Wimborne Athletic Club

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WAC Cross-Country Awards Night – 30 March 2014

Reporting on a season to remember.

Preparing for a mass descent in ringos at Snowtrax

Around 50 of us attended the Wimborne AC cross-country awards night at Snowtrax at Christchurch which wrapped up our most extraordinary season. The wettest of winters made it even harder work than usual, and our thrill a minute ride saw squad members hit some real heights. The highest point of all of course came when Grace Copeland became Wimborne’s first-ever National Champion. The season wasn’t without its incident and tribulations too. Not the least of these was Joe Miles’ spiking injury incurred at Goodwood in November. Joe’s foot became infected and he spent almost a week in hospital, twice requiring surgery, before the wound finally started to heal. That injury ruled Joe out for the remainder of the season, although he finally returned to training in early March. However, you can’t keep a good man down, and he and team-mate Jason Sotheran have since completed a 70km tri-challenge (by kayak, bike and run) and raised a significant amount of money for the Julia’s House Children Hospice – great work guys.

Clearly there were significant individual performances throughout the season, but much of the success has its root in the terrific team spirit within the squad. This is illustrated by the large number of athletes who won Fidelity Awards. Of all the awards, perhaps the most difficult to place were the ‘Most Improveds’ as so many made significant progress. With the improving performances many found they were being called upon to compete in even more events, proudly pulling on County vests for both athletic club and school. Indeed, at some stage in the season Lucy Ballam; Dan Baynham; Tom Boulton; Charlotte, Jess & Tom Bourne; Grace, Mark & Piers Copeland, Sam Davies, Iain Donnelly, Josh Downie, Elise Gill, Ella Hearne; Abbie Hine; Michael Johnson; Callum Kennedy; Beth, Issie & Pete Kingswell-Farr; Fern & Tom Morrison; Liam Murphy-Parry; Fraser Read; Jason Sotheran; Becca Skeats; Elliott Symes; Ryan Walbridge; Maddie Williams and Matt Yates, 30 Wimborne athletes in all, represented the county. All this led to something of a fixture pile-up in February, and on one day a fixture clash saw the squad split between a Hampshire League meeting and the South West Inter-Counties Schools Championships.

The Fidelity Awards are presented to those who have competed in every race in the respective leagues throughout the season. Because of that fixture clash, those on course for Hampshire Fidelity Awards up to that date who were called upon to represent Dorset have been included in the medal winners. In all we were delighted to award 11 Hampshire Fidelity medals – very well done to Lucy Ballam, Tom Bourne, Mark Copeland, Josh Downie, Elise Gill, Abbie Hine, Michael Johnson, Callum Kennedy, Becca ‘Scooter’ Skeats, Ryan Walbridge and Maddie Williams. We also managed 10 ever-presents in the Wessex League races – Wessex Fidelities were won by Jessica Bourne, Charlie Davies, Robert Hughes, Ava Keay, Bethanie Kingswell-Farr, Abbie Lovering and Fern & Tom Morrison. The sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that there are only eight names there, that is because Issie & Pete Kingswell-Farr collected ‘Super Fidelities’ having competed in every race in both leagues. That’s tremendous commitment from all these athletes over the season, and there are a number of others who were only a race or two from collecting medals too!

It’s important for the club’s future that each year we attract new athletes, and in recognition of this we have our ‘Rookie’ trophies. This year we were spoilt for choice as to where these medals should be placed. For the boys Dan Baynham got the decision. Dan first trained with us in late November, but ran in the County Championships as an unaffiliated runner. That performance saw him win selection for Dorset in the Inter-Counties Championships, and he signed up as a Wimborne athlete on 1 January. He made a very encouraging debut at King’s Park in the Hampshire League and recorded a terrific result in the Inter-Counties Championships where he was 3rd Dorset runner home having started from the back of the pen. The girls’ trophy went to Lucy Ballam. Lucy was with us almost from the start of the season, and in the Hampshire League she competed in every race. She had a great debut at Reading, and from there on just seemed to improve every time she ran. High points in her season included her bronze medal in the County Championships and coming in second in her race for Dorset in the Inter-Counties. What’s even more impressive is that Lucy was in the lower half of the age-group in both those races.

There was lively competition from squad members for the ‘Most Improved’ trophies with many in contention. The girls’ trophy was awarded to Jessica Bourne. Jess has really matured as a runner since last season, and her improving results are great evidence of this. The boys’ trophy went to Michael Johnson, he competed during the track season last summer, but this was his first cross-country season with the club. Michael’s work ethic in training sets a great example to others and ensured that he made great strides as the season progressed. He won a bronze medal in the County Championships In December, by March he was second Dorset runner home in the Inter-Counties Championships in Birmingham.

