Graham Rush’s continued good form has been rewarded selection for the England team to compete in the Cardiff Cross Country Challenge next weekend. In November the Cheltenham Harrier finished sixth in the English 10k Road Championship and followed this up with a Birmingham Cross Country League win in December before retaining his Cambridgeshire Cross Country Championship earlier this month.
Cheltenham Harriers produced their best team performance of the season to finish in a fine third place in the Birmingham Cross Country League Division One fixture at Coundon Hall Park in Coventry. A waterlogged course made the going tough in places as a large group of seventeen runners pulled clear of the chasing field on the first of the three laps. Cheltenham athletes Graham Rush and Phil Wylie were positioned towards the front of the pack as the group gradually dwindled to seven runners on the next circuit, with Rush taking a share of the work at the front of the group. Wylie lost ground on the group early on in the final lap as Rush approached the uphill drag in a five man pack which quickly split after an injection of pace from Coventry’s Toby Spencer. Whilst Stoke’s Alex Brecker eventually took the win ahead of Spencer, Rush came home fifth behind the Loughborough University pair of Richard Horton and Commonwealth Games 1500m runner Jake Whiteman. Finishing in sixth place Wylie closed the gap to Rush to five seconds by the finish as the pair laid the platform for a good Harriers team result.
With the two University teams form Loughborough and Birmingham using the event as a trial for the forthcoming BUCS champs the depth of quality in the field was high, with 20 students packed into the top 36 places. Third Cheltenham athlete home Richard de-Camps therefore had to run well for a pleasing 37th place which was arguably more impressive than the 30th position in the previous fixture. Behind de-Camps the Harriers team packed well with Harry Bishop coming home in 43rdh place to see off the challenge of Marc Fallows who was the first veteran home in 45th position. Alex Lee completed the scoring six man team in 50th place to give the Harriers a score of 186 for a third placed team finish behind the two powerful university squads and 16 points ahead of fourth placed Stoke. This leaves the Cheltenham squad in fourth place in the overall, 55 points adrift of third placed Stoke with one fixture remaining.
Arguably the most impressive Harrier of the day was seventeen year old Jacob Pickering who enjoyed an excellent league debut to lead the Cheltenham B team home in 55th place. Jeremy Bradley following in 60th position as he and Pickering pushed the final two Stoke A team scorers further down the field. Roger Mullins came home in 84th before Alister Brown overtook Andy Gore in the final straight as the pair finished 124th and 126th respectively. Club stalwart Russell Forsbrook completed the squad in 169th to help the Harriers B team to fourth on the day to remain third in their B team overall standings.
Beth Wynn was the leading Gloucestershire athlete in the Midland Women’s Cross Country League in Gloucester where she finished 28th in a race won by GB middle distance international Jessica Judd. The weekend also saw three Harriers enjoy parkrun wins with Will Woodcock first across the line in 17:34 in Cheltenham, Mark James earning first place with 19:03 at the Kingsway event and Gareth Edwards enjoying a 19:24 win at the Gloiucester North parkrun.