There was a fine individual win for Oli Mott as Cheltenham Harriers teams won both the men’s and ladies team races at the Gloucestershire Cross Country League fixture in Pittville Park. Having made a cautious return to action following a four month injury lay off at the previous weekend’s Birmingham League fixture, Mott was content to sit in the large lead group as the field made a relatively steady to start to the race. After the first of the three full laps had been completed, a nine man front group had pulled clear with Mott joined by his Harriers teammates John Parker, Alex Lee, Jacob Pickering and Marc Fallows. Pickering soon fell off the pace on the second circuit, but he was replaced in the front group by 800m specialist Sam Harding who had confidently moved through the field. Whilst different runners took their turn on the front, very little happened until the final lap despite the pack starting to fragment. With about a mile and a half to go it was Lee who upped the pace, taking Mott, Harding and Clevedon’s Alex Crossland clear of their rivals. Mott then made his decisive move after the final stream crossing, as he opened up a gap over Lee and Harding, who in turn pulled clear of Crossland. Whilst Mott’s win never looked in doubt he crossed the line just four seconds clear of Harding who took second after pulling clear of Lee. Crossland then denied the Harriers a 1-2-3 as he caught Lee who had to be content with fourth place. In sixth place John Parker was the first veteran home in a competitive masters field that saw Marc Fallows as fourth over 40 runner home in ninth place overall. As always the battle to make the Cheltenham scoring team was a close battle, with Dave Aubrey making it six Harriers in the top ten as the club scored a paltry 32 points. This gave the Harriers a 64 point winning margin over nearest challengers Bath, as they extended their unbeaten run to 32 consecutive league wins.
The Harriers B team were again the third team and remain in the bronze medal positions in the overall league standings thanks to the efforts of Eliot Taylor (11th), Jacob Pickering (15th), Charlie Jones (20th), Andy Gardiner (23rd), Nick Brown (25th) and Andy Gore (27th). The depth in the club was further highlighted as the C team took fifth overall through Alex Lindfield (28th), Dave Tomlin (31st), Russell Forsbrook (37th), Mike Gray (42nd), Ian Giles (57th) and cross country debutant Martin Soakell (62nd). Matt Lambourne (63rd) and Dave Rantell (65th) soon followed before Mike Ede (109th) finished as the second over 60 runner home and Dave Hemmings (127th) completed the 22 man Cheltenham squad. The veteran team of Parker, Fallows, Gore and Tomlin also claimed the master’s team win, although they remain second behind Bath in the overall standings with one fixture remaining.
The Harriers ladies went into the fixture lying second in the league, but hopeful of putting themselves back into contention for the league title. Bromsgrove’s Sally Hogan set the early pace with leading Cheltenham runner Hilary Mott content to tuck in behind her as the duo pulled clear of the field and remained unchallenged. The race continued in that manner until around a quarter of a mile to go when the Bromsgrove athlete picked up the pace to move clear and take the win by eight seconds. Fee Maycock had put herself in third place by half way, but had a pack of athletes just behind her chasing down. However, the 50 year old marathon runner maintained her form to hold position and claim her highest league finish as well as winning the veteran race. Vickie Wilkinson made a welcome return to race action after a long injury lay off and completed the scoring team as she moved through the field throughout the race to finish in a pleasing eleventh place. This gave the team a score of just 16 points for a 15 point victory over the Forest of Dean. More significantly though, it gave the Harriers an 82 point lead at the top of the table as Bath struggled on the day and dropped back to third overall. The club B team of Jo Fletcher (12th), Rachel See (16th) and Sarah Sheppard (25th) finished as fourth team and moved up into fifth place overall. Ella Burfitt (28th), Adele Potts (40th), Tamsin Carpenter (52nd), Katerina Horrocks (53rd), Christina See (157th) and Ruth Bird (158th) also enjoyed a run out over the testing course.
Earlier in the week Graham Rush was in fine form as he represented England in the Armagh International 5k road race. In the lead group through Rush lost out in the dash for the line to finish sixth in 14:05. Such was the depth in the UK’s highest quality 5k race that Alex Bampton had to be content with 133rd place with 15:15, as like Rush he equalled his track personal best as he set a new road PB. Dan Owen completed the race in 15:46 for 185th place. Jo Wilkie meanwhile finished as third lady at the Windsor Winter Half Marathon at Eton Dorney in a time of 91:45. Beth Hawling finished third overall and as first lady at the Cheltenham parkrun, where her time of 18:17 moved her up to third on the all-time ladies ranking list for the event. Mark James (17:22) and Dave Tomlin (17:25) took the first two places at the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester whilst Alice Earle (20:39) was the third lady home at the Newcastle parkrun.
