There was a race win for Graham Rush as Cheltenham Harriers packed well to produce a solid team performance in the opening fixture of the Birmingham Cross Country League Division One at Leamington. Rush, who had become the first Cheltenham athlete to win the individual league title last season, was content to sit in a large pack of eighteen runners on the opening lap of notoriously muddy and challenging course. Coming down the steep hill in the early stages of the second lap Rush took the lead and controlled the race through the wooded section as the group began to fragment. Only Jack Gray (BRAT) attempted to go with the Cheltenham athlete as Rush moved clear on the large field, but by the end of the second lap the Dave Newport coached athlete had opened up a clear lead. Looking relaxed throughout Rush extended his winning margin by the finish, with runner up Jacob Allen (Rugby), an athlete who will represent England next weekend, coming home eleven seconds later.
Behind Rush it was always going to be important that the rest of the Harriers team packed well, as injury had deprived last year’s team bronze medalists of several key athletes. Alex Bampton was the second Harrier for almost the whole race as he ran well to finish in his highest ever league position of 29th. Harry Bishop and Richard de-Camps both made their division one league debuts and proved to be valuable additions to the Cheltenham squad as they battled closely for much of the race. Bishop, who had fallen badly at the start, finally moved clear of de-Camps in the last half lap as the pair finished just sixteen seconds apart in 36th and 41st places respectively. Veteran Marc Fallows made an impressive start to the season to follow fourteen seconds and two places later, as he finished just one place and one second ahead of the fast finishing Jeremy Bradley. For most of the race Bradley had battled to complete the scoring six man team with Will New who eventually finished a further eleven seconds back in 49th place. This gave the Cheltenham team a score of 194 points for fifth place, but in a closely contested team event they remain just 48 points adrift of second placed Stoke who were well adrift of winners Loughborough University. Joining New in the Harriers B team were Marcus England who enjoyed a fine 88th place on his league debut and Tomasso Migliouolo who produced his best ever performance to break into the top one hundred for the first time in 99th position. Andy Gore (103rd), Elliot Prince (110th) and Matt Crew (113th) completed the second team who finished third in the B team league behind the university teams from Loughborough and Birmingham. Further essential backup in a division one field of over 300 hundred runners was provided by Matt Evans (166th), Russell Forsbrook (186th), Iain Devlin (198th) and Lee Groenewegen (210th).
Beth Hawling continued her fine start to the winter with a second consecutive victory in the women’s race at the Gwent Cross Country League in Cardiff. On the first lap, the Matt Richards coached athlete was content to sit just off the lead in second place, as a strung out group of eight pulled clear. By the end of the second lap only one other athlete was able to match Hawling’s pace and she continually increased the pace into the third and final lap. A strong last kilometre saw the Cardiff University student extend her lead to thirty seconds by the finish. The weekend also saw Alex Lee win the four lap Cheltenham parkrun in 16:50 and Gareth Edwards place fourth in 19:21. Fellow Harrier Mark James gaining another win at the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester in 18:50.