Written by Suzanne D
The Stoke Park relays are a quite nice opener to the Cross Country season as the course is not that hilly and with 2.5km fairly short. Race times are used to select athletes for the upcoming Intercounty races. Yet, as the event is in the autumn half term break, it is always difficult to get athletes to run. But with 40 runners entered, we thought we had done well. The day however started with tailbacks and accidents on the A3 and the M25, and both athletes and officials were held back to the point that the start of the races was put back by half an hour. Moreover, last minute phone calls indicated that our teams would be depleted by illnesses and injuries. Anxiously waiting as to who would still manage to turn up. Eventually, the first race got on the way, and this is how we fared.
In the U13 race, Jorge Beltrao set the pace with a great run in 7:56 min (8th fastest time), and he changed over to Ben Collier in 4th place. Ben in 8:19 (23rd fastest time), moved the team up to third, but with experienced and much older runners on the last leg, Olly Wilson had to settle for 4th in the end. Yet Olly ran 8:05 and had the 12th fastest time, so he really couldn’t have done more! In the second team, we started with Matt Cecil in 8:59; sprinter Ben Ashmore showed his stamina with a superb run in 9:22, and Louis Orlovac in 9:27 pushed the team to 19th. Our third team set out with U11 Thomas Ward in 10:58, followed by Sebastian Chang (also U11) in 9:42, closing with guest Lewis Jenkins from Holland Sports in 10:01. The team finished 25th. Given that there were 93 runners and 35 teams, these are results to be really proud of.
Next were the U13 girls. Being down to 4 runners, we had our youngest, Zoe Shepherd and Darcy Mason, run together on the first leg, and they crossed the finishing line together in exactly 9:56 both (24th position). They handed over to Imogen Busa, who was our strongest in 9:28 (35th fastest time) and who moved the team up to 14th. Louisa Stoney in 9:35 got the team to 11th place out of 30, which was an amicable result.
For our U15 boys, we had some very positive surprises. Our first team set out with Sam Shaw who in 7:34 (14th fastest individual time) brought the team to 7th place. Gabriel Lewis in 7:52 (25th) moved the position up to 6th, and in a strong run in 7:33 Zak Wort (13th fastest) moved up to 4th. In the second team, Charlie Heaton and Tiago Beltrao battled it out for the first leg, with Charlie staying ahead in 8:21 and 18th position. Then came Aaron Bruce who in 7:40 (19th overall) firmly placed himself back on the map. In fact, his run was so strong that he pushed the team to 9th. And George Chaplin in 8:11 held the place for a very pleasing top-ten team result.
Next the U15 girls. With Rebecca Keddie and Isabella Busa having had great runs at the recent Surrey League races, I could only but toss a coin to determine who would be in the “A” team. And this is how it worked out: Mollie O’Sullivan had the pressure to lead the race and put as much space between her and the next. She mastered that superbly and in 7:41 – the fastest time of all! - She handed over to Scarlett Walker. Scarlett managed to stay ahead for most of the race, but had to let two girls pass on the home straight. Yet in 8:51 (20th overall), she gave Rebecca a fighting chance to keep the team in the medals. And in 8:47 (19th), Rebecca did just that, and secured a bronze medal for the team. In the second team, Kathryn Bartle, just about coming back from injury, changed over in 11th place (9:05, 22nd overall). Annabel Hobday in 9:10 (25th) moved the team up to 10th, and in an absolutely smashing run (8:44/ 17th), Isabella Busa pushed the team to 7th place. Our third team started out with sprinter Eleanor Bartle in 9:45 in 16th place. Amy Counihan in 9:38 pushed the team to 14th, and Alex Shaw in 10:14 overtook some more to finish in 11th. This shows that, arguably, our U15 girls are the strongest force we currently have.
Our U17 lads had lost one runner to injury already, and then Chris Cecil revealed that he was nurturing a cold and was feeling rather miserable. But they were there, and they ran. Josh Hall showed that he meant business when he handed over in 7:20 (15th fastest) and 8th place. Chris managed 8:01 with illness, and held onto 8th place. Neil Wellard then mowed down everyone in is way (no worries, all survived…), and in an absolutely blistering 7:05 (8th fastest) he pushed the team to 5th place.
Finally the U17 women. With more experienced runners unavailable, we had to rely on sprinter Caitlin Grealy, half-injured Louisa Martin and Tillie Toseland, to represent the club. But they did this with spirit and bravery. Caitlin surprised herself when she found that she ran the course in 10:33. Louise held on in 10:56, and Tillie ran another 10:33. They didn’t wait to find out, but hey girls, you finished 5th!
The most positive surprise came when I compared last year’s and this year’s times. All of those who ran last year held form or pushed their PBs, some significantly. The crowns for the most improved runners go to Ben Collier (1min) and Louisa Stoney (1:14min).
This leaves me to thank all our athletes for the commitment and excellence, and families and friends for their support. Well done to all!
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