Cheltenham Harriers produced an excellent team performance to claim the bronze medals in the Midland 12 Stage Road Relay Championships in Sutton Coldfield. Alex Bampton got the team off to a good start as he completed the hilly 5.4 mile opening long leg in a time of 27:55 to bring the team home in sixth place as Bristol, Notts and Birchfield occupied the top three places. Oli Mott then impressed with a 26:45 clocking as moved the Harriers up into third place to close within 36 seconds of Notts whilst defending champions Bristol extended their lead. The third leg then saw Graham Rush post the fastest long leg of the day, with his 26:04 bringing Cheltenham within 12 seconds of the leaders and 54 seconds clear of Notts. The final long leg then saw Phil Beastall impressively equal Mott’s time of 26:45 as they shared the joint fifth fastest stage of the day. By this point Bristol had extended their lead to 36 seconds, but the gap to Notts had grown to 71 seconds as the focus moved to eight shorter stages of 3.2 miles. The race passed the half way point on stage five as Dan Owen’s pleasing 15:53 took the Harriers within 11 seconds of the leaders and extended the gap over Notts to 88 seconds. Stage six then saw Ben Price take the lead with a 15:50 leg that saw the Cheltenham team enjoy a 12 second advantage over Bristol with Notts and Birchfield 1:48 and 4:29 behind.
Keeping the lead was never going to be a realistic possibility though, as Harriers team manager Andy Prophett had used his six best runners on the first six legs with the hope of hanging on to claim a medal in the event for just the second time in the club’s history. New recruit James Denne made his debut on stage seven, but despite his encouraging 16:17 Bristol took a lead that they would never relinquish as Notts closed the gap to 1:33. Fellow new signing Eliot Taylor then recorded a 16:54 leg as the gap to third fell to 43 seconds. Leg nine saw Jon Barnes post a 16:55 as Notts moved 14 seconds ahead of Cheltenham into their eventual silver medal position whilst fourth placed Birchfield closed the gap to 3:16. As Notts then moved further ahead Will New’s pleasing 16:23 extended the lead over Birchfield to 3:34 with just two legs remaining. Liam Roarty then ran well for 16:41 to hand over to veteran Marc Fallows with no imminent danger from behind. Fallows ran a controlled race to record 17:05 and bring the Harriers home in the bronze medal position in 3:59:27 as Bristol (3:54:50) and Notts (3:56:24) finished ahead whilst Birchfield (4:01:27) and Tipton (4:07:10) completed the top five.
The Harriers ladies team were looking to build on their growing reputation and hoping to beat last year’s pleasing tenth place in the women’s championship that was held over six stages. Sarah Sheppard took the highly competitive opening long stage and her pleasing 35:29 saw her hand over in fourteenth place from the sixty-five teams. Team manager Jo Wilkie then recorded a 21:48 short stage to hand over in seventeenth place to Fee Maycock whose impressive 34:18 long leg took the Cheltenham team up into tenth place. New signing Gemma Collier briefly took the team into ninth place before handing over back in tenth position with a 20:29 leg. Susan Mair then took almost a minute off her time from last year with a 22:47 leg that left the team in eleventh with one leg remaining. Hilary Mott then produced an excellent performance to produce the eighth fastest short leg of the day and gain four places with an 18:51 leg that brought the team home in an impressive seventh place.
The Harriers men also had a B team in action that were looking to equal their best ever position of tenth. Jacob Pickering (30:10) ran a mature race to place 23rd of the 76 runners on the opening leg before Dave Aubrey (30:09) moved the team up into nineteenth. Dave Tomlin (30:50) handed over in twentieth to Andrew van Kints (30:02) who gained three places before Mark James (17:37) gained a further place on the first of the short stages. New recruit Charlie Jones impressed on his debut with a 17:05 leg that took the team up to fourteenth before Ben Williams (17:46) maintained position. Roger Mullins (17:51) gained a place before Russell Forsbrook (18:06) handed over back in fourteenth to Andy Gardiner (17:39) who gained two places. Matt Evans (18:29) then maintained twelfth position on leg eleven before Mike Gray (17:55) gained two places to bring the team home in tenth place overall and as the second B team to finish behind Bristol B who placed ninth.
The following day the club hosted the Cleevewold 14 mile multi-terrain race in which Tomasso Migliuolo enjoyed victory by over 4 minutes. With lan Giles the first V50 runner home in seventh and Simon Critchley finishing tenth the trio ensured that the Harriers also took the team title. Anthony Rossi (18th), Paul Barnes (43rd), Dave Hemmings (59th) and Michael Imeson (80th) also conquered the testing course. Weekend parkrun results saw Luke Kearns (17:17) take the win at Tewkesbury and Lottie Roberts (21:05) finish as first lady at Evesham. At the Cheltenham event Matthew Dwerryhouse (18:12) placed seventh whilst Emma Quekett (21:12) and Katerina Horrocks (22:41) were second and fifth ladies home.