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There was an impressive individual race win for Beth Hawling as Cheltenham Harriers claimed the Midland Women’s Cross Country League Division Two title with a fine team performance in Wolverhampton. In a race that combined runners from both division one and two, the 23 year old put herself in the lead group from the start as she looked to make an impact on her debut for the team. After the opening small lap the field began to split and a pack of five runners pulled clear at the front, with Hawling the only division two athlete in the group. At one point the former GB under 23 international fell ten yards adrift of the pack, but worked hard through the sticky mud to regain contact. Sara Treacy (Birchfield) was forcing the pace at the front, with Hawling, Chloe Richardson (Birchfield) and Molly Browne (BRAT) also in contention. Treacy then burst clear to split the group and opened a 50m gap over second place Hawling as they entered the final large lap. However, the Cheltenham athlete maintained her rhythm and kept the Irish Rio Olympian within striking distance before gradually closing the gap in the final mile. After passing the Birchfield runner Hawling went on to take the win with Treacy six seconds behind and third placed Richardson a further 21 seconds adrift. In her first race since her sub 2:50 marathon in October, Hilary Mott started steadily and moved through the field to finish as the second Harrier home in 18th overall and as 5th division two athlete. Sarah Sheppard then showed improved form for 14th and 42nd before Hannah D’Ambrosio battled well to complete the team as she claimed 25th place in the division and 70th place overall in a field of 374 runners. With a team score of 45 the Cheltenham team finished second in the division on the day, as Tipton took the win with a score of 30 and Halesowen placed third place with 82. However, in the overall standings Jo Wilkie’s team finished way clear with 221 points as CLC Striders (429) and Black Pear (457) joined them in gaining promotion to division one.
At the same venue the Harriers men were hoping to move up from fourth position and into the medals as they trailed third placed Birchfield by just 17 points going into their final Birmingham League Division One fixture. Alex Bampton was full of confidence and made an uncharacteristically fast start as he put himself into the top five. After two large laps Phil Wylie was up into fourth place with Bampton just a couple of places adrift. However, both athletes lost two places in the last quarter of mile as Wylie crossed the line in sixth. Just four seconds later Bampton claimed his first ever top ten finish in the league with an impressive seventh place. Ben Price also ran an excellent race as he moved through the field throughout the race to also claim a maiden top ten finish as he closed to within 10 seconds of Bampton for an impressive ninth. Richard de-Camps then continued his good consistent form with a league best position of 26th, but by then thoughts of team medals were eroding as Birchfield already had five runners across the line. With a large squad out, the battle to make the Cheltenham six man A team was always going to be a close and tough affair, but few would have predicted that two nineteen year olds would claim the spots. Having finished 83rd, 71st, 54th in a season of constant improvement, George Watson produced his finest race to date to come home in 33rd position and fifth under 20 runner. Then just five seconds late Jacob Pickering also stepped up with his best ever cross country race for 34th place. This gave the Harriers team a score of 115 for fourth position on the day as Birchfield (88), Loughborough University (103) and Tipton (109) took the top three spots. In the final league standing it was Loughborough (318) who retained their league title whilst Cheltenham (531) remained in fourth position in the sixteen strong league as Tipton (485) and Birchfield (487) completed the medal positions.
Dan Owen (37th) again led the B team home as the Harriers second string looked to close the 160 point to B team league leaders Loughborough. With Edd-Charlton Weedy (40th), Oli Mott (46th), Dan King (54th), Marcus England (57th) and Marc Fallows (64th) all packing well, a team score of 298 took victory on the day. However, the student team took second on 336 meaning they claimed the league by 22 points with the Cheltenham side almost 600 points ahead of third placed Birchfield. The Harriers also had the top C team thanks to Dan Thomas (66th), Alex Lee (67th), Charlie Jones (71st), Jon Barnes (72nd), Dave Aubrey (77th) and a first top 100 finish for Alex Lindfield (94th). The depth within the squad continued with Dave Tomlin (109th), Andy Gore (118th), Doug Wight (121st), Nick Brown (122nd), Mike Gray (157th) and James Wilkinson (167th) forming the D team before Alister Brown (201st) and Russell Forsbrook (206th) completed the 26 strong Harriers contingent. Alice Taylor meanwhile travelled to Llandudno for the Welsh Championships that were held within the Nick Beer 10k where she battled the tough course and conditions to finish as fifth lady in 41:37. Elsewhere there was a Harriers one-two at the Evesham parkrun where Gareth Edwards (18:55) and Matt Lambourne (19:27) led the field home as Mike Ede (21:23) took seventh place.
