Dave Roper produced an excellent individual performance as he led a strong Cheltenham Harriers team to an impressive fifth place in the opening division one fixture of the Birmingham Cross Country League at Leamington. Going into the race Roper had a best ever position of fourth in the league, with his sights set on a top three finish this season. At the end of the opening lap the Dave Newport coached athlete was lying in fourth place as Birchfield’s Eritrean runner Weynay Ghebresilasie established a race winning lead at the head of the field. After the second of three laps Roper was in a three man pack vying for second place, which was reduced to just Nial Fleming (Birmingham University) and himself with three quarters of a mile remaining. Roper then upped the pace to move clear of his rival to finish in second place, the highest ever finish by a Cheltenham runner in the league.
Graham Rush put in another impressive performance as he came home 20th on his league debut whilst Dan Owen and Andrew van Kints ran well to claim their highest ever league positions in 26th and 41st respectively. The ever dependable Darren Jordan continued his good recent form in 55th place as he beat off the challenge of rival Jon Barnes who completed the Harriers six man team in 68th place. This gave the Cheltenham team a total of 212 points to finish fifth of the sixteen teams in the league, one place ahead of former league champions Tipton Harriers and beaten only by Loughborough Students, Birmingham University, Birchfield and Coventry Godiva.
The Harriers also impressed in the B team competition to finish second behind Loughborough as they packed well with six runners separated by just sixteen places and thirty seconds. Roger Mullins led the team home in 77th before Marc Fallows in 82nd saw off the fast finishing James Bingham who came 83rd. Andrew Kaighin ran well for 85th position, one place ahead of Richard Evershed in 86th before Russell Forsbrook closed the team in 93rd place. Whilst the league does not publish C team standings, the Cheltenham C team of Dave Aubrey (107th), Andy Gore (110th), Will New (121st), Mike Gray (129th), Matt Evans (143rd) and Miguel Mundinano (146th) was only bettered on the day by Loughborough’s C team and would have beaten all but the top two B teams. Tommaso Migliuolo (166th) and James Wilkinson (190th) completed the Harriers twenty man squad as they finished in the top two thirds of the field.