Distance Running News, 10th January

Phil Wylie claimed the race win as Cheltenham Harriers produced their best ever team performance to finish in an excellent second place in the Birmingham League Division One fixture at Coventry. The opening of three laps saw a large pack of around ten athletes break away at the front of the field, with Wylie and teammate Graham Rush content to sit in the group. At the previous fixture Wylie had left it until the final quarter of the race before making his move, but on this occasion with the pace slowing early in the second lap as the pack ran into a headwind, the Dave Newport athlete decided to make his move. Such was Wylie’s injection of pace that nobody from the lead group went with it and a significant gap quickly opened. Rush led the chase as he took Jack Gray (BRAT) away from the rest of the pack that quickly split. By the end of the circuit Wylie had a lead of approximately eighty metres, whilst Rush was having to work hard to stay in touch with Gray as the pair were closed down by the host clubs Toby Spencer. The final lap saw Wylie remain unchallenged and take a fifteen second victory over Gray, who in turn pulled nine seconds clear of Rush who had to battle hard to take third place with a four second gap to Spencer.

Having finished fourth in last weekend’s Gloucestershire Championship, Dmitry Nazarenko made his Birmingham League debut and put in a mature performance. In the mid-30s at the end of the first lap the seventeen year old moved through the field to finish in an impressive 24th place. Making a welcome return to the team for his first cross country since re-joining the club was former Midland cross country bronze medallist Tom Lowe. Like Nazarenko, the experienced campaigner moved through the field to come home in a pleasing 31st place. Alex Bampton continued his consistent winter despite not finding his best form. Running in the mid-30s, the youngster looked like scoring for the Harriers A team for the third consecutive race, but found his place in the team under threat from veterans Darren Jordan and Marc Fallows who moved through the field to close the gap to around 30 metres with one lap remaining. Whilst Bampton dug deep to finish 37th, Jordan came home five seconds later having moved clear of Fallows in the final mile to take 39th place and the final place in the six man scoring team. This gave the Harriers a new club record score of 135 points, which earning the team second place on the day behind winners Birmingham University who scored 109 and ahead of third place Loughborough University who closed with a total of 154. More significantly though it strengthened the Cheltenham teams third place overall, with the gap over fourth placed Coventry increasing to 251 points and the prospect of the clubs first ever medals in the league looking good.

With the A team producing their best ever finish, having only finished second on one previous occasion, the B team also packed well to finish as the first B team for the first time in the league. Finishing just six seconds behind Jordan, Fallows had to be content with a B team spot despite running well for 43rd place. Next home for the Harriers was teenager Matt Crew who ran well for 70th place as he finished seven seconds ahead of Will New who took 78th place. Just three seconds later James Bingham came home in 80th, with Andy Gore another 14 seconds behind in 84th as he finished three seconds ahead of Dave Aubrey. This gave the B team a score of 441 points for a 29 point victory over league leaders Loughborough and moved the club to within eight points of second placed Birmingham University in the overall standings. A Harriers C team also showed the depth within the club with Russell Forsbrook (103rd), Steve Hall (118th), Elliot Prince (120th), Gavin McCaugherty (143rd), Miguel Mundinano (158th) and Ian Giles (180th) coming home before Tommaso Migliuolo (202nd) completed the nineteen strong Harriers squad.

At the Cheltenham parkrun there were four Harriers in the top eight with Luke Kearns and Ben Williams both clocking 18:39 for third and fourth places respectively. Jacob Pickering (18:51) and Matt Evans (19:02) finished in seventh and eighth whilst Molly Powlesland (22:20) was sixth lady home.