It was fantastic to see so many young athletes competing in this year’s Dorset Schools Championships. More than 700 took part over the eight races, an increase of around 100 over last year’s event. The weather was generally kind to us. although there was a breeze which had a bit of a bite to it.
This meeting is the first stop on route to the English Schools Cross Country Championship, which for the second year in row will be held on the fabulous, but demanding, course at Temple Newsam near Leeds. At King’s Park the Dorset athletes were hoping to impress to win selection for the county team of ten in each category that travel to the South West Schools Championships. In the Minor category only the Year 7s can progress to the regional round. For the final, only Juniors, Intermediates and Seniors travel, for which teams of eight are selected. This report takes a look how the Wimborne AC athletes performed. They represented a variety of schools, and mostly wore school colours, although a handful did sport their club vests.
India West was the first WAC Junior Girl home. India is in her first season with the club and has featured in some Wessex League races. On the strength of her performance at King’s Park she’s been selected to represent Dorset at the South West Schools Champs, she’ll also be representing her school at the National Prep School Cross Country Championships in Malvern in March. Isla O’Connor ran in the Wessex League at the season’s opener, and our third place finisher, Imogen Rawles, has competed along with Evie Fuller (not at King’s Park), in all nine league races (Wessex and Hampshire) so far this season. The best represented school for WAC athletes in this category was St Michael’s – Isla O’Connor, Isabelle Hawker and Gracie Bunting. Of the six WACers in the race, four finished in the top third, with Gracie just outside that. Ella Fazakerley was last WACer home, but still coming ahead of 50 other competitors!
Jack Williams was the first WAC runner in the Minor Boys, and he’s been selected to run for Dorset at the South Wests. His twin brother, Tom, also had a strong run and is named as a reserve. Sandwiched between the two Williams’s was Woody Van der Feltz. Woody has to wait for his Dorset call-up as he’s only a Year 6 … so a 14thplace finish for him was very creditable. Particularly in the younger races you were likely to find good athletes taking part, when sometimes cross-country wasn’t their primary event. Harry Woods, Harry Bunting and Max Chater are also very respectable performers as sprinters and long jumpers. Toby Butt, Luke Mogridge and Josh Fricker have all been laying down solid foundations in cross-country this season (the latter two as rookies).
An impressive 17 WACers took part in the Junior Girls race. Iris Courtney saved this race for one of her very best performances. She was 3rd having moved up an age-group this year. Sarah Graham claimed 4th place, with a best yet performance from Birdie Payne for 7th. We still weren’t done with the top 10 either, as Charlotte Wordsworth was 9th. This is a very strong age-group and ‘year young’ runners Isabella Cox and Kate Simmonds were comfortably in the top third, as were Ruby Sargeant and Zara Vaughan. The best represented school for WAC runners was Allenbourn with Kate, Ruby, Maisie Riley, Kitty Sharpe, Lucie Simmonds and Amy Darragh; Dumpton was next with four – Iris, Amelia and Grace Chaffey and Alana Fairchild.
First WAC Junior Boy was Allenbourn’s Tristan Green, but he had plenty of school-mates around him in shape of Oscar Davis, Joe Dewar-Cutts and George Butcher. Getting amongst them were a trio of Blandford boys – Jay Dunn, Josh Fazakerley and Toby Bemand. Jago Smith, despite easily finishing in the top half, did well to finish at all. He’s got an Achilles problem which is likely to see him out of action for a few weeks. We hadn’t seen Teddy Mercer since the first Wessex League meeting at the start of the season … it was good to see him back.
The Intermediate Girls is a category in which the county is phenomenally strong at the moment. It was also the race that provided a WAC race winner – Emily Shaw – and in convincing style too! We had an impressive seven in the top 20 (with Serena Blake 21st too!). Emily along with Daisy Baker and Marianna Sawyer had all stepped up an age-group since last year. It didn’t phase any of them in the slightest. With the formidable Holly Nixon claiming 6th you sense this is an age-group capable of something special as a team when we get to the South Wests. Amongst the toughest of fields, there were eye-catching performances from relative newcomers Emily Wood and Sophie Cook, both have made the reserves list for the South Wests. Lucy Lockwood has made a conscious effort to up her training. This was rewarded here as she claimed a higher place this year than last, despite moving up an age-group. Serena Blake has been keeping a lower profile of late, but 21st in this company was a good result. Ella Browse just missed out on a top half finish, but perhaps she did well to finish at all, she has a suspected stress fracture in her toe. Bella Jones was also in the wars, not able to produce her best due to a sore hip, she was one of six WAC Sherborne Girls in this age-group – the others being Daisy, Marianna, Emily, Sophie and Tils. There was a rare sighting of Abbi Slade at cross-country, in recent times she’s been concentrating on her other activities.
There were some impressive performances from WAC Intermediate Boys. The form book was turned upside down a little bit here, with two ‘year young’ runners coming ahead of their older team mates. Joel Green is one of the most conscientious trainers in the squad and he’s proved in the past that he’s capable of pulling out big performances, this was one such occasion. He had to work pretty hard for his 6thplace though, as Tom Fuller was breathing down his neck. The ‘old guard’ of Charlie Davies, Seth Lake and Ben Martin were next. There were some doubts over whether Charlie would even make it to the start line, having been sick overnight. He did his Lazarus routine, and it was job done, selected for the South Wests along with five of his six team mates. Odd man out was ‘year young’ Ollie Rawles. His 15thplace, in a field of 68, was good enough to see him named as a reserve.
We’d seen huge fields in the younger age-groups, but by the time we got to the Seniors, numbers had fallen into the twenties. Some 29 took part in the girls’ race, and of these six were WACers. Far and away Amy Mercer’s best performance of the season saw her claim 4th. There was also a remarkable run from Martha Pawson for 5th, having only returned to training in recent weeks. A good solid job from Beth Kingswell-Farr sees her safely into the South Wests Dorset team, and Anna Kelliher in 10th also made the cut. Izzie Kingswell-Farr in 13th, was selected as a reserve. It was great to see Yazz Litchfield in action once again. She’s got a busy term with schools races until Easter, but we’re looking forward to seeing her at Thursday night sessions once those races are over.
The Senior Boys went off the same start as the Senior Girls, but they took a different, longer, course. The four WAC athletes all claimed top 10 places, with Dan Baynham first of ours in, having had Michael Johnson in close company for the whole race. Josh Davey’s 8th place sees him selected for the South Wests also, while Sam Hughes is named as first reserve, so is on standby.
It had been a great day’s racing. We now look forward to the regional race, the South West Schools Cross Country Championships at Bath racecourse on Saturday 2 February, before ultimately heading off to Temple Newsam Park in Leeds for the English Schools Cross Country Championships on Saturday 16 March.