell (Leweston) and Heidi Taylor (St Edwards) all in the first dozen.  Daisy Baker (Port Regis) in 24th sealed the final scoring position, Daisy being the first of a trio of Dorset runners crossing the line, one behind the other, with WAC’s Charlotte Piper (Allenbourn) 25th and Daisy James (Hanford) 26th.  Phoebe Anson (Parkstone) was 31st and Alex Palotai-Arella (Highcliffe) 45th out of 66 finishers.  The spirit in the Dorset camp rose considerably, despite the conditions, after starting with a team win in race one.

Minor Girls – 66 runners – 1st team

4 – Emilie Castagna – 9:12
6 – Ashia Wilson –
8 – Phoebe Clark – 9:20
11 – Issy Colwell– 9:25
12 – Heidi Taylor –
24 – Daisy Baker – 9:48
25 – Charlotte Piper (WAC) – 9:50
26 – Daisy James – 9:50
31 – Phoebe Anson – 10:00
45 – Alex Palotai-Arella – 10:10

Next up were the junior boys.  Here the county team was led home by County Champion Ryan Purse (Budmouth).  Dorset’s other points scorers (six to count), in order, were Liam Openshaw (Poole Grammar), Ruben Wilson Connell (Clayesmore Prep), Manny Cox (Colfox), and the WAC pairing of Max Meadwell and Charlie Davies (both Allenbourn).  The team was completed by Alan Flechon (Gryphon) and Daniel Neild (QES).  Max’s 5th Dorset finish was a significant improvement on his 11th in the County Championships.

Junior Boys – 66 runners – Dorset 7th team

18 – Ryan Purse – 16:17
37 – Liam Openshaw – 16:40
41 – Ruben Wilson Connell – 16:42
45 – Manny Cox –
48 – Max Meadwell (WAC) – 16:59
58 – Charlie Davies (WAC) – 17:17
62 – Alan Flechon – 18:18
65 – Daniel Neild – 18:49

Then followed two girls’ races in succession – the inters, then the seniors.  Six of the 10 inters were Wimborne athletes.  The inter girls brought Dorset’s only regional champion.  WAC’s Grace Copeland (QES) was in fine form at Cheltenham, following on from an encouraging performance at Parliament Hill the previous week.  In fact four of the county’s six point scorers were Wimborne athletes, with Lucy Ballam (QES) 2nd, Hannah Slater (QES) 4th and Minty Stubbs (Sherborne Girls) 6th.  Poppaea Bramwell-Reeks (BCS) and Amy Mills (Twynham) were the county’s other point scorers, and, as a team, Dorset came 4th.  Both Lucy and Minty ran significantly better at regional level than they did at the county championships.  Two places, and four seconds behind Minty, was another WACer, Caitlin Rogers (Shaftesbury).  Isabel Watkins (Leweston) was the team’s final finisher.  Also on the start line was WAC’s Romilly Carrick (Sherborne Girls).  Romilly was a late call-up as a reserve.  This was her first time representing Dorset so she absolutely wasn’t going to pass up the chance.  Unfortunately she picked up a heavy cold within 24 hours of being selected, but she was game enough to give it a go … under normal circumstances she probably would have got away with it, but in the worst conditions we’ve seen at a cross-country race for years it was always going to be a big ask.  Unfortunately Romilly was a ‘DNF’ but let’s salute her spirit and courage for even attempting it.
Grace on the way to another Championship victory

Inter Girls – 66 runners – Dorset 7th team

1 – Grace Copeland – 16:26
11 – Lucy Ballam – 17:27
24 – Poppaea Bramwell-Reeks – 17:55
27 – Hannah Slater – 18:02
28 – Amy Mills – 18:03
36 – Minty Stubbs – 18:27
38 – Caitlin Rogers – 18:31
56 – Isabel Watkins – 19:40

The senior girls’ team brought Dorset’s next victory.  The team was led home by Serena O’Connor (LEAF).  It was another age-group where WAC athletes made a significant contribution to the team score with Mary Butler (Sherborne Girls), Abbie Hine and Maddie Williams (both QES) all amongst the point scorers.  Mary did a good solid job to claim third Dorset.  Abbie Hine ran significantly better than in the Schools County Championships.  Maddie’s great season continues, proving that last week’s run at Parliament Hill was just a blip.  The other team scorers were Emma Martin (Parkstone) and Flora Johnson (Thomas Hardye).  Flora Swan and Hope Horsfield (both Woodroffe) completed the Dorset team.

