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 WAC teams dominate in Wessex League  – 10 December 2017

Ian Kennedy reports from Wessex League race 4 and County Champs

Some of our biggest heroes were our marshals (amongst them Richard, Nicola and Andy)
who spent more than four hours in the most horrendous conditions

The Wessex League has had something of a chequered history in the past decade, with the absolute nadir coming in the 2011/2012 season. I’m happy to report that since those dark days there have been year-on-year improvements on numbers competing and the quality of the competition. The league finds itself in the rudest health it’s been in since Martin Thomas’s fine work all those years ago. Bryanston school is a marvelous setting for a cross-country race, and this year the school generously agreed to the league staging two of the season’s four races in its grounds (on almost entirely different courses).

The previous time the Wessex League used the ‘River’ course at Bryanston was in December 2016, and on that occasion we were bathed in glorious sunshine with what you might call ‘T-shirt weather’. In 2017 it was payback time! It was a bitterly cold day, with gusty winds that wrecked the team tents from both Wimborne and Poole AC. For much of the day it rained too, adding to the already sodden conditions – our marshals stationed down by the boat house most definitely needed their wellies. The runners would be sploshing their way past them all day. In all we had between 30 and 40 volunteers helping staging the event, the vast majority coming from Wimborne AC, but with some key contributions from our Team Dorset partners. A big thank you to everyone.  These were quite possibly the worst weather conditions Wimborne AC has ever hosted a cross-country race in – only the race at Kingston Lacy in March 2012 comes close.   

Since 2012 race 4 of the Wessex League has also doubled up as the Dorset County Championships. Apart from league honours, there were County Championship medals to be won too, and for those Championship runners there was the chance to win guaranteed selection for the Inter-Counties Championships in March 2018 by claiming a top four finish.

Our first race of the day was the under-11 races. This age-group was the only one that was a non-championship event. The dire conditions did little put off these young battlers. There were more than 80 finishers over the two under-11 races. Remarkably all four of our girls will claim Fidelity Awards for competing in every single Wessex League race this season. Best placed on the day was Isabelle Hawker, but it was our second-placed runner, Imogen Rawles, who finished highest WACer in the averages over four races.  Our team was completed by Evie Fuller and Georgia Slade. The reward for these girls’ hard work over the season was a 6th place team finish in their age-group. They also received support from Freya Escott earlier in the season.

Under-11 girls (42 finishers) ­- 8th team on day,
        6th team for the season

19 – Isabelle Hawker – 8:05 – 22nd in season averages
20 – Imogen Rawles – 8:06 – 19th in season averages
35 – Evie Fuller – 8:54 – 26th in season averages
39 – Georgia Slade – 9:02 – 31st in season averages


So to the under-11 boys, Jack Williams must be ruing the fact that the under-11s race is not part of the Dorset Championships. He finished 4th, but was Dorset’s highest finisher. There were top 10 finishes for Woody van der Feltz and Harry Butcher too. The Archies (Cunningham and Downie) were next home and they’ve been great value all season.  Tom Williams and Ollie Green came in two seconds apart with the Archies in their sights. The Green household has been battling with the lurgy over recent weeks and neither Ollie or older brother Joel (an under-15) were able to show their true form. The U15Bs team finished the season as Wessex league bronze medalists.

Under-11 boys (47 finishers) ­– 2nd team on day,
      and Wessex League  bronze medalists

4 – Jack Williams – 6:58 – 5th in season averages
7 – Woody Van der Feltz – 7:04
10 – Harry Butcher – 7:20
15 – Archie Cunningham – 7:35 – 9th in season averages
20 – Archie Downie – 7:42 – 10th in season averages
22 – Tom Williams – 7:50 – 11th in season averages
23 – Ollie Green – 7:52 – 12th in season averages
42 – Jack Doran – 9:12 – 24th in season averages

The first race with Dorset Championship medals at stake was the under-13 girls. This is where WAC claimed it’s first Dorset medal, silver for Iris Courtney. Iris was also amongst the honours in the Wessex League – bronze for her season’s efforts. Sarah Graham has had the edge blunted on her performance over recent weeks due to a heavy cold, but she still claimed a top 10 finish. Looking stronger and tougher with each race was Isabella Cox in the final team scoring position. The team has been spearheaded by Iris and Sarah, but with fantastic support from a number of other very promising athletes, those on show here were Kate Simmonds (who had won her first PEDSSA race earlier in the week), Kitty Sharpe and Maisie Riley. Ruby Sargeant was on site and prepared to run, however she had a headache and sensibly accepted advice not to compete. Ruby had competed in all the other Wessex League races this season, her performances placed her 22nd in the averages. The team were Wessex League silver medalists.

