U11 B Start Fairthorne 2019 Paul Ham

Sat 5th Jan 2019

An incredible haul of four team wins in seven races, and over 100 entrants, underlines WADAC’s progress in junior distance-running.

The annual Hampshire Cross-Country Championships held at Fairthorne Manor, Botley, saw just over 100 WADAC U11s, U13s, U15s & U17s take to this popular course; the equivalent of one in four of all junior athletes present. On a cold, bright day, and with the course in much drier condition than in previous years, the black and gold was everywhere as another fabulously-organised event played out.

The competition began with an unprecedented 46 Winchester entries in the Under-11 boys race. Will Hasan again lead the way, finishing 2nd, and the scoring team was completed by Ruben Price (9th), Sam Wilkinson (11th) and Haydn Moore (14th). To Southampton AC’s credit, this was not enough to deny them the team gold medals, and in a tightly-fought contest throughout, WADAC’s boys had to settle for team silvers. The Winchester ‘B’ team underlined the club’s strength in depth by finishing fourth, through Casper Wilson (18th), Sam Nicholson (19th), Ethan Skipwith (23rd) and Felix Bowyer (24th). The race was notable also for the excellent runs in their first-ever race by many year 4 and year 5 Winchester juniors. Well Done to all of them.

The Under-11 girls race saw four clubs in the mix for the team medals, and it was ultimately to be bronzes for Winchester, the scoring team being Poppy Taylor (9th from lower year), Scarlett Anderson (10th), Rebecca Hutchings (17th) and Hannah Lowe (18th, also from lower year). Here too, there were very promising debuts from several younger WADAC athletes.

The most eagerly-anticipated race of the day was perhaps the Under-13 boys, a category which has been so closely contested in the Hampshire League this season. The Championship race lived up fully to that billing, with an incredible one point separating the top three teams at the end of the event. A rare second-place for James Lewis, behind Aldershot’s Dan Shattock, with George Lambert of Southampton in 3rd, set the tone for the three-way club tussle. Next home for WADAC was Ben Chesterfield (6th), and with the medals in the balance, sprint finishes by Tom Grote (12th) and Stan Parkinson (13th) completed the scoring-team and left a tense wait for the arithmetic to be done. Crucially however, Winchester’s fifth finisher, Ollie Withers (16th) had pushed the Southampton and Aldershot fourth runners into 17th & 18th places respectively, thus giving WADAC the gold medals by a single point ahead of the other two clubs. This was the first of two examples of the essential role played by all team members, not just the scorers, in a club’s team result.

The Under-13 girls category has been dominated this season by Southampton AC, and so it was again as they stormed to victory here. For Winchester, Emma Shedden gave arguably her best-ever performance in a distance-race, with a well-paced run to finish 9th. Supported as usual by Jaz Jones (20th), Lara Bassett (26th) and Aisling Hitchman (27th), the Winchester team came 5th on the day.

Just as dominant as the Southampton U13 girls, and for two years longer, has been the current Aldershot Under-15 boys cohort. And so the story looked set to continue, as their top runners finished 1st and 2nd again. Sam Roberts for Winchester has shown himself capable of superb performances on occasions, and this was one of them as he ran strongly from gun to tape to take 4th place, easily his most impressive XC run to date. With Doug Scally finishing well to move up to 8th on the run-in, silver medals looked nailed-on for WADAC, especially as James Medley (12th) and Dominic Exworthy (13th) also produced really strong runs to finish just behind Aldershot’s third runner. So a ten-point deficit for WADAC with three runners home, but a seven-point cushion over 3rd placed Jersey Spartans. But the late drama was yet to unfold, as once again the fifth runner came into play. Harry Harvey (21st), in his best display for over a year, held off Aldershot’s fourth finisher (23rd), to take the team medal contest to 37 points each and a countback. With Dominic’s 13th beating Aldershot’s 23rd in the tie-breaker, the implausible had happened, and Winchester had another set of team golds to their name. And there was more to come…

Winchester’s U15 girls had recorded three team victories to date in this season’s Hampshire League, and the move from three to four scoring runners in the Championships proved no obstacle, as once again the rock-solid squad came through with multiple top-ten finishes. First home for individual bronze was Rose Chesterfield (3rd), followed closely by Amelia Moore (4th) running superbly again, a rejuvenated Lily Neate (6th), Hannah Foster (7th) and Millie Burgess (10th), all finishing ahead of nearly every athlete from either the second- or third-placed clubs and recording a dominant team win.

The WADAC U17 girls team has endured a season of misfortune in that one or another of a small squad has been unavailable for each Hampshire League race to date. But on Championship day, they had the three needed to form a scoring team. Aisling Dunne, in the form of her life, stormed home to individual silver in 2nd place, and with Alice Calder 4th and Sasha Tydeman 5th, Winchester’s fourth gold-medal haul of the day was assured.

On a day of great club success, however, one of the highlights was the huge turnout not just of athletes, by far the biggest contingent of juniors from any club, but also of coaches and parent-helpers, whose contribution was essential in managing a packed programme of races. So grateful thanks to all in a great team effort.

Medals :

Gold : U13 boys team, U15 boys team, U15 girls team, U17 girls team.

Silver : Will Hasan (U11), James Lewis (U13), Aisling Dunne (U17), U11 boys team.

Bronze : Rose Chesterfield (U15), U11 girls team.

Picture credit : "Copyright: hammy8241"