Cheltenham Harriers teams had an excellent weekend as their men’s squad finished second in their Birmingham Cross Country League Division One fixture whilst the ladies team stayed at the top of the Midland Women’s League Division Two. Graham Rush made a welcome return to the team to spearhead the club’s challenge on a new course at Warley Woods and was soon to the fore as Stoke’s Alex Brecker set a fast early pace that instantly spilt the field. Brecker opened up a lead on the opening small circuit with Rush and Loughborough University’s Will Fuller some 40m adrift as they in turn pulled clear of the chasing pack. By halfway the chasing duo had closed down the Stoke athlete before Fuller fell off the pace on the second large lap to leave Rush and Brecker to battle it out for the win. It was Brecker who proved to be the strongest on the testing course to pull clear for the win, with Rush crossing the line nine seconds later as he finished six seconds ahead of third placed Fuller. From the early stages of the race it was clear that Loughborough would again take the team win and the battle for second place would be between Cheltenham and Tipton. Whilst the West Midlanders had three in the top ten after the opening lap, the Cheltenham quintet of Phil Wylie, Luke Pollard, Ben Price, Dan Owen and Richard de-Camps were closely packed just outside the top twenty. As the race developed Wylie and Pollard kept working their way through the field and by the end they finished in 11th and 15th respectively. Tipton’s fourth runner then finished one place ahead of Price who ran well for 21st position. Having started cautiously, Alex Bampton paced his race well and was overtaking runners for the whole race to be rewarded with 23rd place as he finished one place ahead of Tipton’s fifth man. Having broken the 32 minute barrier for 10k for the first time last weekend, de-Camps continued his fine recent form to claim his highest ever league finish of 29th to complete the Harriers scoring six. Dan Owen then crucially crossed the line in 32nd before the final Tipton counter crossed the line in 36th place.
Both the Cheltenham and Tipton supporters knew that there was little to choose between the two sides, but none had predicted that both teams would score an identical 101 points, with the Cheltenham team earning second place on the day on the basis that their final scorer crossed the line before the sixth Tipton man. Loughborough (71) meanwhile remained undefeated this season whilst Birmingham University (155) and Birchfield (158) took fourth and fifth in the sixteen strong division. With just one fixture remaining the top of the table is the closest it has been for a very long time, with the top five all having a chance of making the medals. The Harriers (416) moved up a place to fourth just 17 points behind Birchfield and 40 adrift of second placed Tipton. Loughborough (215) meanwhile are almost certain of yet another league tile whilst fifth placed Birmingham University (435) will also be hoping to be amongst the medals. The Harriers B team finished second on the day to maintain their second place behind Loughborough in their league thanks to the efforts of Owen, Doug Wight (52nd), George Watson (54th) with his highest league position, Dan King (56th), John Parker (67th) and Dave Aubrey (71st). Marc Fallows (95th), Nick Brown (108th), Jacob Pickering (133rd), Alex Lindfield (138th), Alister Brown (174th) and Ian Giles (202nd) showed the Harriers depth to complete the C team before Matt Evans (217th) completed the Harriers contingent.
The Harriers ladies meanwhile were looking to consolidate their position as leaders of Division Two of the Midland Women’s Cross Country League at their fixture at Cofton Park in Birmingham, in a race held jointly with the division one fixture. Fee Maycok led the team home in 34th place overall and as 7th division two runner before team manager Jo Wilkie came home 17th in the division and 56th overall. Emma Silversides overtook teammate Sarah Sheppard in the closing stages as the pair earned 27th and 28th in the division with 81st and 87th in the overall race. This gave the 4 lady team a score of 79 as they finished second behind Tipton (50) whilst Halesowen (107) placed third. This leaves the Harriers with a significant lead at the top of the division with 176 points with Black Pear (304) and CLC Striders (323) their nearest challengers. The league also includes a three to score masters completion with Maycock (3rd), Wilkie (9th) and Silverside (14th) scoring 25 to finish second behind Telford whose 22 points. The Shropshire team remain at the head of the league with Cheltenham lying second 18 points adrift but 60 points clear of third placed Trentham. Meanwhile, at the North Midlands League in Nottingham, Mia O’Connell finished in a pleasing second place as she represented Nottingham University. Earlier in the day Hannah D’Ambrosio (20:33) finished as the first lady at the Cheltenham parkrun after Alex Lee (16:18) was the first man home. Andy Gardiner (17:07) placed third whilst Gareth Edwards (19:01), Matt Lambourne (19:04) and Dave Francis (19:09) came home inside the top ten in close proximity.
