Wimborne Athletic Club

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Wessex League XC and County Champs in the sunshine –  11 December 2016

Ian Kennedy reports from Bryanston School

There is huge promise in our under-11s squad.
Left to right:
Imogen, Ruby, Kate, Kitty, Maisie, Isabella, Lucie, Amelia and Grace

The final Wessex League of the season, which also doubled as the County Championships, was held in the beautiful grounds of Bryanston School. As far as I’m aware this is the first time this venue has been used either for the county’s championships or for a Wessex League race. Wimborne AC was the host club, and we need to go on record and express our sincere thanks to Bryanston School for the support and co-operation they gave which enabled us to stage an event at this fabulous location.

We did have a scare two weeks prior to the race when two days of torrential rain saw the River Stour break its banks and flood parts of the course. Contingency plans had been made but it was hoped that they would never need to be employed. Fortunately, the floodwaters receded as fast as they had risen and the course was fully operable by race day.

It was an early start marking out the course, and at 8am mist hung low over the fields alongside the Stour. Well before the start of the first race the mist had burnt off, and we went on to enjoy extraordinarily warm, sunny, windless weather for a mid-December day.

With all marshals in position we were ready for the first races of the day, the under-11s. These first races were exclusively Wessex League affairs, and they were the only races on the timetable which were not also part of the County Championships. The under-11s were to cover a distance just shy of 2km. There are some very strong friendships within our U11 girls’ team and the girls are very supportive of each other. As the season has gone on they have looked stronger and stronger, although there has been the odd bump in the road. At Bryanston the team was led home by Kitty Sharpe (5th), the first team she’s done this in a Wessex race. It was great to see Isabella Cox (8th) absolutely on it, she’d run well in a schools race earlier in the week so her confidence had been restored after a tough time of it in Wessex League match 3 at Yeovil. Kate Simmonds was five seconds behind Isabella. She is WAC’s most consistent runner in this category and she finished the season as our highest-placed U11G in the season’s averages. Only three seconds back from Kate was Ruby Sargeant. Ruby’s upsurge in form in the last two races of the season has been dramatic. Grace and Amelia Chaffey were our next two home. It was Grace who could claim bragging rights on the day, but in the averages over the course of the season it is Amelia who is better placed. Only two seconds behind Amelia was Maisie Riley who made a very impressive Wessex League debut. It was great to see Lucie Simmonds racing Wessex for us again, we’d missed her contribution at Yeovil. Completing our team was our youngest competitor, Imogen Rawles, storing up useful experience for future seasons. Our U11 girls are Wessex League bronze medallists, they were only headed by champions Southampton and runners-up Winchester. The U11G performances just got better and better as the season progressed. A strong team result at Yeovil put them in contention for medals, but it was the performance at Bryanston that sealed the deal. There aren’t too many more opportunities for under-11s to race again this season, which is a great shame because it’s as if the season has finished too soon for our fast improving girls.

Unfortunately we don’t have the numbers in under-11 boys that we enjoy in the girls category. Just two runners pulled on Wimborne red vests for this one. There may have only been two of them, but George Butcher (our first man home) and Thomas Jeffery both recorded their highest-placed finishes of the season, Thomas by a significant margin. They were our only WAC U11Bs to record season’s averages: George finished the season 13th whilst Thomas was 18th.

Injury had denuded our under-13 girls of some of its talent. So it was down to just Emily Shaw, Sarah Graham and Ella Jeffery to represent Wimborne in this one. In Emily’s first Wessex League race of the season she got involved in a ding-dong battle with Poole AC’s Emilie Castagna. This was the first of the races where County Championship medals were also at stake and here were two highly competitive athletes off the front of the field duking it out. Emilia took the win, with Emily claiming a silver medal in the County Championship. In sixth place was Sarah Graham in what must be her race of the season so far. She has placed 6th before, but in a smaller field. With her foot problem hopefully behind her, we’re hoping to see Sarah push on now. Our third runner on the start line was Ella Jeffery. Unfortunately Ella got into bother with a breathing issue so had to pull up. Sarah was our best-placed runner in the season’s averages with 5th, and Ella was 9th

