Dave Roper equalled the highest ever finish by a Cheltenham athlete and Rhys Park finished as first junior runner as they led the Cheltenham Harriers team to an impressive fifth place finish in the Birmingham League Division One fixture at Sandwell. With eventual race winner Ben Livesy of Birchfield opening an early lead, the Dave Newport coached pair were happy to sit just outside the top ten in a large chasing pack. With the medium lap completed Roper had moved up to ninth, with Park not far behind in fifteenth. Park briefly passed Roper on the first large lap, but by the end of the circuit Roper lay in seventh as the pack dwindled, with Park losing ground in tenth and Tipton’s Adrian Holliday moving clear of the pack into second place. A lap later, with one large lap remaining, Roper sat in sixth as Holliday kept his lead over the pack, whilst Park slipped back to twelfth.
With half a mile remaining Roper was in a three way tussle with Loughborough’s Sam Toft and Tipton’s Richard Kay as they chased down Holliday. The Cheltenham runner picked up the pace with 400m remaining to get rid of Kay and then pulled a couple of yards clear of Toft, only for the student to pass him with 40m remaining to get within four seconds of Holliday. Meanwhile, eighteen year old Park had a strong final lap to move up into ninth place to mark his Birmingham League debut by finishing as the top under 20 athlete. Whilst Roper was slightly disappointed to miss out on the top three finish, it was the twenty-eight year olds highest league finish as he went one better than his previous best and also equalled Tom Lowe’s highest ever top flight finish by a Harrier set at Northampton in February 2005. It was only the second time that two Harriers have made the top ten in the same race, following Lowe and Corin Hughes placing seventh and ninth respectively at Leek in November 2005. Park became just the fifth Harrier in history to achieve a top ten finish, with Julian Wilkie the other member of the exclusive club.
Dan Owen returned to action after a brief injury lay and showed good form. The Andy Beadle coached runner maturely moved through the field up to 37th by the end of the first large lap and into 30th with a lap remaining, before coming home in 34th place to claim his highest ever league position as he finished as sixth under 20 athlete home. Jeremy Bradley tracked fellow Harrier Marc Fallows for the first half of the race before working his way through the field to finish 62nd, with Fallows maintaining his form in 73rd place. Darren Jordan showed good form as he continually moved through the field to complete the scoring six man team in 83rd place. This gave the Harriers a score of 265 to claim an excellent fifth place on the day behind the might of Coventry, Loughborough, Birmingham University and Tipton. The result also sees the team move up to seventh overall in the sixteen team division. Outside the scoring team Elliot Prince in 101st, Ian Giles in 196th and Gavin Cotter in 230th provided vital backup. Full Results Photos