Under-13 girls (31 finishers) ­– 2nd team,
      Wessex League silver medalists

4 – Iris Courtney – 12:18 – Silver medalist DCC,
      bronze medalist WXC
8 – Sarah Graham – 12:45 – 4th in season averages
15 – Isabella Cox – 13:15 – 12th in season averages
17 – Kate Simmonds – 13:22 – 18th in season averages
22 – Kitty Sharpe – 14:00 – 20th in season averages
23 – Maisie Riley – 14:02

The WAC under-13 boys are Wessex League Champions. Not all were on show at Bryanston, but leading them home here was Tristan Green. His second place saw him claim a Dorset County silver medal. The adverse weather conditions seemed to inspire some – Teddy Mercer’s top 10 finish is his best race yet. In the third team scoring position on the day was Jay Dunn, who finished best-placed of all the Wimborne athletes in the averages. Both Teddy and Jay have competed in every Wessex race this season and played an important part in the team’s success.  Thomas Jeffery has only missed one race all season and he was our next home, with the team being completed by Joe Healey. This race also saw our first casualty to the conditions. Oscar Davis has had some cracking performances this season, but here the cold and wet did for him and he retired on the final lap.

Under-13 boys (18 finishers) ­– 3rd team on day,
      Wessex League Champions

2 – Tristan Green – 11:38 – Dorset CC silver medal
10 – Teddy Mercer – 12:20 – 7th in season averages
13 – Jay Dunn – 12:34 – 6th in season averages
17 – Thomas Jeffery – 13:40 – 9th in season averages
18 – Joe Healey – 13:46

The under-17 women is a very strong age-group for us. Not only are we Wessex League Champions, our ‘B’ team are silver medalists! Amy Mercer was first red home on the day – she is also the Wessex League Champion for the age-group. One of the biggest talking points was the return of Martha Pawson, after what seems like an eternity out injured – it’s been six months. She’s only just got running again and has yet to get back properly into training. It was an extraordinary achievement to be second Wimborne home at Bryanston. Beth Kingswell-Farr’s strong  7th place saw her placed 4th in the season’s averages. In close proximity to Beth was Anna Kelliher, with Hannah Slater next claiming the Wessex League bronze medal. It’s great to see Caitlin Rogers back in cross-country again and she was our next over the line. Completing the team were Izzie Kingswell-Farr and Molly Slade. Izzie was one of three U17W ever-presents – the others being Amy and Beth. Molly is a relative newcomer to the team and this was easily her best performance so far.

Under-17 women (17 finishers) ­– 1st team on day,
       Wessex League Champions
       Wimborne ‘B’ silver medalists

4 – Amy Mercer – 18:57 – Wessex League Champion
6 – Martha Pawson – 19:10
7 – Beth Kingswell-Farr – 19:14 – 4th in season averages
8 – Anna Kelliher – 19:17
9 – Hannah Slater – 19:24 – Wessex League bronze medalist
12 – Caitlin Rogers – 20:51
13 – Izzie Kingswell-Farr – 23:06 – 6th in season averages
14 – Molly Slade – 23:14

This view of Minty, Martha, Beth and Amy gives an idea of the conditions

The under-17 men was another age-group where we were Wessex League Champions. Over the season the groundwork for the team win was largely done by Michael Johnson with support from Josh Davey. One again Michael was out there putting in the big shift for the team and claiming an individual Wessex silver and Dorset bronze medal. Michael’s form has improved as the season has progressed, in fact he’s beaten the winner of the Wessex League gold medal in the final two races of the season. We haven’t seen too much of Dan Baynham this cross-country season, but he was back with a bang here with a very impressive performance. It was great to see Sam Hughes in action too for his first Wessex League race of the season. The team was completed by Zach Fenwick and he was returning too, his only previous Wessex League race was the season’s opener. Josh didn’t compete in the final race, although he had competed in all previous Wessex events – he took the Wessex League bronze medal in this age-group.

Under-17 men (12 finishers) ­– 2nd team on day,
      Wessex League Champions

3 – Michael Johnson– 15:44 – Wessex League silver medalist,
      Dorset bronze medalist
4 – Dan Baynham – 16:08
7 – Sam Hughes – 16:43
10 – Zach Fenwick – 17:31

The senior women’s race went off on the same start as the U17s, but the u20s and seniors had an extra lap to cover. Leading the team in was Minty Stubbs, and in the process she claimed a Dorset silver medal in the u20s. She’s put in some fine performances all season and is Wessex League U20W’s Champion. Also in the top 10, and finishing 4th in the senior women’s Wessex League averages is Hannah Acquah. Jess Kennedy was next she appeared to relishing the tough conditions. Completing the team was Tina Mercer. Tina crossed the line distressed, but she was never going to give up. She was struggling with falling blood sugar levels as well as the trials the weather was bringing. Lesley Davies had competed in all the other Wessex races but wasn’t well enough to race at Bryanston, she finished 13th in the averages. Although Lesley was unable to run she put in a valuable shift as a marshal. The women’s team won bronze in the Wessex League.