Jane Horder broke her own LV60 60m hurdles indoor world record with an excellent performance at the Loughborough Open Meeting. The 61 year old had set the previous record whilst winning the world over 60s championship in Korea last March with 9.90 seconds, but at Loughborough the evergreen Horder lowered the mark to an impressive 9.80 seconds. Returning to the track later in the afternoon, the Cheltenham athlete clocked 9.97 seconds as she continued her build up to the European Masters Indoor Championships in Madrid at the end of March.
Cheltenham Harriers athletes put in some strong performances whilst representing their universities at the British Universities Cross County Championships in Hillingdon. In the ladies race Rachel Longstaff (Cambridge) ran well for 68th place before Jemima Cooper (Bath) and Mia O’Connell (Nottingham) finished 82nd and 96th respectively in a high quality field of over 700 runners. The three Harriers men in action had to settle for places in the B race, as they all attend some of the best sporting universities in the country and each team only has six spaces in the A race. Alex Bampton produced his best race of the season to finish in an excellent sixth place to help his Oxford team to bronze medals before Jacob Pickering (Birmingham) ran well for 81st place and George Watson (Loughborough) was pleased with 95th position.
Weekend parkruns saw the Harriers dominate at Pittville Park in Cheltenham where Alex Lee (16:20), Marcus England (16:34) and Dan Owen (16:44) filled the top three places. Gareth Edwards (19:09) and Oliver Doherty (19:55) also enjoyed a run out before Rachel See (20:59) finished as first lady home and Tamsin Carpenter (22:25) was the sixth woman home. James Wilkinson (19:00) enjoyed a win at the Evesham parkrun whilst Henry James (18:54) finished third at the Hastings event. The inaugural Cirencester parkrun saw Andy Gardiner (19:32) take second place with Matt Lambourne (20:10) finishing one place later on the muddy course. The faster paths of the Worcester Pitchcroft event saw Alex Doherty (16:49) finish second, a position matched by Steve Bradley (19:31) on the grass of Plock Court at the Gloucester North parkrun.
Shona Crombie-Hicks enjoyed a fine win as she finished as the first lady home at the Staverton 10 mile road race. After the opening mile the former Scottish international was in second place, as Oxford University’s Katie Truslove opened up a significant lead at the front of the field. Crombie-Hicks herself was being closely tracked by Almost Athlete Hattie Jenkins, as the two athletes again went head to head just a week after they were separated by three seconds at the Linda Franks 5. The pair caught and passed Truslove at around 2.5 miles, before Crombie-Hicks opened a small gap over her rival in the fifth mile of the race. Jenkins remained with 50m of the Cheltenham runner for the rest of the race, but Crombie-Hicks finished strongly to claim the win by 16 seconds in a time of 63:54. Fellow Harrier Fee Maycock had moved up into fourth place by halfway, with Cornwall’s Ruby Orchard in her sights. The LV50 athlete passed the Cornish woman in the eighth mile before going on to take third by nine seconds in 65:05. The Cheltenham ladies continued to pack well with Jo Fletcher posting a pleasing 67:34 for sixth on her debut for the club and Jo Wilkie recording 69:15 for eighth. Debbie Smith crossed the line in 80:27 and Leah Hopton continued her marathon build up with 85:16.