James Denne produced an excellent performance to win the Gloucestershire Cross Country Championship as he led Cheltenham Harriers successfully defended their team title at Old Down Country Park. Pre=race favourite Dave Bell (Cirencester) opened up a small lead during the first half of the opening lap before Denne passed him towards the end of the lap as he enjoyed the challenge of the hilly and testing course. From then on Denne’s lead kept growing as he went on to claim the win and the Dave McNamee trophy by 28 seconds as Bell had to settle for second. The battle for third place was a more interesting affair with John Parker in the bronze medal position after the opening lap. The veteran was caught by the next pack though on the second circuit as the Cirencester pair of Luke Campbell and Isaac McAdam closed the gap with Harrier George Watson tucked in just behind them. A lap later and Watson made his move to pull clear of the Cirencester duo as Parker drifted backwards and his position as leading veteran came under threat from his teammate and defending champion Marc Fallows. A strong final lap saw Watson finish nineteen seconds clear of Campbell as he took third place and the under 20 county title. Parker rallied on the final circuit to take fifth overall and the veteran title in his first race for five months. Fallows followed 28 seconds later to take the veteran silver in eighth.
Cirencester continued to pack well with their fourth and fifth athletes in ninth and eleventh respectively, but the Harriers closed their team with Andy Gore taking the V45 title in sixteenth and Alex Lindfield finishing in nineteenth place for a team score of 53. With the final Cirencester scorer back in a distant 79th place they finished second with 110 before the Harriers B team of Elliot Prince (22nd), Gwenael Blanck (25th), Alister Brown (26th), James Wilkinson (30th), Dan Minors (32nd) and Steve Bradley (37th) took the team bronze with a score of 172. The Cheltenham veteran team of Parker, Fallows and Gore also took the team gold medals. Mike Gray (39th) made a welcome return to action before Ian Giles (44th) and Matt Evans (47th) completed the Harriers contingent. In the ladies race Tamsin Carpenter finished in 29th position. Competing in the county of his birth, Alex Bampton took silver in the Buckinghamshire Cross Country Championships, a position matched by Graham Rush at the Yorkshire Champs.
An eighteen strong Harriers squad had a series of excellent results at the Telford 10k where Ben Price, Alex Lee and Richard de-Camps were amongst the eight Cheltenham runners setting personal best times in the Midland’s highest quality 10k race. Phil Beastall led the club home in 30:18 for 14th place as he finished one place clear of Phil Wylie who posted a pleasing 30:29. Price then trimmed his PB by four seconds as a time of 31:24 earned the Cheltenham Half Marathon winner 27th place. Dan Owen had been the next Harrier throughout the halfway stage but he was passed by both de-Camps and Lee in the second half as both athletes made breakthroughs to go sub 32 for the first time. A strong finish from Bourton 10k winner Lee saw him clock 31:44 for 38th position as de-Camps finished both two places and two seconds adrift of his teammate. Owen crossed the line two further places behind in 32:01. A new born baby and a lack of sleep certainly didn’t hinder Marcus England as he broke the 33 minute barrier for the first time with a 20 second PB of 32:50. Eliot Taylor returned to form as he matched England’s time before Charlie Jones and Dan King ran well for 33:03 and 33:06 respectively. Dave Aubrey then produced an excellent performance to knock 50 seconds off his PB from 2014 with 33:32 whilst Edd Charlton-Weedy posted 33:33. Mark James also put in a big performance to set a pleasing 29 second PB of 33:57 before Alex Doherty also knocked a sizeable chunk off his PB with an impressive 34:18. Gareth Edwards then posted 37:00 before Dave Francis lowered his PB to 37:37. Two Harriers ladies also contested the race, with Alice Taylor the 13th lady home in 37:38 as she represented the Midlands team and Jo Wilkie recording 40:26 to finish 19th. Weekend parkruns saw Andy Gardiner (17:20) enjoy a win in Swindon and Hannah D’Ambrosio (20:56) finish as second lady in Cheltenham where Matt Lambourne (19:21) took fifth spot. Amber Watson (20:48) meanwhile finished as second lady at the Albert Park parkrun in Melbourne.
