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Reflecting on a great campaign – XC awards – 20 March 2016

Ian Kennedy reports from Bere Regis

Our annual cross-country end of season ‘do’ was our biggest yet and brought the curtain down on our best XC season so far.  We combined a Sport Relief three-mile run with some serious paintballing, before presenting our cross-country awards.  All told, a seven-hour marathon!

The Sport Relief event was organised by Andy Kent of Bere Regis Sports & Social Club, he’s one of those good guys, creating sporting opportunities in his community and also in local schools.  It was great to be able to support Andy by bringing along a healthy number of WACers (20+) proudly sporting their red vests.  After the deadly seriousness of the previous three weeks where we have had cross-country runners competing in the Nationals, English Schools and Inter-Counties championships this was just for fun and for the sheer joy of running.  How seriously the run was being taken was indicated by Mary Butler, Grace Palmer and Minty Stubbs.  They decided to run tied together in a four-legged race-style.  A test run over 50 metres seemed to go OK, so while the rest of us were looking very professional in our smart WAC kit these three strode up to the start line.  The course itself was nine laps of the sports field.  I thought they’d be doing well if they completed a single lap tied together.

One lap done and the likes of Sam Davies, Joey Kelliher and Edward Dart were all at the pointy end of the race with a gaggle of red vests slotted in behind them.  To my horror I found I still hadn’t caught the articulated WACers.  They were still moving well when I eventually passed them and they did keep it going for the full three miles!  It took me about seven laps to catch Amelia and Grace Chaffey (under-11s) and even then I had to work hard to hold them off in a sprint finish.  I’m taking that as positive sign for the future, rather than a negative one for my current level of fitness!  

As impressive as the WAC runners were (and perhaps unsurprisingly they were the first ones home), I think we all took second billing to the guy with an artificial leg, who ran three miles carrying a full-size canoe above his head.  I was told he’s using the canoe in a more conventional fashion next week to get from Devizes to Westminster (about 90 miles)!

With the three mile race done, we chilled out at the sports club for around an hour.  The one mile run took place at this time, and it was great to see former WACer Becky Kent taking part.  I was still in my vest and shorts, and although it was officially the first day of spring it wasn’t that warm, so I picked up my keys and made my way back to my car to go and put some more clothes on.  I was in for a shock once I got there.  Someone had got into the Berlingo!  My front seats had new red covers on them (with a black stripe of course); a look over my shoulder helped me to identify the culprits.  Peering over the hedge at me was a bunch of mischievous smirking WACers with, who else but, Paul Hine in the midst of it all.  Thank you guys!  We had time for a coffee and a chance to sample the homemade cakes (there was also a barbecue on the go) at the sports club, before heading about a mile out of the village to Skirmish Paintball deep in the woods on the top of a hill.

With 40 of us paintballing it took quite a while for us to all sign in and get tooled up.  Unfortunately, it was at this point that Charlotte Piper let slip that it was her dad Darren’s birthday.  While the rest of us were all wearing camouflage overalls, Darren was presented with a bright green and yellow onesie which he was vociferously encouraged to don.  Tom Cruise never looked this good … comedy gold!  In fairness to Darren he didn’t seem to offer much resistance to wearing this onesie … perhaps he does it at home!  Anyway, that was one target that was going to be a lot easier to see in the woods.  Over the next three hours-plus we were paintballing and we have the bruises to prove it.  The first game was staged in a mocked-up church and graveyard, before moving into an area where the aim was to take control of a bridge.  The finally scenario was when our two teams took it in turn to attack or defend a fort on top of a hill.  I’d taken a bit of a battering in the first two games, but managed to stay un-hit in the final two until I ran out of ammunition.  Between games we had a break and this gave us chance to sample the healthy cakes that WACers had specially baked for the occasion, flapjacks, etc.  We certainly needed the nutrition because by the time we’d finished paintballing we’d been on the go for more than six hours!


Finally we reached the raison d’être of our day … the cross-country awards for the 2015/2016 season.  Serious stuff at last and the first presentations were the Fidelity Awards.  These are for those who have competed in all the league races in either the Wessex or Hampshire leagues.  Incredibly there were 24 athletes who competed in every Wessex League race, six of those also competed in every Hampshire league race too and that half dozen were awarded ‘Super Fidelity’.  We had one winner of a Hampshire League Fidelity … Hannah Slater.  The number of Fidelity medals required indicates the commitment shown by the Endurance Squad, and this is a major factor in why we have been so successful in team competitions over the past season.  This meant that there was no shortage of competition for ‘Team of the Year’.  Amongst the stronger claims were the u13 boys who came 4th in the Hampshire League and 1st in the Wessex; u13 girls who came 4th in the Hampshires and 2nd in the Wessex; the u15 boys who came 1st in the Wessex, the u17 women who came 1st in the Wessex; the senior women who came 2nd overall and won the masters in the Wessex and the senior men who won promotion into Division Two of the Hampshire League.  However the winner of the ‘Team of the Year’ was our formidable under-15 girls’ team.  Their impressive list of achievements includes becoming Wessex League and South West England Champions, and claiming a podium (3rd) in the South of England Championships.

