James L Hants Champs 2019 Photo Credit Paul Hammond

Mon 14th Jan 2019

With one race still to come, two team titles and one individual gold medal for the season are now guaranteed.

The fourth meeting of the Alton Sports Hampshire Cross Country League took place at Prospect Park, Reading, where once again conditions underfoot and weather were both friendly. As with every previous fixture, there was an excellent turnout of Winchester juniors, as they sought to wrap up team and individual titles for the season.

The Under-11 races at the Reading fixture are always contested by smaller fields than at the other venues, a result of the home club's unique (within Hampshire League) interpretation of age-eligibility rules. And so it was that only four WADAC girls took to the start line for their race. The four included Poppy Taylor and Hannah Lowe however, and they duly returned their usual top-ten finishes, 3rd and 6th respectively, to lead Winchester to what would be third team place on the day. They were well supported by Izzy Hastie and Emily Phillips.

The Under-11 boys were still mob-handed despite the necessary reduction in numbers, and accounted for four of the top seven finishers in the form of Ruben Price (3rd), Sam Wilkinson (4th), Michael Whittaker (6th) and Casper Wilson (7th), by some distance the strongest team performance. These four were ably backed-up by Bradley Lewis, Ethan Skipwith, Seth Noott, Boaz Lurcock, Oscar Banting and William Richardson, all running well.

Winchester's Under-13 girls have made fifth team place their own this season, and so it was again on Saturday. First home once more was Emma Shedden (14th), with Jasmine Jones, Lara Bassett, Jemima Hodges, Aisling Hitchman, Safiya Husain and Zara Barker showing great consideration for their team manager by arriving at roughly 5-10 second intervals thereafter, just right for checking them all in. Phoebe and Lauren McGee and Emily Staggs completed the team of ten, another very encouraging turnout.

WADAC's Under-13 boys went into their race with a perfect three wins from three in the League to date, and knowing that a top-three finish was all that was needed to take the seasonal title with a race to spare. Also three from three individually was James Lewis, and having 'suffered' a rare second-place at the Annual County Championships a week earlier, he was in no mood to endure a repeat. Running away from the field at the gun, he went on to win by the biggest margin of the season so far, nailing the individual Gold medal for the season in the process. The good news for all the others is that James will still be in U13 category next season. Southampton AC, who've taken Winchester so close without reward at every race this season, produced their best display yet, with three athletes in the top five, and this was enough to win the team race on the day, with Winchester's next two Ben Chesterfield in 6th and a superb run from Stan Parkinson in 7th. This gave Winchester second team place on the day, and with it the Hampshire League title. Also running well and having made a vital contribution to the season's success were Tom Grote, Michael Shingleton-Smith, Charlie Cox, Alex Nicholson (with a best-ever finishing position, Well Done Alex), Toby Pace, Haydn Moore (stepping up impressively from U11s), Ieuan Thomas and Matthew Friend (also an Under-11 with a great display).

The Winchester Under-15 girls started their race in the same position as their U13B team-mates, with three team wins under their belts from the first three races of the season. As they've done in every race now since the end of last season, they proceeded to pack superbly in the top ten, Rose Chesterfield (2nd), leading home Amelia Moore (5th), Hannah Foster (8th), Lily Neate (9th) and Millie Burgess (10th), followed by Ellie McErlean and Katie Nicholson. This was comfortably enough to maintain their 100% team-win record, and with it of course they too claimed the title for the season. The consistent quality of their individual performances has also assured Rose of individual Silver for the season, and given Amelia every chance of securing Bronze at the final race next month. Hannah and Millie also feature in the individual aggregate top ten, testimony to the incredible strength of the team.

The WADAC Under-15 boys, fresh from their exciting victory in the County Championships the week before, again put on a great display, with Doug Scally (7th), Dominic Exworthy, continuing his rapid improvement (12th), and Sam Roberts (14th), the scoring team as Winchester finished second on the day. Close behind were James Medley, Harry Harvey, Thomas Briggs and Ben Schofield on his return from illness. The boys will win team Silver or Bronze medals for the season, with their result in the final fixture determining which colour it will be.

Although WADAC's seasonal curse, of having only two runners at each Under-17 women's race, and thus no team score, continued, once again it was a case of quality and not quantity as Aisling Dunne and Issy Beck produced strong runs and impressive finishes to come 2nd & 3rd respectively, setting up a winner-takes-all clash in the League's last race next month, for the seasonal Bronze medal.

So, for the first time in several years, Hampshire League junior titles that traditionally make their way to the North of the county have alighted instead in Winchester, along with an individual title for James Lewis. Not yet anywhere near the levels of domination that other clubs have enjoyed in the recent past, but another small step on the way to making WADAC a centre of junior distance-running achievement. Thank you to all the athletes for their dedication and commitment, to parents for their continuing help and assistance and in particular to our fabulous team of coaches (you know who you are) for the tireless work that has gone, and continues to go, into this exciting journey.

Photo credit : Paul Hammond, copyright: hammy8241.