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Dorset girls shine in the cold   – 17 March 2018

Ian Kennedy reports from English Schools Champs, Leeds

Having had heavy snow a few weeks earlier, more extreme wintery weather was predicted for the weekend of the English Schools Cross-Country Championships. In the days leading up to it we watched the weather forecasts nervously. Would the event be cancelled? Fortunately it went ahead, and we were in for a bitterly cold, exhausting, but ultimately very rewarding weekend with the Dorset Schools cross-country team.

Temple Newsam Park proved to be a fabulous setting. There was a great viewing point where you could see much of the race as it developed. It was very heavy going underfoot and little of the course was on the flat. Add to this the bitingly cold wind and occasional snow flurries, the runners had a terrific challenge on their hands.

Minty Stubbs (Sherborne Girls/Wimborne AC) and Dom Willmore (Poole Grammar/Poole Runners) were made team captains – with their fantastic enthusiasm, attitude and commitment they bring much more to a team than just their own personal race performances.

  First claim Wimborne AC runners shown in red

At Leeds it was the girls that made the headlines, particularly the Junior Girls. Emily Shaw had a fine race to claim 4th, and an England vest – she would represent England in the Home Internationals a week later. We almost had two Dorset girls in the England team, Emilie Castagna (Poole AC) finished 11th, a single second behind the 8th-placed runner. Only the top eight would get an England call-up … such fine margins. The runners came in thick and fast, Marianna Sawyer came in 13 seconds ahead of Daisy Baker, but in that time there was more than 30 finishers. One amongst that number was Sarah Graham. A year younger than her Wimborne team mates, Sarah’s was a very impressive performance. This team of eight scored the lowest number of points of any team in the category. Based on population, Dorset would be expected to claim around 31st place of the 40-odd counties. To come out on top is a fabulous achievement. The Stedman Trophy travelled back on the bus to Dorset, very well done girls. The trophy wasn’t presented formally … high winds had turned the podium into a tangled heap of timber and steel!

Junior Girls (342 finishers) – 3rd team (with six to count)

4 – Emily Shaw – 11:23 (Bryanston)
11 – Emilie Castagna – 11:39 (Bournemouth School for Girls)
26 – Ashia Wilson – 12:02 (Bournemouth School for Girls)
59 – Marianna Sawyer – 12:21 (Sherborne Girls)
93 – Sarah Graham – 12:33 (Allenbourn)
95 – Daisy Baker – 12:34 (Sherborne Girls)
97 – Amelia Reynolds – 12:35 (LEAF)
145 – Phoebe Clark – 12:49 (Woodroffe)

Josh Smith (Poole AC) was first Junior boy for Dorset, and the only Wimborne AC representative in this category, Tom Fuller, was next home. The Junior Boys team came 35th.

Junior Boys (347 finishers) – 35th team

149 –– Josh Smith – 15:53 (Clayesmore)
154 – Tom Fuller – 15:54 (Blandford)
176 – Seth Hall-Nunn – 16:00 (Beaminster)
194 – Owen Pitcher – 16:04 (Colfox)
257 – Mark Ruby – 16:25 (Poole Grammar)
277 – Carter Stuhlmacher – 16:33 (Bournemouth Collegiate)
286 – Oliver Forsey –16:46 (Colfox)
323 – Liam Nixon – 17:10 (Bournemouth Collegiate)

The Intermediate Girls were 31st, led in by a re-energised Maddy Johnson (Dorchester AC). The next three home – Amy Mercer, Holly Nixon and Christa Cripwell – were all WAC runners.

Intermediate girls (339 finishers) – 31st team

47 – Maddy Johnson – 15:01 (Thomas Hardye)
131 – Amy Mercer – 15:48 (Clayesmore)
183 – Holly Nixon– 16:07 (Gillingham)
200 – Christa Cripwell– 16:12 (Sherborne Girls)
223 – Maddy Herbert – 16:25 (Colfox)
250 – Daisy Davies – 16:40 (Leweston)
285 – Demi Goddard – 17:02 (QE, Wimborne)

The Inter Boys came 32nd team, WAC’s representation here was down to a single runner - Ben Martin.

