Distance Running News, 29 November - 3 December

Dave Roper produced his best cross country performance for some time as he led Cheltenham Harriers to fine team result in the Birmingham League Division One fixture at Tipton. With six of their top seven runners that finished in an excellent third place at the opening fixture unavailable, the Harriers showed the depth in their squad as they packed well and made fine individual gains from the previous race. After the first of the three hilly laps of the Sandwell Valley park, Roper was content to be running in the teens, before moving up top just outside the top ten by the end of the second circuit. A strong last lap then saw the 31 year old pick off further athletes to finish in a very pleasing seventh place. The battle to be second Harrier was a close affair, with Dan Owen returning to the team and leading Richard de-Camps and Alex Bampton for the first half of the race. The trio ended up together by the end of the second circuit as Bampton and de-Camps moved through the field. By the finish the pair had claimed their highest ever league finishes of 18th and 21st respectively whilst Owen dug deep to come home in 31st position. Liam Roarty continued his good recent from as he moved through the field to 42nd place. Veteran Marc Fallows was the sixth and final team scorer as he managed to stay clear of Alex Lee on the final lap to close the team in 54th place. This gave the Harriers a team score of 173 as they finished fourth in the sixteen strong division behind Loughborough University (41), Birchfield (149) and Birmingham University (166), whilst hosts Tipton (217) took fifth place. This means the Harrier remain in third place in the overall league standings, just eight points behind second placed Birmingham University and one hundred points ahead of fourth placed Birchfield. The Cheltenham B team again finished third in their competition thanks to the efforts of Alex Lee (55th), Will New (64th), Marcus England (67th), Jacob Pickering (83rd), Dave Tomlin (88th) and Dave Aubrey (95th). They also remain third in their league standings behind the two university teams. The C team of Roger Mullins (104th), John Merrett (131st), Elliot Prince (134th), Andy Gardiner (140th), Andy Gore (142nd) and Mateusz Podsiadly (151st) also packed well before Lee Groenewegen (219th) completed the nineteen strong Cheltenham contingent.

The Harriers ladies team also enjoyed team success as they contested the Midland Women’s Cross Country League event at Stratford. The trio of Fee Maycock, Vickie Wilkinson and Jo Wilkie showed good form to finish 12th, 22nd and 25th respectively in the division two race to finish as the top masters team in the division. Their race was held within the combined division one and two race where they were the 44th, 58th and 65th across the line, with only Tipton Harriers of the division one masters teams outperforming them.

Earlier in the week the Harriers sent a strong squad to the midweek Aztec West 5k road race in Bristol. Despite the temperature being just above freezing point, a windless evening made for good racing conditions that the team were able to exploit. Whilst winner Matt Clowes (Cardiff) ran away from the field to record a course record of 14:41, the Harriers duo of Oli Mott and Phil Beastall were to the fore in the chasing group. Mott pulled his teammate clear of the group as he took second place in 15:06 with Beastall then crossing the line two seconds later in third to knock two seconds off his PB. Anthony Bailey, Richard de-Camps and Will New were still locked together at two miles, with de-Camps moving clear to set a personal best of 15:42 and New lowering his PB to 15:47. Crossing the line in 15:52 Bailey finished as first veteran before Alex Lee recorded 16:16. The final four Harriers also had a very close battle throughout the whole race , with Darren Jordan finishing as third veteran in 16:31 as he outsprintined Marcus England who lowered his PB to 16:32. Fractionally behind there were 2016 bests for both Dave Aubrey and Andy Prophett who clocked 16:34 and 16:35 respectively.