Dan Owen took the honours to win the Peter Holmes Cup for the first athlete home at the Winston’s Wish Boxing Day Challenge at Cheltenham racecourse. Holmes had won the inaugural James Brewer organised event in 2008, but had sadly passed away after a mountaineering accident just before the 2009 event and a trophy in his name has been presented to the winner each year since. Surprisingly, Owen becomes the first Cheltenham Harrier to win the race since Holmes as he pulled clear of Kent AC’s Noah Armitage Hooks in the closing stages of the 4 mile race. Alex Lee passed teammate Alex Chantler-Mayne in the final mile to take third place before James Bingham and Russell Forsbrook also enjoyed top ten finishes.
The Wye Valley New Year’s Day 10k road race saw Cheltenham Harriers dominate procedings as they packed five runners into the top six positions. Back home for his Christmas from his studies in America, Rhys Park dominated the race for a win in 31:50. Dan Owen then took second in 33:21 before Dan King impressed with a 33:38 clocking on a course that is not renowned for fast times to complete a Harriers 1-2-3. Eliot Taylor then posted 34:02 for fifth before Charlie Jones followed one place later with 34:31. There was also a New Year’s Day win for Mark James as he took first place at Severn AC’s 4 mile race in Elmore in 22:04.
The previous day Graham Rush completed his successful year with a win in the Buntingford 10 mile road race with a time of 52:25 for an 84 second victory over Enfield’s Alex Milne. The Gloucester New Year’s Eve 10 mile road race saw a fourth place finishes for Richard Dare and who posted a new personal best time of 56:04 for the undulating course. At the same event Fee Maycock’s 65:50 saw her finish as fifth lady and as first LV50 athlete home as she finished ahead of all the LV40 and LV45 athletes. Later the same day Dave Aubrey made the trip to Mountain Ash in Wales for the Nos Galan 5k road race where he placed 24th in a high class field in 16:38.
Phil Beastall ended his successful year in fine style with a course record of 15:01 at the Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun as he took 38 seconds off the previous record for the course. Fellow Harriers Alex Doherty (16:58) and Alister Brown (18:20) also set course PBs as they finished second and tenth respectively on the fast and short course. Meanwhile on a more challenging course in Cornwall Ben Price lowered his own course record at the Trelissick parkrun by three seconds as he took the win in 16:44. Elsewhere Dave Tomlin (17:41) won the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester five days after placing second at the Cheltenham Christmas Day parkrun where he was just two seconds behind teammate Luke Kearns (16:55) who took the win. Andy Gardiner returned to his home parkrun in Cardiff to claim fourth place in a course PB of 16:55 on Christmas morning before taking third in 17:12 on the same course in his 300th parkrun on Saturday. New Year’s Day then saw Gardiner fuel his addiction with two parkruns at Swindon where he posted 17:53 for third place before heading to Chippenham where a time of 18:57 earned him fourth place.
Cheltenham Harriers athletes enjoyed parkrun wins in five different locations and in three different countries with Doug Wight’s 16:01 clocking for victory at St Andrews the quickest by a club member on the pre-Christmas weekend. As well as Wight’s victory in Scotland, Liam Roarty (18:05) was first across the line at the River Valley event in Ireland, whilst back in England there were wins at the far flung destinations of Cheltenham, Gloucester and Hereford. Jamie Harper (16:48) took the home win in Cheltenham where Hannah D’Ambrosio (20:34) was the first lady home in her fastest time of the year to make it a Harriers double. The Pittville Park event also saw George Hawthorne (17:11) post a course PB for second place, Simon Critchley (18:59) take eighth and new club member Matt Lambourne (19:42) enjoy a run out. The club also took the top two places at the Kingsway event in Gloucester where James Denne and Richard Dare put in impressive performances. Denne’s winning time of 16:13 was the third fastest time at the event behind whilst Dare’s 16:40 earned him fifth place alongside teammate Mark James on the event’s all time ranking list that is headed by Stroud’s Tom Mortimer and Bristol’s Ben Robinson. The Hereford parkrun brought the sixth win of the morning as Charlie Jones set a course PB of 16:35 to stay clear of the teammate Dan King who posted 16:52 for second place. Further second place finishes came from James Wilkinson (18:46) at the Gloucester North event and for Dave Tomlin (19:35) at the challenging Parke parkrun in Devon. Russell Forsbrook (17:47) and Alister Brown (19:20) earned third place finishes at the Burnham and Wyre Forest events whist Dave Aubrey (19:15) finished fourth at the Ludlow parkrun.
