Shrewsbury AC finished with a medal flourish at the Shropshire Young Athlete League Cross Country finale at Bridgnorth Oldbury Wells School this weekend as the athletes hard preparation paid off.
Expectations were high in both Team and Individual competition, and it was the superb U11boys team who were first in action on the undulating circuit hosted by Bridgnorth AC. Another dominant team display saw all scorers in the top 10 for the fourth time this series. Making it to the start line with only seconds to spare, Leo Walton took the race on with team-mate William Davies at the front. A great uphill sprint finish saw Leo steal 2nd place, with Will next up in 4th and with it a very well earned Individual Silver medal. Fergus Stevens again notched 5th place, with ever improving Archie Hale bagging his fourth consecutive 8th place to secure top team on the day, and with it SAC won the U11 Title for the first time.
This season has seen the team improve in each race, and after the standards set from the U11boys the rest of the team showed strong competitiveness and endurance as the weather turned to blustery winter showers.
In the next two races, Shrewsbury were only able to field one athlete in each, but both Freddie Turner (U13boys), and Sasha Gardiner (U15girls), had their best finishes of the campaign. Sasha had the added pressure from a trio of Shrewsbury High athletes in tow throughout , but managed to shake off all challenges to come home a great 7th place.
As the first rain fell, Freddie took to the start line and clearly enjoying the tough conditions raced his best of the season. A strong 8th placing was reward for Freddies efforts over the technical hill section where he put distance between himself and the pack of athletes covering 9th-13th places.
Next up to secure team accolades were the U17boys team, with George Speakman & Ryan Cullen taking home a well earned Team Silver with another strong run. The longest race of the day had the lads work well as a duo throughout, as they pursued their Oswestry & Telford rivals in the rain. George 5th & Ryan 6th were good enough for third place on the day, and a comfortable team silver with Ben Ashcroft absent.
Showing no signs of fatigue from racing in the North Wales XC league the previous day, Ross Kirby & Stuart Duff took on the two lap challenge in the U15’s fixture. Taking the race on from the off, Ross set to disrupt the dominance of Telford and led the field through lap one, and responded to each challenge Telford could throw at him. Stuart had settled into a nice tempo within a group of 4 athletes, his efficiency helping him separate from the group to come in 13th. At the head of the field Kirby showed no signs of let up, with the lead trio relishing the battle in the driving wind & rain. Still in contention as the hills were tackled for the second time, it was only as they returned to the fields that Ross was separated as the lead Telford athletes worked away together. A seasons best 3rd place for Kirby was jusr reward for his efforts.
For the final race all eyes were on Katharine Smith, who had already bagged individual Silver medal with 2nd place finishes in the previous three fixtures. Another 2nd place here in much the same style as seen before, with Katharines easy running style making light work of all surfaces. A lead group of three headed into the hill section, where series winner Eva Wade (Telford) made her move to pull clear. Katharine was joined shoulder to shoulder by a Shrewsbury High School athlete hoping to finally break Katharines run of form. Much to Smiths credit, her focus was unwavering and she systematically increased the pace on the flatter sections to edge clear and make 2nd place very much her own.
The boys team were good enough to secure overall 3rd place in the team standings to illustrate the growing strength of the endurance team. Focus over the festive season now moves to the County Championships at Lilleshall where County selection places are at stake.