There was a fine race win for Dave Roper as Cheltenham Harriers claimed a twenty-eighth consecutive team victory in the Gloucestershire Cross Country League fixture at Wotton-under-Edge. As the runners embarked on the new four lap course it was Bristol’s Ben Robinson who set the early pace to pull himself and the Cheltenham duo of Roper and Phil Beastall clear of the field. On the second circuit it was Beastall who hit the front, with Roper just behind as Robinson dropped off the pace. A lap later Roper moved into the lead with Beastall right behind his teammate as they headed into the final circuit locked together. Again it was Beastall who hit the front early on in the lap, with Roper clearly working hard to stay in touch. However, with around 200m remaining Roper kicked hard to open up a few yards over his teammate as he went on to win by just two seconds as Robinson finished a further 13 seconds adrift in third. Alex Bampton started the race steadily and gradually picked his way through the field to finish fifth overall as he pipped leading veteran Anthony Bailey by both a single second and single place. Marc Fallows ran well to finish as third veteran runner in ninth place before Alex Lee completed the victorious six man team in sixteenth place. With a miserly team score of just 39 points the Harriers enjoyed a 55 point winning margin over second placed Team Bath, with which extended their lead over their rivals at the top of the table to 141 points. The Cheltenham B team had started the day in third place in the league standings and managed to extend their lead over the fellow medal chasing teams by again taking third place on the day thanks to the efforts of Marcus England in 19th, Matt Crew who was the third under 20 runner home in 20th, Jacob Pickering (22nd), John Merrett (34th), Andy Gore (44th) and Elliot Prince (51st). The Harriers further showed their strength in depth as Matt Evans (55th), Gareth Edwards (63rd), Dave Rantell (66th), Steve Maguire (116th) and Dave Hemmings (122nd) provided vital backup. The master’s team of Bailey, Fallows, Merrett and Gore also won the veteran competition to extend the Harriers lead at the top of the league table.
The Cheltenham ladies team were led home by Sarah Sheppard who ran a good race to finish in 21st position as she held off the challenge of Jo Wilkie who closed the gap to just seven seconds and a single place. A further nine seconds later Hannah D’Ambrosio completed the scoring team in 24th position as the team packed well to finish fourth on the day, a position they now hold in the league standings. Vickie Wilkinson and Joan Shaw worked hard for 45th and 47th respectively as the masters team of Sheppard, Wilkie and Wilkinson finished fourth on the day, a result that moved them to the top of their league standings.
Graham Rush continued his fine recent form with an impressive performance whilst representing England in the Belgium Cross Cup cross country event in Brussels. Finishing eighth as he completed the 9km race in 27:11, Rush was the second member of the England team home as Morpeth’s Jonny Taylor (27:02) led the team home in fifth. Southend’s Adam Hickey (27:16) and Portsmouth’s Alex Teuton (27:41) completed the team in tenth and fourteenth respectively in a race won by Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli (26:26). Also competing abroad, Steve Hall recorded a time of 84:23 at the Pisa Half Marathon in Italy. Back in the UK Dave Tomlin finished second in the Torrington Christmas Caper 9.5 mile off road event in 62:20 whilst Will New finished third in the York parkrun in 16:17.