Shona Crombie-Hicks enjoyed a win at the Evesham Festive 10k multi-terrain race as she finished 27 seconds clear of Stratford’s Sarah Wheeler to cross the line as first lady home in 42:51. In the same race Alex Doherty was the fourth man home in a time of 37:33. Graham Rush meanwhile raced in the Cross Internacional de Venta de Banos in Spain where he completed the 10.5km course in 33:32 for a pleasing eleventh place. The race was won by Ethiopian Selemon Barega Shirtaga with Rush the second member of the England team home as he finished behind Nick Goolab (3rd), but ahead of Liam Burthem (24th) and Dan Scholfield (25th). Closer to home James Wilkinson and Gareth Edwards finished second and third respectively at the Rudolph’s Rampage multi-terrain race in Painswick as unattached runner Steve Kenyon took the win. At the Weston Prom 5 mile race Mark James was third veteran runner and seventh overall in a time of 27:54 on a windy night that was not conducive to fast times. Despite easing off and jogging in to protect an injury concern, Naomi Eaton was still the fourth lady home in 32:49. Also competing in Weston-super-Mare was Russell Forsbrook who finished ninth in the Chrsitmas Cracker 10k race. Weekend parkruns saw Andy Gardiner win the Kingway event in Gloucester in a course PB of 16:58, whilst Tom Lowe (16:54) took second place at the Kingston event. In Pittville Park Gwenael Blank (19:03) took fifth in the Cheltenham parkrun where Dave Francis (19:35) also had a run out. Hannah D’Ambosio finished as fourth lady in 21:40 and V50 athlete Dave Hemmings recorded 22:03.
Graham Rush has been rewarded for a successful 2017 with England selection for upcoming cross country and road races. Having made his debut for the team in January 2016, Rush will earn a fourth cross county vest at the Vaneta de Banos International Cross country event in Spain on 16th December to cap a year that also saw him earn a GB vest alongside Mo Farah in the Edinburgh International last January. The Dave Newport coached athlete has also been named in the England road racing team for the Armagh 5k in February where he will earn a third England road running vest. This summer also saw the Dave Newport coached athlete earn a first GB track vest at the European 10,000m challenge in Belarus after he recorded a time of 29:04 at the British trials in London.
Snow across the region caused havoc with the racing plans of Cheltenham Harriers on what was to be one of the squad’s biggest weekends of the year. Nineteen team members had entered arguably the fastest and highest quality 10k road race in the UK at Telford, but their plans were scuppered when the event was cancelled on Friday. Many then turned attention to join their teammates at Sunday’s Gloucestershire Cross Country League, but this too was called off on the morning of the Wotton-under-Edge event. The only action of the weekend came in local parkrun events where Alex Lee chalked up a record 27th win at the Cheltenham event in Pittville Park with a time of 16:08. Marcus England had tried to keep with his Harriers teammate, but unfortunately took a fall on the icy path as he pushed too hard to maintain contact. However, the resilient England picked himself to stop the clock at 16:53 to take second place in a new parkrun PB. At the same event new recruit Gwenael Blanck recorded 19:41 and Henry James posted a time of 19:52. Hannah D’Ambrosio was the third lady home in 21:32 and V50 athlete Dave Hemmings completed the four laps of the lake in 21:59. At the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester Mark James took second place in 17:33 whilst Dave Tomlin continued his comeback from injury with 18:11 for third place.