Distance Running News, 25-26 February

Graham Rush produced an excellent performance to finish fifth in the National Cross Country Championships in Nottingham. Right from the start the GB international athlete was in the lead group that stayed together for the first two small laps. On the first of the two larger laps it was eventual winner Ben Connor (Derby) who picked up the pace and had opened a lead as the field went up the testing climb up to Wollaton Hall. As the pack split, Rush led the chase in second place with Alex Teuton (Southampton) just a few yards adrift as the pair opened up a gap over fourth placed Sam Stabler (Owls). With a lap to go Teuton had passed Rush whilst Stabler was also closing in on Rush. The Owl’s athlete then passed Rush and the medal positions looked to be decided with half a mile to go. However, with the next pack closing him down quickly the Dave Newport coached athlete then ran a strong finish section to reduce the gap to bronze medalist Stabler to just five seconds. Chris Olley (Tonbridge) meanwhile overtook Rush in the final straight to pip the Cheltenham athlete by two seconds whilst former champion Charlie Hulson (Sale) was fourteen seconds behind Rush in sixth position. Whilst slightly disappointed to miss out on a medal, Rush could take heart from his first top ten finish in a national cross country championship and certainly his best ever performance over the terrain.

The Cheltenham Harriers squad had set themselves a target of a top ten team finish as they looked to beat the club record twelfth position they had achieved last season. However, the loss of Oli Mott who felt unwell during the warmup was an early blow to the team’s chances. As expected Phil Wylie was the second Cheltenham runner home as he ran a solid race for 47th place. Phil Beastall then built on his fine recent form with a very pleasing 79th position before Alex Bampton returned from injury to move through the field throughout the race to claim 159th place. There was a further dent to the team’s chances of success when Richard de-Camps was forced to pull out before half way with an achilles injury, but Marc Fallows squeezed into the top 300 with a 299th place finish. The battle to be the final scorer in the six man team was a close affair with Marcus England and Dave Aubrey changing places throughout the race before the former pulled eleven seconds clear on the final lap as the pair came home in 331st and 339th respectively. Matt Evans made the top half of the 1762 finishers in 874th place. The final team standings saw the Cheltenham team finish a very respectable fifteenth on the day and as the second Midland club behind hosts Notts. In the under 20 men’s race the Harriers were represented by Alex Chantler-Mayne who finished 65th and Jacob Pickering who crossed the line in 80th place.

There was an impressive win for Alex Lee at the Bourton 10k road race as Cheltenham Harriers men’s team again took the honours. A fast opening mile around the two small laps of the village saw a three man pack quickly form with Lee joined by Dave Bell (Cirencester) and Alistair Cambell (Stroud). The trio all took turns on the front before Cambell dropped off the pace at around the 7km mark. Lee then upped the pace in the last mile to open a notable gap over Bell as they entered the final lap of the village, but the Cirencester athlete started closing the deficit and forced Lee to dig deep in the final few hundred metres for a two second victory in 32:34. Mark James was the second Harrier home as he finished seventh overall and as second veteran in a personal best of 34:59. Fellow veteran Dave Tomlin followed one place and two seconds later before Elliot Prince completed the victorious four man team in fifteenth place with a 36:17 clocking as he held off the challenge of Steve Hall by six seconds. Dave Rantell (37:52) before Fee Maycock finished as eight lady and second veteran over 45 in a time of 39:10. Richard Birch (39:36) and James Wilkinson (39:44) soon followed before Vickie Wilkinson was twelfth lady home in 39:49. Debbie Smith (45:23) and Charlotte Deacon (51:46) then completed the Harriers contingent. Weekend parkeuns saw Dave Tomlin (17:36) win at the Kingsway event in Gloucester and Liam Roarty (17:54) take first place at the Gloucester North event. A t the Cheltenham event James Bingham (18:58) was the third man home whilst Katerina Horrocks (22:42) was the second lady.