Distance Running News, 12 November

There was an impressive race win for Graham Rush as he led the Cheltenham Harriers team to an excellent third place as the club hosted the opening fixture of the Birmingham Cross Country League Division One in Pittville Park. A relatively slow opening half mile saw three Harriers in the top five as Rush, Phil Wylie and Oli Mott all put themselves at the head of the field as the runner reached the start of the three full laps. By the time the field hit the stream half way round the first lap it was Rush who led from Wylie, with Mott just outside the top ten positions and Phil Beastall the fourth Cheltenham runner in around twentieth position. By the start of the second lap the front group had been reduced to five with Toby Spencer (Coventry), Stuart McCallum (Birmingham University) and the Loughborough Students pair of Patrick Dever and James West joining Rush at the front of the field. Wylie was just off the back of the group in sixth whilst Beastall had moved through into the mid-teens alongside Mott. A lap later Rush continued to lead and looked in control at the front as Spencer fell off the pace to reduce the lead group to four. Wylie was now in seventh and Beastall was clear of his teammate Mott. By the time they reached the stream for the final time Rush had opened up a small gap over Dever and McCallum which he was able to maintain to the end. The Dave Newport coached athlete completed the 6 mile course two seconds ahead of the Loughborough athlete with McCallum finishing seven seconds later.

Whilst the Loughborough University team dominated the team competition with six runners in the top eleven, the battle between Cheltenham Harriers and Birmingham University for second place was a fascinatingly close affair. Whilst Rush had gained two points over McCallum, the second Birmingham runner finished one second and one place ahead of seventh placed Wylie. A strong last lap from Mott took him back up to a satisfying 14th and one place ahead of the third Birmingham runner. Phil Beastall then claimed a pleasing 19th just one place behind the fourth university athlete. Returning from injury, Dave Roper ran a sensible race to move through the field throughout the race into 26th position, again one place behind the next Birmingham runner. This left the scores tied as each team waited for their final scorer and yet again there was just one place in it as the final Birmingham runner crossed the line just a single second and place ahead of Ben Price who had ran well for 31st position. A team score of 98 represented the Harriers second best score in league history and was just 2 points off the 96 they scored when winning the final league fixture of the 2014-5 season. More importantly though, it gave the club an excellent start to the season as they finished as the leading club team ahead of Tipton (215) and Birchfield (222) who took fourth and fifth respectively.

Such was the quality of the Harriers team that John Parker led the B team home in 37th place as he finished as the first veteran runner home. Richard de-Camps followed in 45th before Anthony Bailey was the second veteran runner in 51st position. Liam Roarty (54th) held off the challenge of Alex Bampton (55th) before Will New completed the B team in 61st place as they finished third in the B team league behind the same two university teams. The Harriers C team would have finished fourth in the B team contest as the club showed a great display of depth through Marc Fallows (68th), Marcus England (76th), Dave Tomlin (88th), Ben Williams (97th), Dave Aubrey (102nd) and Jacob Pickering (106th). Part of a club record Birmingham League turnout of 31 athletes saw a D team of Ben Colabella (108th), Andy Gore (129th), Tomasso Migliuolo (141st), Andy Gardiner (145th), James Bingham (147th) and Matt Evans (152nd) pack well before the E team of Mateusz Podsiadly (169th), Steve Hall (183rd), Mike Gray (199th), Gareth Edwards (203rd), Andrew Kaighin (219th) and Lee Groenewegen (224th) crossed the line and Ian Giles (240th) completed the Harriers contingent. Jo Wilkie meanwhile competed in the Midland Women’s Cross Country League in Leamington where she finished as 26th division two runner home in 75th place overall