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.