Mon 4th Nov 2019
In a repeat of last year’s ground-breaking performance, Winchester’s Under-13 Boys team came home with a second successive haul of bronzes.
A 350 mile round trip to Mansfield in November isn't necessarily high on anyone's priority list. Add in persistent rain, more mud than you can poke a soggy stick at, and the rival attraction of a rugby world cup final taking place on a television in your living room, and it might be that staying at home looks all the more enticing. Not so for WADAC's hardy junior cross-country runners and their committed parents...
Berry Hill Park in Mansfield has been the home of the Saucony National Cross Country Relays for the last 28 years, and many of us look forward to what is undoubtedly one of the season's highlights, with hundreds of clubs and thousands of athletes from across England competing for the right to be national champions. Winchester's recent revival as a major player in both junior and senior endurance running events has seen the club's presence grow at events like Saturday's, and so it was that some 12 teams donned the black and gold and took on the opposition and the conditions.
WADAC's first involvement on Saturday saw the trio of Isabella Beck, Aisling Dunne and Hannah Foster taking to the field for the U17 women's race, and they proceeded to set the tone for the day with a creditable 11th place finish in a field of 49 teams.
Next up was the event in which Winchester coaches held the highest hopes. Last year's U13 boys' race had seen the club secure its first national-level junior medals, and with a high-quality 'A' team of Stan Parkinson, James Lewis and Ollie Stephenson this time round, even in a hugely competitive field, a repeat performance seemed possible. And so it proved, with the boys working their way up to take third place with about 400m to go on the final leg. The strength in depth that Winchester has in this division was clearly underlined by the results achieved by the 'B' and 'C' teams, with Will Hasan, Ieuan Thomas and Jack Moores taking 14th place, only a minute behind their team-mates, and then Tom Grote, Aiden Furby and Ruben Price in 31st place a further minute back. So three teams comfortably in the top third of a national field and great competition for places going forward.
A late withdrawal unfortunately upset the U13 girls’ team, but the performances put in by our two lower age-group runners, Poppy Taylor and Scarlett Anderson, leaving them in the top third of the field at the end of leg two, were a great testament to their quality and determination.
Winchester’s Under-15 girls had claimed a surprise 7th place in this event in 2018, and this time they too produced a repeat, again finishing 7th as the muddy conditions worsened and the ground became heavier and heavier. This year Rose Chesterfield and Amelia Moore were joined by Millie Burgess on leg three, and the girls were a model of consistency as they ran the whole race in a fairly tight group just outside the front three teams.
The last junior involvement for WADAC saw three teams of Under-15 boys brave what had now become a quagmire, and finish between 25th and 58th positions in a starting field of 116, so again, decent results and exciting progress for the club in terms of depth of competing athletes. Well done to Harry, Harry, Ben, Ben, Connor, Alex, Thomas, Charlie and Sam.
With the junior races now done, the rain stopped and the sun came out in time for Winchester’s senior men to take to the field. Our team of Tom Oliver, Andy Parkinson, Sam Appleton and Matt Grote also secured a top-half finish in a high quality starting line-up of some 190 teams.
All our hardy cross country runners can now return very quickly to the fray with this Saturday’s home Hampshire League fixture at Sparsholt.