Meanwhile up ahead three Cheltenham runners battled it out to be the first home as a four man lead pack quickly established itself at the front of the race. Veteran John Parker set the pace, with his teammates Alex Lee and Marcus England joined by CLC’s Will Ferguson. The quartet were locked together until just before half way when Parker lost ground. Lee and Ferguson took turns on the front whilst England was happy to stay tucked in just behind them on a windy morning. Lee tried to make his move for victory at around eight miles, but could not shake off his rivals. Ferguson then made a decisive race winning break with a mile to go as England in turn pulled ahead of Lee. However, the latter closed down and passed his teamate in the final straight for a time of 53:50 that saw him finish one second ahead of England and eleven seconds adrift of the Ferguson. Parker ran an isolated second half of the race to finish fourth and as leading veteran in 54:43. Fellow veteran Mark James had spent most of the race in sixth place but managed to finish a second ahead of Stroud’s Nick Coyle to claim fifth in the closing stages. Further Harriers success then came in seventh place as Andy Gardiner set a PB of 58:34 before Alex Lindfield just missed out on breaking the hour with 60:07 and Dave Tomlin was the third V45 runner home in 60:29. Dave Rantell (62:16), James Wilkinson (63:35), Ian Giles (63:56) and Steve Bradley (66:24) continued the strong club presence in the race and Paul Barnes (69:21) took third place in the V55 category.
Further afield Gareth Edwards finished 19th at the Romsey 5 mile road race in Hampshire in a time of 29:23. Weekend parkruns saw Beth Hawling (18:52) finish as the first lady and fifth overall at the Cheltenham event where Gwenael Blanck (18:32) took third place and Rachel See (21:57) was the fourth lady home. Phil Beastall (15:59) claimed a win at the Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun where Alex Doherty (17:39) placed fourth whilst Dave Aubrey (17:31) took the win at the Hereford event. Andy Gardiner (18:01) and Dave Tomlin (18:20) finished first and second at the Kingway event in Gloucester whilst George Hawthorne (19:53) enjoyed a win at the Gloucester North parkrun.
Alex Lee took the individual race honours as both the Cheltenham Harriers men’s and ladies teams took victory at the Linda Franks 5 mile road race. Straight from the gun Lee and his Harrier teammates were to the fore, as the field battled against the cold and wet conditions on the flat and fast two lap course around The Reddings and Hatherley. Lee opened up a gap on small gap over clubmate John Parker in the opening mile, with the veteran less than ten seconds adrift after the opening circuit. Having the confidence from his recent sub 32 minute 10k personal best, Lee was then able to up the pace in the second half to record negative splits as he went on to take victory in 26:01. In his first road race as a V45 runner Parker finished second overall in 26:38. Marcus England then made it a Harriers 1-2-3 as he closed his deficit to Parker to just seven seconds by the finish as he pulled clear of Bourton’s Tim Carter on the second lap. County Road Race Series Champion started the defence of his title with a personal best of 27:24 in fifth place before Doug Wight came home in sixth place in 28:18. Gareth Edwards then excelled to set a PB of 28:53 in ninth place before James Wilkinson also set a PB in 29:31 as he finished four seconds clear of Dave Rantell.
The ladies race saw Shaftsbury Barnet’s Rachel Felton run away from the field with an impressive 28:49 whilst a close battle took place behind her. Veteran Shona Crombie-Hicks had Hattie Jenkins (Almost Athletes) tucked in behind until the final quarter mile before the experienced Harrier pulled three seconds clear to take second place in 30:42. Fee Maycock finished as first LV50 runner with 31:05 for fifth place before. The battle to complete the Cheltenham scoring three lady team was a close affair with Hannah D’Ambrosio passing Sarah Sheppard in the closing stages as the duo finished ninth and tenth with times of 32:23 and 32:31 respectively. Emma Silversides completed her debut road race with 34:18 before Paul Barnes was the third over 55 runner home in 34:36. Leah Hopton (38:53), Sam Pickering (40:57), Charlotte Deacon (41:52) and Ruth Bird (52:27) then completed the Harriers contingent. Jo Wilkie meanwhile travelled to Eton for the Windsor Winter Half Marathon at Eton Dorney. However, to her disappointment the organisers were unable to cope with the weather conditions and made a last minute decision to change the race to 10km. Despite her frustrations Wilkie ran well to finish as first lady in a pleasing time of 40:36. Weekend parkruns saw Dave Aubrey (17:28) take the win at the Cheltenham event where James Bingham (18:50) took fifth and Tamsin Carpenter (22:22) was the fifth lady home. James Denne (17:38) won the Kingsway event in Gloucester and Alister Brown (17:50) finished sixth at the Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun.
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