Senior women (21 finishers) ­– 4th team on the day,
      Wessex League bronze medalists

5 – Minty Stubbs – 28:12 –  2nd under-20 on the day,
      u20 Wessex League Champion
      3rd in Women’s Wessex League averages
      and DCC silver medalist
8 – Hannah Acquah – 29:55 – 4th in season averages
19 – Jess Kennedy – 36:52 – 9th in season averages
21 – Tina Mercer – 37:49 – 11th in season averages

The penultimate race is the joint start for the under-15 girls and boys. Emily Shaw is Dorset County Champion for 2017, this despite a scare earlier in the week when she went down with a cold and was unable to train in the week. Emily is also Wessex League Champion. Holly Nixon was 5th on the day and she found herself amongst the Wessex medals, claiming bronze. Our final finisher and point scorer was Abbi Slade, and she helped secure the team’s second place on the day. Our under-15 girls’ team are Wessex League Champions. Also on the start line we had Abbie Lovering in her first cross-country race of the season. A combination of the conditions and trying to juggle training for multi-events caught her out, and she pulled up on the final lap. Daisy Baker had competed in all the other Wessex League races, but a fixture clash ruled her out of this one, her season’s average saw her placed 4th. Daisy was having a pretty good day elsewhere though, she headed off to the GB Indoor Rowing Championships where she claimed two silver medals and sees herself ranked No 2 for GB in her age-group.

Under-15 girls (21 finishers) ­– 2nd team on day,
      Wessex League Champions

1 – Emily Shaw – 13:36 – Wessex League Champion
      & Dorset County Champion
5 – Holly Nixon – 14:28 – Wessex League bronze medalist
18 – Abbi Slade – 16:45 – 13th in season averages

The under-15 boys age-group is one of our strongest. They are Wessex League Champions, with the ‘B’ team taking silver. There’s a great deal of talent with little to choose between them, so you can be in the ‘A’ team’ in one race and find yourself in the ‘B’ team in the next one. Seth Lake was our first runner home, 3rd, but 2nd Dorset so he has a Dorset CC silver medal. He also claimed the Wessex silver, with Ben Martin getting bronze. The strength in depth of the squad is illustrated by the fact that 4th, 5th and 6th in the Wessex League averages are all Wimborne (Tom Fuller, Charlie Davies and Joel Green).  Ollie Rawles is one of four WAC U15B Wessex ever-presents – the others being Seth, Charlie and Joel. Josh Jack has competed in both the races at Bryanston this season, he was on his own patch, he’s a pupil here.

Under-15 boys (18 finishers) ­– 1st team on day
      and Wessex League Champions
      Wimborne ‘B’ silver medalists

3 – Seth Lake – 13:26 – Wessex League silver medalist,
      Dorset silver medalist
5 – Ben Martin – 13:31 – Wessex League bronze medalist,
       Dorset bronze medalist
6 – Charlie Davies – 13:36 – 5th in season’s averages
7 – Tom Fuller – 13:39 – 4th in season’s averages
13 – Ollie Rawles – 14:14 – 11th in season’s averages
14 – Josh Jack – 14:47
15 – Joel Green – 15:10 – 6th in season’s averages

The final race of the day, was also the longest one – four laps. By this time the light was starting to dip away. Our men’s team was led in by Simon Davis, and indeed he finishes the season our highest-placed senior man in the averages. Next home was Ed Dart, he was 3rd under-20 man and claims a Dorset CC bronze medal. Ed is one of those who, having come in the top four in the County Champs, is guaranteed selection for the Inter-Counties in Dorset green come March. Mike Jurd renewed his acquaintance with Pete Kingswell-Farr. They’d spent much of the Hampshire League race at Popham in close proximity.  Pete is the only one of our senior men to have raced in all four Wessex races this season. The team was completed by Kerry Mapp. Also on the start line was another under-20, Sam Davies. The increasingly heavy conditions as the course cut up over the day did his hamstring few favours, and he wasn’t able to make it to the finish line. Richard Davies competed in the previous three races and his average for the season saw him placed 29th. Richard was another of those doing a sterling job as a marshal.

Senior men (39 finishers) ­

14 – Simon Davis – 36:13 – 10th in season’s averages
22 – Ed Dart – 37:41 – 3rd u20,
        Dorset u20 bronze medalist
26 – Mike Jurd – 39:24
27 – Pete Kingswell-Farr – 40:24 – 19th in season’s averages
28 – Kerry Mapp – 41:01


This race wrapped up another succesful Wessex League season for Wimborne. Going into the new year it doesn’t let up, as we have two remaining Hampshire League fixtures as well as the big Championship races. It’s time to get a new tent and prepare ourselves for the challenges that lay ahead.



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