Moving on to the individual awards, the first pair presented was for female and male ‘Rookie of the Year’.  These are awarded to athletes in their first full season of cross-country regardless of age.  Experience is invaluable and your learning curve is probably at its steepest in that first year.  The award for the girls went to Hannah Slater.  Hannah is the least rookie-looking rookie we’ve ever had!  She’s sailed serenely through her first season without any sort of drama, upset or setback.  She’s run consistently and is towards the top end of scorers in our highly successful under-15s team.  Also, an honourable mention should go to Ella Jeffery whose work rate and commitment cannot be faulted.  Quite a few were in contention for male rookie with Jay Dunn, Joe Healey, Edward Dart and Rob and Ollie Rawles all considered.  The father and son Rawles pairing both represented Dorset at the South West Championships and impressively travelled on a ‘just in case’ basis for the South West Schools.  This year’s award has gone to Rawles the younger!  Ollie’s always smiling, always giving it all he’s got; he’s a great asset to the team.

Of all the categories perhaps the hardest of all to call is the ‘Most Improved’.  For the girls the call was not as difficult, as we had a runner who has previously never won a race at club level claiming a significant regional title, and those of us who were there to witness it will know that it was done in emphatic style.  I’m talking about South West England Cross-Country Champion Holly Nixon.  In a ‘normal’ year Caitlin Rogers, Anna Kelliher, Charlotte Piper and a late surge from Minty Stubbs would have all been in with a shout.  The boys’ title was perhaps not so clear-cut.  After some reflection, the decision has gone to Charlie Davies, but he was pushed very hard by Tom Fuller, who also made great progress this season, and there was another late surge in form from Joey Kelliher too.

The ‘Reporter of the Year’ award has been around for a year or two now and was created to encourage our athletes to contribute to writing race reports for the club website.  Over time we’ve been rewarded with some great contributions.  This year was no different and the award goes to Jessica Eve Kennedy for her account of the South of England Championships at Parliament Hill.

The ‘Top Female Runner of the Year’ goes to Abbie Lovering.  This was a close one to call, but the final three weekends of the season decided the destination for this trophy.  Abbie finished 6th in the Nationals, 20th in the English Schools (where she was bottom of age-group) and 8th in the Inter-Counties, she is also County Champion.  For the previous four years this award has gone to Grace Copeland. Grace once again racked up a notable string of achievements, these included County Champion, Schools County Champion, South West Schools Champion and 2nd in the British Cross Challenge.  This was a very tough decision.

The ‘Top Male Runner of the Year’ wasn’t clear cut either.  It was awarded to Ryan Walbridge.  Ryan was Wessex under-20 champion and he competed in all nine league races, leading our men’s team home on every occasion.  He played a major role in securing our promotion as Champions of Hampshire League Division 3.  Tom Bourne recorded some great results over the winter although all but one of these were in Schools competitions.  He was Schools County Champion, 3rd in the South West Schools and he represented Dorset in the South West England Championships where he came 2nd.  The other great performer over the winter was Piers Copeland.  He competed in two Wessex League races, which he won, plus a Hampshire League one.  He also recorded the best results from a male Wimborne athlete at the Inter-Counties in the final cross-country race of the season.  However, it is at indoor track meetings that Piers has produced his very best performances.  He’s South West England u20 800m Champion, South of England u20 1500m Champion and English National u20 1500m Champion.  He’s set new club records at all these distances as well as at 3000m.  The highlight of Piers’ indoor season was winning selection to represent England in an International against Wales over 800m and recording a win on his debut.  Clearly Piers is far and away our best indoor athlete, but after deliberation the award has gone to Ryan who pulled on a red vest an impressive 10 times (out of a possible 11) during the course of the cross-country season.

The final award of the day is the silver cup ‘The Jean Frost Trophy’.  This is awarded to someone who has made a significant contribution to life of the WAC cross-country team.  We have a growing community of active athletes (we had more than 50 competing in the Dorset Championships alone) and without an awful lot of help and support we would not be able support their needs.  This year’s winner is coach Dave Johnson.  Dave, over the past few years, has been involved in every Tuesday and Thursday training session we run as well as many on Saturdays.  Thank you Dave, we’re really grateful for the time you put into the club.

Some of our awards winners

Wessex Fidelity Awards – Lesley Davies, Sarah Davies, Jay Dunn, Tom Fuller, Josh Jack, Ella Jeffrey, Beth Kingswell-Farr, Matthew Lissenburg, Amy Mercer, Lorraine Moss, Jack Moss-Willcox, Holly Nixon, Sarah Orr, Charlotte Piper, Kate Simmonds, Lucie Simmonds, Ned Simmonds and Elliott Symes

Super Fidelity Awards – Abbie Lovering, Charlie Davies, Caitlin Rogers, Izzie Kingswell-Farr, Michael Johnson and Ryan Walbridge

Team of the year – U15 Girls

Female Rookie of the Year – Hannah Slater 

Male Rookie of the Year – Ollie Rawles

Reporter of the Year – Jessica Eve Kennedy

Most Improved Female Runner – Holly Nixon

Most Improved Male Runner – Charlie Davies

Top Female Runner – Abbie Lovering

Top Male Runner – Ryan Walbridge

Jean Frost Trophy – Dave Johnson




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