Senior Girls – 57 runners – Dorset 1st team

3 – Serena O’Connor – 16:34
6 – Emma Martin –
8 – Mary Butler – 17:33
16 – Abbie Hine – 18:20
17 – Maddie Williams – 18:25
18 – Flora Johnson – 18:28
22 – Flora Swan –
24 – Hope Horsfield – 18:48

County Champion Ryan Symington (Ferndown MS) was pushed hard for the honour of being the first Dorset boy home by Finn Cauldwell (Colfox) … only two seconds back.  Josh Smith (Broadstone) completed the top three and two of the three remaining scoring spots fell to Wimborne AC athletes – Joel Green (Poole Grammar) and Tom Fuller (Blandford), Harvey Davies (Twynham) was 5th Dorset.  The team in this age-group came 4th.  WAC’s Oscar Street (Allenbourn), Ajay Coombes (BSB), Jasper Todd (BSB) and Connor Charlwood (Castle Court) completed the team.

Minor Boys – 65 runners – Dorset 4th team

5 – Ryan Symington – 11:57
7 – Finn Cauldwell – 11:59
26 – Josh Smith –
29 – Joel Green – 12:34
35 – Harvey Davies – 12:40
44 – Tom Fuller – 12:53
51 – Oscar Street – 13:07
52 – Ajay Coombes – 13:10
53 – Jasper Todd – 13:16
56 – Connor Charlwood – 13:24

The final girls’ race of the day brought another good team score – 2nd place.  Maddie Johnson who won at King’s Park, came under serious pressure from WAC’s very impressive Abbie Lovering at Cheltenham … they shared the same time.  The competitiveness between the Wimborne girls seems to be inspiring them to big gains at the moment as Anna Kelliher and Holly Nixon traded places.  Daisy Davies and Martha Pawson secured the other points positions.  Amy Northam can feel pleased with claiming 7th Dorset home as she was one who qualified as a reserve.  The Dorset team was completed by Olivia Willmore (Colfox), Ella Chown (BCS) and Demi Goddard (Allenbourn).

Junior Girls – 62 runners – Dorset 2nd team

3 – Maddie Johnson – 16:10
4 – Abbie Lovering – 16:10
12 – Anna Kelliher – 16:35
15 – Holly Nixon – 16:40
17 – Daisy Davies – 16:46
29 – Martha Pawson – 17:18
40 – Amy Northam –
45 – Olivia Willmore – 17:42
58 – Ella Chown– 18:07
59 – Demi Goddard –

The inter boys’ race brought another Dorset team win.  A strong-looking Dorset team won by a margin.  WAC’s Tom Bourne was in a podium position as he led the team home.  With Jed Skilton and Ben Lewis, this gave a Bournemouth Collegiate School a Dorset top three.  Dom Willmore (Poole Grammar) and WAC’s Joey Kelliher (Gillingham) had seen quite a bit of each other in recent races, this time Dom came out ahead.  Alex D’Arbost (Clayesmore) claimed the final scoring position, while WAC’s Michael Johnson (Blandford) led in non-scorers Jed Holt (Colfox), Henry Bramwell-Reeks (BSB) and Jordan Berry (Sherborne).

Inter Boys – 66 runners – Dorset 1st team

3 – Tom Bourne – 17:38
8 – Jed Skelton – 18:00
11 – Ben Lewis – 18:12
16 – Dom Willmore – 18:29
18 – Joey Kelliher – 18:38
22 – Alex D’Arbost – 18:54
33 – Michael Johnson – 19:06
48 – Jed Holt – 19:22
60 – Henry Bramwell-Reeks – 20:16
64 – Jordan Berry –

The final race of the day was the senior boys and the only one not to feature any WAC athletes.  Ash Parker of Clayesmore was first Dorset man home.  It was Clayesmore which provided many of the team members in this age-group – these included James Hywel-Davies, Alex Miles and Ed de Boehmier.  James and Alex were amongst the point scorers as were Daniel Tricket (LEAF), Sam Brooks (Canford) and Ralph Miller (Milton Abbey).  Jonny Ellis of Gryphon and Alistair Carter of BSB completed the team.

Senior Boys – 56 runners – Dorset 6th team

19 – Ash Parker – 26:02
29 – Daniel Trickett – 27:01
33 – Sam Brooks – 27:07
35 – James Hywel-Davies – 27:15
44 – Ralph Miller – 27:56
46 – Alex Miles – 28:05
48 – Jonny Ellis– 28:07
52 – Alistair Carter – 29:47
55 – Ed de Boehmier – 30:50

These races all took place in the most horrendous conditions where race numbers disintegrated in the wet.  There were some real heroes out there for Dorset.  The adverse conditions seemed to galvanise the spirit in the Dorset camp.  Typifying the desire to run for the county was Ollie Rawles, who first ran for Dorset in December at the South West Championships at Bicton.  Ollie was first reserve for the minor boys at Cheltenham.  Ollie, and dad Rob, came up to support the team, and on stand-by, just in case he was required.  We fielded a full team in that age-group so the call-up did not come.  However, Ollie’s commitment was rewarded; he was allowed to run, although not recorded in the results.  No doubt that level of commitment to his cross-country running will see him in contention for a team places in years to come.

Teams of eight in the juniors, inters and seniors will be selected for the schools’ cross-country season’s climax – The English Schools Cross-Country Championships at Wollaton Park, Nottingham on 5 March 2016.


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