Intermediate boys (339 finishers) – 32nd team

92 – Chet Gillespie – 19:22 (Woodroffe)
146 – Harry O’Donoghue – 19:44 (Bournemouth Collegiate)
188 – Manny Cox – 20:05 (Colfox)
190 – Freddy Bowhill – 20:06 (Bryanston)
200 – Nat Willmore – 20:11 (Corfe Hills)
276 – Conor Gibb – 21:01 (Clayesmore)
295 – Zac Cloete – 21:18 (Bournemouth Collegiate)
323 – Ben Martin – 22:02 (Poole Grammar)

The Senior Girls came 25th, with Grace Copeland making it into the top 20. She had good support from her team mates, particularly Izzie Taylor (Poole AC). Hannah Slater and Minty Stubbs from WAC were amongst the other contributors.

Senior Girls women (323 finishers) – 25th team

20 – Grace Copeland – 16:43 (QE, Wimborne)
62 – Izzie Taylor – 17:31 (St Edwards)
184 – Hannah Slater – 19:06 (QE, Wimborne)
185 – Izzie Watkins – 19:07 (Thomas Hardye)
218 – Minty Stubbs – 19:29 (Sherborne Girls)
231 – Lizzie Freeman – 19:37 (Bryanston)
283 – Amy Mills – 21:06 (Twynham)
295 – Elsa Charlwood – 21:31 (Clayesmore)

In the Senior Boys, Dom Willmore led the Dorset team home, WAC’s Joey Kelliher was next in, with other WACers Michael Johnson and Ed Dart also in the team.

Senior Boys (312 finishers) – 21st team

29 – Dom Willmore – 24:03 (Poole Grammar)
82 – Joey Kelliher – 25:00 (Gillingham)
104 – Harry Heffer – 25:20 (Bryanston)
174 – Alex D’Arbost – 26:09 (Clayesmore)
195 – Michael Johnson – 26:29 (Blandford)
243 – Angus Cameron – 27:17 (Clayesmore)
262 – Tom Crabtree – 27:43 (Colfox)
292 – Ed Dart – 28:48 (Clayesmore)

The conditions were incredibly testing. The team’s management was led superbly by Gavin Rusling of QE School, Wimborne. Here are some of Gavin’s thoughts on the weekend:

‘A massive thank you to each and everyone of the young athletes who ran … we had 48 superstars and whether they finished 4th or 304th, I see them all as key parts of the collective that was Team Dorset. All gave 100% and all looked after each other, from the moment that we boarded at QE to the moment that we arrived home. 

To see team mates in difficulty at the end of a race and care for them, giving up coats, hats, gloves and making sure they were ok, filled me with great hope for the future. We even had groups of our athletes looking after others from different counties!

Each and every young person was a real credit to their school, clubs, coaches, parents and most of all to themselves …

History was made yesterday. We travelled hoping to defend the Sydney Rose Cup, for combined score of the three girls teams. In the end we finished 3rd of the 15 counties in the category behind Suffolk by around 400 points. However, we did not return home empty handed, our superb Junior Girls team followed up their South West Champs win with a stunning performance. I was already delighted that we had come 3rd as a team to Essex and London when they counted the first 6. That was our best team performance since the late 1990s when we won the same race and beat last years 4th place. I was then called to the tent to sign for a trophy, the Stedman Cup. This is for the team with the lowest score with all 8 of the team to count! For me, that is simply incredible, and the eight young ladies involved should be very proud …

We also came home with two sets of England kit! Grace Copeland collected hers after her fantastic season (2nd in season-long British Athletics Cross Challenge series) has seen her selected for the Schools World Championships in Paris in April and Emily Shaw, whose 4th place earns her a second consecutive appearance at the Home Nations Championships in Nottingham.’


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