We have seen some battling performances from our under-13 boys this season, and leading the line once again was Tom Fuller. Tom was third on the day and claims a bronze County Championship medal. However, it’s a silver medal that Tom will be getting for his Wessex performances over the course of a season. Joel Green’s 5th place on the day was a ‘wow’ as he’s only just returned from six weeks out injured. There’s been so little between Ollie Rawles and Joe Goodwin this season. The gap was a little wider than usual here, with Ollie 6th and Joe 9th. They finish 3rd and 4th in the season’s averages. Ben Harwood was 12th on the day, he’s made steady progress throughout his first XC season with us and finishes 7th in the season’s averages. Next in after Ben was Joe Healey. Although Ben beat his team mate on the day, it’s Joe who claims the higher aggregate over the course of the season, he was 6th. The multi-talented Ben Butcher followed Joe in, and he finished the season 9th in the aggregates. Completing the team on the day was Jay Dunn. Jay’s battling his way through a tough patch at the moment, but over the course of the season he claimed 8th position. As a team we finished on equal points in the Wessex League with Poole AC, but on head-to-heads they’ve pipped us to the gold medal. However, Wimborne ‘B’ team took the bronze so we claimed two out of three podium positions in this category!

The next race start was the combined under-17s and senior women. This was the first of the races using the big loop which included the beautiful section alongside the River Stour. The under-17s were to do 2 laps, whilst the senior women had 3 laps to complete. There were plenty of red vests on the start line for this one (19). The under-17s races were where we saw our first County Champions of the day.

Despite having only just returned from injury, Tom Bourne took the race by throat and won by a distance. Tom is Dorset County Champion. It was so nearly a 1-2 for Wimborne with Joey Kelliher just being pipped by Poole AC’s Ben Lewis on the line. They were recorded with the same time … it doesn’t get any closer than that! For Joey this was an improvement from the form shown a week earlier in the Hampshire League where Ben had beaten him by 16 seconds, but to be bettered by such a small margin was frustrating. Joey claimed the bronze medal in the County Championships. Our top runner over the course of the Wessex season was Michael Johnson. He finished 6th on the day and collects a silver Wessex League medal for his performances over all four races. Matt Yates is in the form of his life at the moment, having made a huge amount of ground on many in the field. Here he was just five seconds behind Michael and in 8th place. Dan Baynham came in 12th with Elliott Symes 13th and Edward Dart 14th. These three have all put in a solid shift over the course of the season and finish 6th, 7th and 8th respectively in the season’s aggregates. The team finished equal 1st in the Wessex League with Poole Runners.

Our second County Champion of the day came from the under-17 women. We witnessed another dominant performance from Grace Copeland. This was Grace’s fifth consecutive County Championship win, through age groups from under-13s through to under-17s. It would be interesting to trawl back through the history of the Dorset County Championships and see how many others have managed this feat. Hannah Slater comfortably claimed the silver championship medal in what is turning out to be a splendid season for her. Hannah’s consistency over the season sees her as Wessex League Champion. She has recorded two wins, a second and a third (at the start of the season). Minty Stubbs’s consistency and commitment over the course of the season has also been rewarded. She was 6th on the day and wins the bronze Wessex medal for her performances over the season. Caitlin Rogers was 7th on the day and is 5th in the Wessex averages. Over the entire season we’ve only had five athletes in this age-group (the fifth one being Pippa Hine) but we are Wessex League Champions. The backbone of the team over the season was formed around our two ever-presents, Hannah and Minty, and Caitlin only missed one race too.

