Sun 23rd Feb 2020
WADAC's juniors continue fabulous cross-country season as more club records are set
The 2020 National Cross-Country Championships took place at Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, on Saturday 22nd February. After several days of heavy rain and storms, the ground was saturated and heavy on much of the Northern half of the course, which included the start and finish areas, and featured a formidable water hazard in the form of a mini-lake that had taken shape in the same section.
Winchester’s junior squad had been reduced by a combination of skiing commitments, from which the club seems to suffer disproportionately badly, and late illness withdrawals, which of course can’t be helped. Nevertheless, nearly 20 had still made the trip to the East Midlands to compete in the Under-13 and Under-15 races, and despite worsening mudbath conditions as the day went on, all acquitted themselves superbly.
The Under-15 boys just had time to take inspiration from their U17 colleague Lily Neate finishing a fabulous 5th in the first race of the day before it was their turn to brave the conditions. With youngest team-member Harry Wilson running well again after illness and leading the team home in 81st place, they finished an honourable 25th,with Harry Harvey, Ben Schofield, Thomas Briggs, Connor Dutton and Alex Nicholson completing the team.
Poppy Taylor is still an Under-11, but such has been the level of her achievements this season that the club selected her to contest the girls Under-13 race, where she duly outperformed some two-thirds of the field in finishing 126th, and with a beaming smile despite the conditions.
The big event of the day from a WADAC perspective was the Under-13 boys race, where most of the club’s very strong squad had made it past the distractions and were raring to go. James Lewis soon found himself in a leading group of three which was to hold the front of the race throughout, and, despite taking the lead briefly himself, ultimately had to settle for the individual bronze medal some 8 seconds off the winner. Not a bad day’s work, and one that saw James eclipse Calum Upton’s club record (I think) of 5th place in the same race in 2010.
The squad behind James were packing well in a very crowded field, with Stan Parkinson as reliable as ever, Ollie Stephenson breezing along effortlessly and Will Hasan, from lower year, running magnificently under the pressure of knowing that the fourth scorer would be vital. Behind them came Ieuan Thomas, Reuben Hobbs and Aiden Furby, providing the strength in depth that’s seen the team sweep the board at county level this XC season. When all the sodden, mud-caked figures were home and counted, in amazingly quick time, out came the eagerly-awaited results sheets, and there in silver medal position were Winchester & District AC, comfortably ahead of the third-placed team as it turned out. So for this amazing cohort, yet another set of national medals to add to the 2x XC- and road-relay ones that they’ve already picked up in the last 18 months, and perhaps this time the best ones of all.
The Winchester Under-15 girls team had suffered worse than others for missing team-members, but Millie Burgess was undeterred, finishing a very strong 69th and leading the club to the same 25th place as had been the result of their male team-mates. Behind Millie came Ellie McErlean, on a course that played to her strengths, and then lower-year runners Emma Shedden and Jasmine Jones, neither ever afraid of a tough race in tough conditions.
Once again, on a testing day for athletes and support crew alike, helping hands from parents were readily offered in all things logistical, and the club can be proud of everyone who made the trip. There was even time for a bit of birthday cake and singing to celebrate a significant milestone for a long-suffering WADAC wife / victim.