Phil Beastall produced his best ever cross country performance to finish in an excellent second place as he led the Cheltenham Harriers team home in the Birmingham Cross Country League Division One fixture in Pittville Park. Having ran a 10k personal best of 30:03 in Leeds the previous weekend, Beastall approached the race with confidence and put himself in the lead group from the start as Stoke’s Alex Brecker set the pace. In the second half of the first of three laps the pack started to split with Brecker taking himself and Beastall clear, with Loughbrough’s Will Fuller leading the chase in third. The Gloucestershire champion looked comfortable and was content to sit in the shoulder of the England international, but the pack behind narrowed the gap towards the half way point of the 10km race. Brecker then started to increase the pace after the stream crossing on the second lap, but he could not shake off Beastall as the pair again extended their lead to ensure it was a two horse race as they started the third and final circuit. The two protagonists stayed locked together as they entered the final mile, with Brecker still forcing the pace and eventually opening a gap over the Cheltenham athlete with about half a mile remaining. Whilst the Stoke athlete took the win in 32:03, a jubilant Beastall finished just seven seconds later to easily surpass his previous best league position of ninth as he finished fourteen seconds clear of third placed Fuller. Having won the previous weekend’s Gloucestershire League fixture, Ben Price was also hopeful of beating his previous best finish of nineteenth and put himself just outside the top twenty on the opening lap. Running a measured race the Cheltenham Half Marathon winner then moved through the field for an excellent thirteenth placed finish. New Harriers recruit Luke Pollard had started off ahead of Price, but still took encouragement from a fine 27th place on his league debut. Dan Owen was the fourth Cheltenham athlete home in 42nd place as the Harriers then looked to close their six man scoring team. With several athletes unavailable for the fixture both Richard de-Camps and Jon Barnes again produced good performances when they were needed, as they both ran well to finish in 46th and 47th positions respectively. This gave last year’s league silver medalists a team score of 177 which earned them fifth place in the sixteen strong division as they trailed Loughborough Students (50), Birchfield (98), Birmingham University (119) and Tipton (145).
The Harriers then showed the depth that exists in the club with some fine packing by the B team who were separated by just fourteen seconds. Dan Thomas led the way in 55th to finish three seconds and three places clear of Jacob Pickering. A further five seconds then elapsed before Tom Lowe, Dan King and Eliot Taylor crossed the line with identical times in 62nd, 63rd and 64th positions. Just six later Richard Dare completed the team in 67th to ensure the Harriers took second in the B competition behind Loughborough. Such was the quality within the team that they beat the score of Leamington’s A team that placed seventh in the A team competition. The Cheltenham vests continued to cross the line thick and fast with a C team of Marcus England (74th), Alex Lee (78th), Doug Wight (81st), Dave Aubrey (82nd), George Watson (83rd) and Charlie Jones (88th) again packing well, with all but Jones still pushing back the final runner of Stoke’s A team that finished sixth on the day. Jamie Harper (98th) and Marc Fallows (99th) ensured there were twenty Cheltenham runners in the top one hundred before Alex Lindfield (119th), Roger Mullins (128th), Joe Willgoss (130th) and James Bingham (139th) closed the D team. With a thirty strong squad out in force the Harriers also fielded an E team of Mark James (141st), Nick Brown (149th), Alister Brown (168th), Elliot Prince (188th), Steve Bradley (205th) and Matt Evans (242nd).
Whilst the men had the advantage of a home fixture the Cheltenham ladies team made the trip to Coundon Hall Park in Coventry for their opening Midland Women’s Cross Country League fixture. In a race that combined both divisions one and two of the league, Naomi Eaton led the team home in 21st position overall to place 4th in division two. Fee Maycock put in yet another impressive run to place 10th in the division and 38th overall before team manager Jo Wilkie took 14th and 60th. Emma Silversides then completed the team as she came home 32nd in division two and 107th overall in a field that had 426 finishers. With a team score of 80 the Harriers placed second of the 24 teams in division two as they finished 17 points behind winners Telford and 28 points clear of third placed Black Pear. The master’s team of Maycock, WIlkie and Silversides also placed second in the veteran standings as Telford again took the win. Elsewhere Alex Bampton competed for Oxford University at the British Athletics Cross Challenge event in Milton Keynes where he ran well for 23rd position. Amber Watson meanwhile contested the Glenelg Classic 10k road race in Adelaide where the temperature was 30 degrees despite the 8:00am start time. Overcoming her inexperience over the longer distance Watson ran well to finish as first lady home in a time of 40.24 as she finished twelve seconds clear of her nearest rival. Weekend parkruns saw James Wilkinson (18:30) take the win at Tewkesbury whilst Simon Critchley (19:08) and Miguel Mundinano (19:52) had a run out at the Cheltenham event.