And so to our senior women (including u20s). We had a strong looking line-up here. As comfortable as the wins for Grace and Tom had been in the under-17s, the formidable Serena O’Connor (u20) of Poole Runners sailed serenely to victory. Claiming the County Championship silver medal for u20s was Emma Martin. She’s starting to record the results in races that her efforts in training suggest she’s capable of. Her results in County Championships over preceding years have been 6th, 4th, 3rd … and now 2nd. Here we saw an experienced runner register one of her best ever cross-country performances. Fourth over the line, and 3rd u20, was Mary Butler. Mary claims a bronze County medal … and the red vests kept coming with Olivia Manson (u20) 5th (4th u20), and Hannah Acquah 6th. Hannah was the first in the senior women’s category, and she too is a County gold medallist. Hannah also finishes the season with a silver Wessex League medal for performances over all four races. Making her cross-country debut for Wimborne AC was Becca Ellis. It was a fine debut too, Becca was 2nd senior woman in the County Championships and so gets the silver medal! For an under-20, there are few with more experience that Maddy Williams, and she crossed the line 12th. Jess Kennedy was next home, running increasingly confidently on the back of a string of parkrun PBs, in what was her best cross-country race so far to record 19th. Our tight-knit women’s team was completed by Alicia Pawson in 22nd. Our women are Wessex League Champions having won at three of the four races. With the first four finishers from the County Championships in each age-group guaranteed automatic selection to represent Dorset at the prestigious Inter-Counties Championships there’s going to be good Wimborne representation in the u20s and senior women categories with Emma, Mary, Olivia and Hannah all guaranteed selection and other contenders to be selected. It is turning into an extraordinary year for our senior women’s team.

There was a sea of red vests for the combined under-15 race. On the start line were around 40 runners, incredibly more than half of them were in the red of Wimborne. Perhaps inspired by his sister, Ben Martin also claimed silver in the County Championships and was the first red vest home. Ben’s consistency over the season sees him as Wessex League Champion. Max Meadwell ran impressively to claim the county’s bronze medal. Seth Lake was lying second at the end of the first lap, but in his rookie year, he was testing how far he could push the envelope … he has ‘the right stuff’. A couple of more experienced heads caught him later, but his courage rewarded him with his highest finish yet, and as 4th Championship finisher, he has won guaranteed selection for Dorset at the Inter-Counties in March. Jack Moss-Willcox was 9th on the day, and finished the season 8th in the averages. We haven’t seen as much of Zach Fenwick as we would have liked, here he recorded a season’s best 11th place. Sam Hughes is another in his rookie season, having competed only in the last two Wessex races, Sam was 12th. Somewhat unusually our last guys home were Josh Jack and Charlie Davies (13th and 14th), both struggling with different issues. Hopefully it won’t be long until we see them challenging at the head of the WAC team once again.

We have strength in depth in our under-15 girls team, and they were out in force at Bryanston. On the day, eight of the first dozen over the line were in the red of Wimborne. We don’t have exclusive rights on the best in the age-group in the county though, and in particular Dorchester AC’s Maddy Johnson will provide a stiff test for anyone. Abbie Lovering has been our star runner of the season so far in this age-group, and she and Maddy have been dueling all season in both the Wessex and Hampshire leagues. Prior to this fixture, this season they had met four times, and each time Abbie had come out on top. Abbie missed two Wessex races and Maddy had won both of those. To no one’s great surprise the pair of them resumed their rivalry, and broke clear of the rest of the field. Maddy showed great spirit to avenge those defeats earlier in the season and claim the County gold medal, with Abbie having to be content with silver. Third place was Lulu King. This was far and away the best we’ve seen from Lulu since her move to Dorset, and certainly a massive improvement on the form shown at King’s Park in the Hampshire League. In fourth place and only one second behind Lulu was Amy Mercer who’s having her best cross-country season yet. Three 4th places and a 2nd in the Wessex see her with the silver medal in the age-group.

Martha Pawson was 6th, and she’s really picked her game up in the last month in particular (Martha finished 6th in the Wessex averages). Holly Nixon has done pretty well too in the Wessex after a slightly subdued start in the first race of the season. In fact she’s done well enough to claim the Wessex bronze medal. Surprisingly this was Anna Kelliher’s first Wessex race of the season. Anna is one of our most unpredictable runners, when she’s on it she really is amongst our best, she came 8th here. A good solid run from Demi Goddard saw her just ahead of team mate Beth Kingswell-Farr, they were 11th and 12th. There’s been little to separate these two all season. They’ve both competed in every Wessex race and three of those times Demi has finished just one place ahead of Beth. They’ve claimed 7th and 8th in the Wessex averages respectively.

