Cheltenham Harriers ladies started their season with an emphatic team victory as Hilary Mott enjoyed a race win in the Gloucestershire Cross Country League fixture. The opening small lap of the Gloucester course saw a group of five women pull clear of the field. Bath athlete Katrine Svane was happy to lead with Mott and her Harriers team-mate Naomi Eaton content to sit in the pack. The three athletes then pulled clear on the second small lap, before Eaton took up the pace to lead the runners out on the first of two larger laps. With recent 82 minute half marathon runner Svane falling slightly adrift, Mott and Eaton worked together to push on the pace to open up a decisive gap. The pair remained together for the rest of the lap with Eaton working on the front and Mott sitting just behind. However, Mott was leading as the pair approached some lapped runners going into the small narrow wooded section half way round the final lap. Managing to squeeze past the impending obstacle whilst Eaton was impeded by the backmarkers, the Gloucestershire 10,000m champion realised she had opened a few yards and took the chance to make her bid for victory as she picked up the pace and extended her lead. Taking her first league win Mott finished ten seconds clear of Eaton who was in turn eight seconds ahead of Svane. With three to score in the team event the battle to complete the Cheltenham team was a close affair with Amber Watson and Fee Maycock and running together in sixth and seventh for the entire race before the younger athlete pulled five seconds clear on the final lap. In seventh Maycock not only won the LV50 category but was also the first veteran lady home as she held off the challenge of the younger veterans. With a paltry team score of just nine points the Harriers enjoyed an eleven point victory over reigning champions Bath as they looked to regain the title they won in the 2015-16 season. The battle to be third team was a close affair, but with Sarah Sheppard thirteenth and Jo Wilkie in 18th the Cheltenham B team finished clear of the A teams of the Forest of Dean and Gloucester. The veteran team of Maycock, Sheppard and Wilkie also won their team competition by 23 points. In 19th place the Olivia Davis ran well to finish as the second under 17 runner home. With third u17 athlete Emma Quekett in 26th and Rachel See in 34th the Harriers ladies showed great depth as their C team placed sixth overall. Emma Silversides enjoyed her cross country debut in 39th before Katerina Horrocks (53rd), Agata Giles (123rd) and Christina See (171st) completed the thirteen strong squad.
The Cheltenham men’s team started their bid for a ninth consecutive league title without their ten fastest runners from the recent road relays, so it was always going to be a case of good squad packing rather than relying on potential race winners if their seven year unbeaten run was going to continue. Edd Charlton-Weedy and Dan King were the only Harriers to put themselves in the eight man lead group, but a swarm of white vests lay in the next pack as the team made its mark. Whilst Will Ferguson (CLC) took the race win, last year’s runners up Bath started well with athletes finishing in second, fourth and fifth places. Dan Thomas ran a well-paced race to move through the field to lead the Harriers home in a very pleasing sixth place before Doug Wight claimed seventh some twenty seconds adrift. Four seconds later Charlton-Weedy crossed the line in eighth to finish three seconds and one place clear of a rejuvenated Jacob Pickering who finished as the leading under 20 runner. With King in eleventh and Dave Aubrey in twelfth the six Harriers scorers ensured a thirtieth consecutive league win as they finished 27 points clear of Bath. The club B team were also looking to claim league medals for a fourth consecutive seasons and ran well with Charlie Jones (14th), Liam Roarty (21st), Roger Mullins (29th), Alex Lindfield (37th), Dave Rantell (55th) and Dan Minors (63rd). This ensured third on the day as they finished 90 points clear of fourth placed Stroud A team. The The Harriers C team of Gareth Edwards (68th), Steve Bradley (82nd), Alister Brown (83rd), Miguel Mundinano (84th), Matt Evans (88th) and Ian Giles (109th) finished as twelfth team whist the veteran team of Mullins, Rantell, Minors and Bradley finished second in their category as Bath took the win. Kieran Hill (116th) made a return to race action before Claude Bernard (140th) finished as third V60 runner and Dave Hemming (160th) completed the Harriers contingent.
The same afternoon saw the British Athletics Cross Challenge series get underway in Cardiff with three Harriers making the trip in search of higher competition. Building on his success of third fastest leg at the recent national road relays , Graham Rush ran well for a pleasing fourth place as Sam Stabler (Wreake & Soare Valley), Mahamed Mahamed (Southampton) and Jonny Hay (Aldershot) took the top three spots. Phil Beastall produced another strong performance to earn ninth place whilst Dan Owen ran well for 22nd place. On the roads Marcus England lowered his half marathon personal best to 73:28 as he finished 34th in the Manchester Half Marathon whilst at the Birmingham Half Marathon James Wilkinson ran 86:27 and Charlotte Deacon lowered her PB to 1:53.16.