Mon 5th Nov 2018
WADAC's 26 junior athletes represented the club with distinction at Mansfield on Saturday, with the Under-13 Boys' A team returning South with the club's maiden National Championship team medals.
Building on last year's return to the National Cross-Country Relay Championships after an absence of several years, Winchester fielded nine teams of Under-13s and Under-15s on a day of beautiful conditions at Berry Hill Park, Mansfield. The undulating 2k course of parkland and woodland, although much drier than in some previous years, was as testing as ever for the packed fields of athletes from clubs the length and breadth of England.
First off were the Under 13 boys, and WADAC's best hope of a top-5 finish in the form of the 'A' team of James Lewis, Michael Shingleton-Smith and Ben Chesterfield. A change of tactics saw James on leg one, and he made light of his age disadvantage to come home in second place for the handover to Michael. Continuing his excellent recent form, Michael held on to second spot and it was the turn of Ben, up against the fastest runners that many teams had held back for the final leg. Despite losing second very early on, Ben showed true resilience to hold off all other challengers and then to stretch away up the hill to take a comfortable third place and the bronze medals. Meanwhile, the 'B' team of Stan Parkinson, Charlie Kyle and Toby Pace were locked in their own battle for supremacy, and it was Toby who held off Cambridge & Coleridge on the run-in to ensure that the boys were the first 'B' team home, giving WADAC two teams in the top 25, out of over 100 entries.
The two teams of Under-13 girls were next, with all but one of them making their Mansfield debuts. With the 'A team of Emma Shedden, Lara Bassett and Jasmine Jones, all in good recent form, coming home in a creditable 29th place, and the 'B' team of Phoebe McGee, Lauren McGee and Safiya Husain in 69th despite having two lower-year athletes, this again represented a strong performance in a starting field of 98 teams.
The Winchester Under-15 girls fielded three teams, such is the depth of talent available now in that age group. Again with two lower-year athletes, the 'A' team of Rose Chesterfield, Amelia Moore and Hannah Foster surpassed all expectations, racing in the top ten more-or-less from gun to tape, and finishing in 7th place, some 37 seconds behind the winners. There was an excellent performance too from the 'B' team of Millie Burgess, Lily Neate and Ellie McErlean, finishing in 30th, ahead of the majority of 'A' teams, again in a field of over 100. The 'C' team of Katie Nicholson and Clemmie Rydon were slightly hampered by the unfortunate absence of the third-leg runner, but nevertheless ran well in a really impressive overall display from the Winchester girls.
Last off for the WADAC juniors were two teams of Under-15 boys, missing a couple of regulars but competitive nonetheless. The 'A' team of Doug Scally, Dominic Exworthy and Harry Harvey, like their female counterparts, started strongly in arguably the toughest junior division, and spent much of the race in the top 10 teams. But this is a cohort that has seen Aldershot dominate for the last several seasons, and they weren't to be denied, finishing 1st, 2nd & 5th with their three teams. Alongside our 'A' team, ultimately home in 25th place, was the 'B' team of Connor Dutton, Thomas Briggs and Ben Schofield, with Connor & Ben representing the club at this level for the first time. Storming runs from all three saw them home in 81st, and with all of them eligible for the same age-group again next year, Winchester will expect to field strong teams in 12 months' time.
On a landmark day for the club, WADAC's senior men also returned to the event for the first time in 11 years, with a nicely-balanced blend of youth and experience in the form of Pete Sansome, James Moore, George Belfield and Steve Oliver.
A gallery of photos from the day can be seen here : http://www.wadac.org.uk/galler... , with thanks to all those who've contributed their pictures.