Christa Cripwell was just a single second behind Beth. Christa’s put in some stellar XC performances when representing her school, but hasn’t yet found that form when wearing a red vest … it will come! It’s been another solid Wessex season from Hannah Fairchild, she was 17th here, and she’s finished 10th in the season’s averages. Mat Murray has struggled with plantar fasciitis, and this has denied her the opportunity for her to show her true potential. She was 18th here, but the day wasn’t without its drama, she crossed the line having removed both shoes! Emma Graham (19th) is in her rookie season and she’s competed in every Wessex League race, no drama, just another dependable race which sees her finish the season 9th in the averages.

Lucy Fortescue was 20th, steadily restoring her confidence after a ‘mare of a race in Wessex race 2, where she recorded a ‘DNF’ after a fall. Completing the team, and having completed all the Wessex races was Izzie Kingsell-Farr (10th in the league averages, equal with Hannah Fairchild). It may have been Lucy in strife in race 2, but come race 4 it was Jess Bourne in trouble. Jess felt sick at the end of lap 1 and pulled up … but I’ve no doubt she’ll be back showing the same resilience as Lucy next time she competes. Our under-15 girls team have been all-conquering in the Wessex League this year. We are Wessex League Champions, and Wimborne AC ‘B’ are runners-up!

Quite early on it was clear that the men’s Dorset County Champion would be settled between David Long of Bournemouth AC and Jamie Grose of Poole AC. This pair broke away early from the rest of the field before the matter was settled in David’s favour. Our first man home was Ryan Walbridge in 9th. Ryan was 3rd u20 County Championship runner so will get a bronze medal, he is also guaranteed selection for the team at the Inter-Counties.  Ryan also gets a silver medal from the Wessex League for his performances over the four races. Our next man home was Simon Davis in 18th. Simon was third veteran in the County Championships and will receive a bronze medal. There was a fine run from Mike Jurd (24th). He was much happier here than he had been in race 3 at Yeovil where he had pulled out injured with one lap to go. The performance was all the more remarkable as he and Kerry Mapp (29th) had been on car parking duties from 10am until around half an hour before the men’s race started. That’s what’s called putting a shift in for your club! Sandwiched between those two (25th) was the very dependable and still improving, Pete Kingswell-Farr. Pete finished 8th in the season’s averages. Rob Rawles’s season has been hampered by injury and this was his first Wessex race of the season. Rob was 30th and the comeback is on … he’s looking forward to the challenge that is Parliament Hill!

Having glorious weather certainly made the business of hosting the race a good deal easier and more pleasant. A big thank you must go out to 30-odd who volunteered to take up duties on the day to ensure that all ran smoothly. Our volunteers were predominantly from WAC, but some good friends from other clubs also helped out. Thank you all for your contribution, these events are impossible to stage without an army of volunteers.

The course is one I hope that we’ll get to use again in the future. The setting is a beautiful one, especially alongside the river, and I loved the atmosphere when the runners pass through the channel between the tents as they went into their subsequent laps. A big, big thank you is due to Bryanston School for enabling us to make it happen.

It was a big day for the club, the 70 WAC runners we had was a record for a cross-country race, and with our 30-ish volunteers, and who knows how many supporters we had, perhaps WAC’s red army made it to 150 on the day.

With job done, we finished the day with three County Champions – Grace Copeland and Tom Bourne and Hannah Acquah. Silver County medals went to Emily Shaw, Abbie Lovering, Ben Martin, Hannah Slater, Emma Martin, Becca Ellis. County bronze went to Tom Fuller, Max Meadwell, Amy Mercer, Joey Kelliher, Ryan Walbridge, Mary Butler and Simon Davis.

Wessex gold individual medals went to Ben Martin, Hannah Slater, with silver for Tom Fuller, Amy Mercer, Michael Johnson, Hannah Acquah and bronze for Ollie Rawles, Holly Nixon, Minty Stubbs and Ryan Walbridge.

Gold Wessex team medals went to the under-15 girls and boys, the under-17 men and women and senior women. There was Wessex silver for the under-13 boys, under-15 girls and boys B teams. Wessex bronze medals went to our under-11 girls and under-13 boys B team.

