Cheltenham Harriers B team put in an impressive top ten performance as their A team’s hopes of a medal were cruelly dashed at the Midland 12 Stage Road Relay Championship in Sutton Coldfield. Alex Bampton took the highly competitive opening leg of 5.5 miles for the A team over the new tougher Sutton Park course that included an extra hill at the start of each stage. Bampton ran well to hand over in tenth place with a time of 29:18, a position that Dmitry Nazarenko maintained with a 16:47 clocking for the demanding 3 mile second leg. James Brewer then took the team up into sixth place with 28:56 on leg three to hand over to Ben Price on the fourth short stage. Price had moved the Harriers up into fifth, but with a less than a mile of his stage to go his quads cramped up and he was suddenly left immobile on the ground. Unable to even walk to the finish, this meant the team that was tipped to challenge for a medal was disappointingly out of the race. Race officials allowed the remaining team members to unofficially race their legs with Phil Wylie and Graham Rush clocking 27:38 and 28:00 respectively for their long legs. Phil Beastall (16:30), Matt Crew (16:58), Anthony Bailey (16:43) and Dan Owen (16:23) ran short legs whilst Will New and Dave Roper decided not to risk taking part with niggles with the team no longer in the race. Post race analysis showed that if the missing three short legs had all ran relatively slow times of 17:00 then the team would have finished third, three minutes ahead of actual bronze medallist Wolverhampton and Bilston.
With the Harriers A team out of the reckoning the attention turned the Cheltenham B team who were aiming for both a top ten finish and to be the first B team home. James Bingham had given the team a good start with a pleasing 25th in 31:05 before Roger Mullins took the team up to 20th with a 17:07 short leg. Jon Barnes then gained two further places with 30:46 and Alex Lee took the team to 16th with his 17:06 clocking. John Parker made a welcome return to the team and gained three places with 30:17 and new signing Mark James held on to 13th with an 18:32 that saw the Harriers overtake Bristol B to become the leading B team. The experienced Darren Jordan then ran well with a 30:29 to move up to tenth before Bristol came back past on leg 8 as Russell Forsbrook clocked 17:51. Andy Gore held 11th place with an 18:04 before Marc Fallows ran the team’s quickest short leg of 16:59 to go back past Bristol. James Miller then overtook Kenilworth to take the team into ninth with 17:03, although Bristol closed the gap behind to just nineteen seconds. Final leg runner John Merrett’s 17:49 couldn’t prevent Bristol overtaking and finishing seven seconds ahead, but the veteran still brought the Harriers B team home in an impressive tenth place.
The growth of the club over the last 12 months was demonstrated with the club fielding a C team that was aiming for a top 25 finish. Team manager Andy Prophett took the opening leg and brought the team home in 39th place with 33:20 in a field of 74 runners Gavin McCaugherty then gained seven places with an impressive 17:43 before Steve Hall’s 33:34 handed over in 33rd and Mike Gray gained five places with 18:48. Jay Dowding’s 33:56 put the team in 31st after five legs, with Matt Evans then gaining four places with 18:26. Elliot Prince then recorded 33:47 to hand over in 29th to Steve Maguire whose 19:19 moved the team up two places. Paul Horsfall ran well for 17:56 to gain a further place before Ian Giles took the team to 25th with a 19:09 leg. Miguel Mundinano then gained two further places with 18:32 and Iain Devlin impressed with a 17:39 final leg to bring the team home in 21st place, finishing as first C team and behind just three B teams.