Striders strike gold in Stevenage
CROSS COUNTRY: CROSS country is alive and well in St Albans after several teams young and old travelled to Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage to take part in the annual County Cross Country Championships.
In ideal weather conditions the courses were various configurations of dry woodland, heavy grassland and undulations which were quite testing towards the ends of the laps. Wonderful support from the many friends and relatives around the course was a welcome relief from the hard work.
Races began at 11am starting with the U11 girls race. These are girls in school Years 5 and 6 and the determination on all of their faces most be credited as they powered up towards the finishing straight. The girls ended up with team silver and bronze and special mentions go to Jess Laitner, Megan Mitchell, Freya Weddell, Emily Anders and Emily Barnes on their top 10 finishes. Not to be out done the boys showed similar determination and again won team bronze. Jed Lumb in his debut run for the club was a creditable fourth.
The U13 age group was perhaps the most successful for the club in that both the boys and girls took home the county cups with the girls also running away with bronze and fielding an astonishing five teams. In this Olympic year it would be great to see such female uptake for sport throughout the age groups. Tabitha Weddell continued her excellent form taking individual bronze with Alex Bentley at her heels in fourth and Eleanor Hobbs in sixth. It is important to realise in cross country team races every runner counts and this really helps with the motivation. Adam Wilmshurst had a very strong finish to come home in fourth with Ricardo James having a great race in seventh.
The U15 boys were unfortunately short of a team but James Down and Sam Jones both had great races in eighth and 10th respectively. The girls went home with team silver with Abigail West and Pippa Bailey coming home in eighth and ninth.
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The U17 men’s race was run with the U17 women’s over 5800m and was especially exciting as three of the best national cross country runners went head-to-head. The first lap was run very much as a pack before the final battle of mental and physical strength was won by James McMurray as he powered down the home straight. This gave St Albans AC their one individual gold. Abby Smith had a superb run in the U17 women coming home in fourth place followed by Megan Steer and Hannah Hull to take team silver.
The next fixture for the club is the Chiltern cross country league next Saturday in Windsor.
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Inspired by the performances of the young athletes, the St Albans Striders successfully defended both their senior team cross country titles.
A fantastic turn-out from the Striders saw the ladies’ teams of four take gold, bronze, seventh, 10th and 14th, whilst the men, who needed six to score, finished sixth, ninth and 15th on top of their gold.
Ladies’ captain Lucy Waterlow ran a fast and perfectly-timed race to take the individual bronze medal, repeating her success of last year. Looking stronger than ever, Deborah Steer followed in sixth place, with Sally Onn in seventh and new Strider Caroline Walsh in 11th to make up a gold-medal winning team.
Veteran racer Zoe Lowe finished in 14th to bring home the ladies’ “B” team for well-deserved bronze medals, with Gill Jubb (17th), Chris Smith (30th) and Anna Styles (31st) completing the scoring over the largely dry 4.5 mile course.
For the men, Tom Crouch put in a gutsy performance to end up in fifth, leading in Paul Adams (seventh), Jonathan Scott (13th), Ed Blake (15th), Jez Cox (21st) and John Ockenden (33rd) for the team cup.
There were a number of excellent individual runs and congratulations go to St Albans resident Vicky Webster of the Runners’ World store in Marshalswick who won the individual gold in the senior ladies’ race. Special mention also goes to Emma Halldearn, Lucy Martin and Louise Crowe, all graduates of the Striders’ recent “Get Started” beginners’ course, who were racing in their first ever cross country and who finished a very respectable 61st, 67th and 73rd respectively out of a large field of more experienced runners.