Double celebration for the Copeland family

As already reported Grace won her fifth consecutive County Championship at Bryanston. Meanwhile, her brother, Piers, headed off to Cardiff for the big pre-Christmas indoor meeting … and what a day he had. Piers competed in the 3000m. He recorded a new PB of 8:10.78, that’s a PB by more than 26 seconds for his indoors time. It means that Piers is the fastest under-20 over the distance indoors in 2016 by a staggering 17 seconds! He’s the second fastest u20 over 3000m in 2016 when both indoor and outdoor times are taken into consideration. Piers’ fastest time outdoors was recorded at Sports City at Manchester in August, this new indoors time is a crazy 44 seconds faster. It goes without saying that we have a new club record.

Results for Wimborne athletes at Bryanston were:

Under-11 girls (44 finishers)
3rd team on the day
Wessex League bronze medallists

5 – Kitty Sharpe – 7:12
8 – Isabella Cox– 7:18
10 – Kate Simmonds– 7:23
12 – Ruby Sargeant – 7:26
14 – Grace Chaffey – 7:31
17 – Amelia Chaffey – 7:40
18 – Maisie Riley – 7:42
23 – Lucie Simmonds – 8:00
37 – Imogen Rawles – 8:38

Under-11 boys (32 finishers)

14 – George Butcher – 7:16
17 – Thomas Jeffery – 7:33

Under-13 girls (20 finishers)

2 – Emily Shaw – 10:45
6 – Sarah Graham – 12:29

Under-13 boys (19 finishers)
2nd team on the day
Wessex League runners-up
3rd place for Wimborne AC ‘B’ team

3 – Tom Fuller – 10:33
5 – Joel Green – 10:53
6 – Ollie Rawles – 10:59
9 – Joe Goodwin – 11:19
12 – Ben Harwood – 11:49
13 – Joe Healey – 11:56
14 – Ben Butcher – 12:01
17 – Jay Dunn – 12:47

Under-17 women (11 finishers)
Wessex League Champions

1 – Grace Copeland – 15:46
2 – Hannah Slater – 17:11
6 – Minty Stubbs – 18:02
7 – Caitlin Rogers – 18:11

Under-17 men (15 finishers)
Equal first team in the Wessex League

1 – Tom Bourne – 13:33
3 – Joe Kelliher – 14:09
6 – Michael Johnson – 14:53
8 – Matt Yates – 14:58
12 – Dan Baynham – 15:36
13 – Elliott Symes – 16:17
14 – Edward Dart – 16:18

Senior women (26 finishers)
Wessex League Champions

2 – Emma Martin – 25:51
4 – Mary Butler – 26:41
5 – Olivia Manson – 28:03
6 – Hannah Acquah – 28:09
10 – Becca Ellis – 29:03
12 – Maddie Williams – 30:00
19 – Jessica Kennedy – 32:54
22 – Alicia Pawson – 34:23

Under-15 girls (24 finishers)
Wessex League Champions
WAC (B) Wessex League runners-up

2 – Abbie Lovering – 13:21
3 – Lulu King – 13:40
4 – Amy Mercer – 13:41
6 – Martha Pawson – 13:50
7 – Holly Nixon – 13:59
8 – Anna Kelliher – 14:00
11 – Demi-Marie Goddard – 14:19
12 – Beth Kingswell-Farr – 14:25
13 – Christa Cripwell – 14:26
17 – Hannah Fairchild – 15:24
18 – Mat Murray – 15:48
19 – Emma Graham – 15:52
20 – Lucy Fortescue – 16:25
23 – Izzie Kingswell-Farr – 17:05

Under-15 boys (15 finishers)
Wessex League Champions
WAC (B) Wessex League runners-up

2 – Ben Martin – 12:35
3 – Max Meadwell – 12:43
6 – Seth Lake – 13:08
9 – Jack Moss-Willcox – 13:31
11 – Zach Fenwick – 13:40
12 – Sam Hughes – 13:58
13 – Josh Jack – 14:00
14 – Charlie Davies – 14:53

Senior men (38 finishers)

9 – Ryan Walbridge – 32:04
18 – Simon Davis – 35:26
24 – Mike Jurd – 36:40
25 – Pete Kingswell-Farr – 36:58
29 – Kerry Mapp – 38:16
30 – Rob Rawles – 38:39

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