Distance Running News, 16-18 February

Cheltenham Harriers Ladies team put in an excellent performance to claim the Gloucestershire Cross Country League bronze medals as their men’s team won an eighth consecutive league title at the final fixture of the season in Pittville Park. Jo Wilkie’s team went into the fixture lying in fourth place, but a twenty point deficit to third placed CLC Striders seemed an unlikely gap to make up for the defending league champions. Hilary Mott made a welcome return to the team and was the leading Harrier on the opening lap with Jane Thomas, Fee Maycock and Vickie Wilkinson packing well together as it was clear that the Cheltenham side were heading for second place on the day behind Stroud, but more significantly with all three CLC scorers placed behind them. With half a lap to go Maycock and Wilkinson were closing in on Mott as the three white vests then ran side by side occupying sixth, seventh and eighth positions. As they entered the final quarter of a mile Maycock was forcing the pace with Wilkinson just about staying in touch. After a three way sprint finish it was Maycock who stayed ahead to hold off Wilkinson by just one second with Mott a further two seconds adrift as the three woman scoring team posted a total of 21 points. With the first two CLC scorers in eleventh and twelfth the importance of the next two Cheltenham athletes was significant as Jane Thomas in sixteenth and Sarah Sheppard in seventeenth helped to push the final CLC scorer back to twentieth position. The CLC score of 43 points was therefore 22 points behind the Harriers which gave the Cheltenham team the bronze medals by just two points whilst Stroud and Team Bath took the top two spots. Hannah D’Ambrosio completed the Harriers B team in 30th as they finished fourth overall on the day and Joan Shaw placed 64th to finish as second LV50 runner for the series. The Harriers Masters team of Maycock, Wilkinson and Shepard won again to claim their league title whilst Maycock also took the LV45 series award as she finished second veteran overall.

For the Harriers men’s team, an eighth consecutive league title was all but mathematically secure going into the final race, but the task of ensuring a 29th consecutive league win was the clear target for Andy Prophett’s squad. Ben Price and Oli Mott quickly opened up a lead at the front of the field and were joined by Jon Barnes by the end of the first lap as a Harriers 1-2-3 looked inevitable. As Price forced the pace on the second half of the second lap Barnes was cut adrift whilst Mott sat patiently on his teammate’s shoulder. With exactly one lap top go Mott made his move and quickly opened up a gap over Price which he extended to eleven seconds by the finish whilst Barnes took third a further forty seconds later. Dave Aubrey then claimed his highest ever league position in fifth whilst Jacob Pickering took eleventh to finish as second under 20 runner both on the day and in the series. Mateusz Podsiadly then made the Harriers A team for the first time as he completed the scoring six man squad in fifteenth which gave the team a score of 37 for a 48 point win over Team Bath. The Harriers B team were looking to remain third in the overall standings and again delivered as they finished third on the day through Roger Mullins (19th), Andy Gardiner (28th), Mike Gray (31st), Russell Forsbrook (38th), Andy Gore (42nd) and Dave Rantell (48th). The veteran team of Mullins, Gore, Forsbrook and Rantell finished second on the day behind Team Bath but still took the league title. James Wilkinson (55th), Ian Giles (62nd), Lee Groenewegen (74th), Dave Hemmings (101st) and Matt Evans (139th) completed the Harriers squad. The absent Anthony Bailey still claimed both the overall and veteran league titles whilst Andy Gore was the third over 45 athlete overall.

Earlier in the week Graham Rush represented England in the Armagh 5k road race. The night-time midweek event is renowned for being the UK’s top 5k race and again had a strong line up assembled for the five lap town centre event. Rush was content to sit in the pack for the first 3km but then broke clear on the fourth lap as he made a brave bid for victory. Whilst being caught by the pack with 400m remaining Rush can take heart from the fact that his time of 14:06 was three seconds faster than his track personal best and that he still finished seventh in a highly competitive race which was won by his England teammate Ben Connor in 13:55. Weekend parkruns saw wins for Phil Wylie in 15:45 at the Exeter Riverside event and for Dave Tomlin with 17:17 at the Kingsway event in Gloucester.