Last year saw the introduction of a new award – the team trophy. This was awarded to the under-13 boys, although our under-17 women (Charlotte Bourne, Ella Hearne, Abbie Hine & Becca Skeats – who between them won every medal available to them in the Wessex League) also recorded some great performances and were very unfortunate to miss out. Eight boys represented us in the under-13 age-group, these were Dan Baynham, Robert Hughes, Michael Johnson, Max Meadwell, Tom Morrison, Liam Murphy-Parry, Seb Miles and Elliott Symes. Our under-13 boys team were Wessex League Champions and it was often Liam who led the team home in races. They put in some great performances in the Hampshire League too, never finishing lower than 5th team in a league where we are competing against much bigger clubs (Aldershot, Basingstoke, Camberley, Portsmouth, Southampton, Reading, Winchester for example), until the final race of the season that is. In that race the individuals within the team had performed so well during the winter months that many of them had been called up to represent Dorset in the South West inter-Counties Schools Championships and so we were unable to field a complete team for the final Hampshire League fixture.

The Top Male Runner Award went to Tom Bourne. He had a fine campaign in the Hampshire League, with a particularly memorable race at Popham and he finished third in the Hampshire averages (despite being bottom of age-group). Tom was runner-up in the South West Inter-Counties Schools Championships and he was Wimborne’s and Dorset’s best-placed runner in the English Schools Championships.

As Grace Copeland was presented with her award for Top Female Runner she received a spontaneous, and richly-deserved, standing ovation. Grace has had the most extraordinary season. Amongst her achievements this year she was third in the British Cross Challenge, won her age-group in the Hampshire League, is Dorset County Champion, South West England Champion and English National Cross Country Champion. Grace’s finish at the ‘Nationals’ was thrilling to witness. What more needs to be said?

The final award of the evening was the Jean Frost Trophy, this is awarded for contributing to the success of the WAC cross-country team as a whole. It was won by coach Bob Smith. Bob first became involved with the club part-way through the previous cross-country season. Our middle distance runners enjoyed a hugely successful summer on the track in no small part due to his input. In late summer, news that he would be moving to Wales came as a real blow, but Bob assured us that he would continue to provide support from afar. He has been true to his word, and even though he is based many miles away, his input, advice and influence has, if anything, continued to grow. The mileage he has covered over the winter has been phenomenal as, if Wimborne athletes have been competing, Bob has been there. His contribution to the team has been a major factor in helping our fine young athletes step up to the next level.

Our athletes have certainly given us a season to remember. The strength in depth of the squad is emphasised by the quality of some of those who did not pick up the big awards on the night but who nevertheless made great contributions over the course of the season. Honourable mentions should go to County Champions Piers Copeland, Callum Kennedy and Ryan Walbridge and Wessex League Champions Abbie Hine, Liam Murphy-Parry and Jason Sotheran. The future looks bright as we have some promising looking under-11s coming through too, look out for these names in the future – Ben Butcher, Charlie Davies, Aimee Figg, Chloe Fleming, Lily Gallimore, Lucy Gladdis, Joel Green, Lydia Hughes, Ava Keay, Abbie Lovering, Jordan McGregor, Jack Moss-Willcox, Derry Sowinski-Brown and Lucy Tipping. All of these, and plenty of others, spent their blood, sweat and tears on the very, very boggy and muddy cross-country courses of England during this extremely wet winter.

It’s a big team effort with huge commitment and co-operation between athletes, coaches and some very supportive parents – Pete Kingswell-Farr for instance has taken the first step on the coaching ladder, with others set to follow him. With a big squad of different ages and gender it wouldn’t be possible to run the sessions the way we do without those willing hands working the stopwatches on those cold winter training nights – thank you all.

Summer’s around the corner, now let’s see what we can do on the track!


Award Winners – 2013/2014 season

Hampshire League Fidelity Award – Lucy Ballam, Tom Bourne, Mark Copeland, Josh Downie, Elise Gill, Abbie Hine, Michael Johnson, Callum Kennedy, Becca Skeats, Ryan Walbridge, Maddie Williams

Wessex League Fidelity Award – Jessica Bourne, Charlie Davies, Robert Hughes, Ava Keay, Bethanie Kingswell-Farr, Abbie Lovering, Fern Morrison, Tom Morrison

Super Fidelity Award – Isabelle Kingswell-Farr, Pete Kingswell-Farr

Male Rookie of the Year – Daniel Baynham
Female Rookie of the Year – Lucy Ballam

Most Improved Male Runner – Michael Johnson
Most Improved Female Runner – Jessica Bourne

WAC Team of the Year – Under-13 boys (Daniel Baynham, Robert Hughes, Michael Johnson, Max Meadwell, Tom Morrison, Liam Murphy-Parry, Seb Miles, Elliott Symes)

Top Male Runner – Tom Bourne
Top Female Runner – Grace Copeland

Jean Frost Trophy – Bob Smith


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