Distance Running News, 9 January

Dan Owen successfully defended his Gloucestershire title as Cheltenham Harriers men’s team produced the perfect team performance at the county cross country championships in Coleford. Awful weather and waterlogged conditions meant that the course was a test of strength, with the technical forest section of each lap also challenging the runners. Straight from the start it was clear that the Cheltenham team were going to dominate as Oli Mott took the pace on round the opening circuit of the fields. Mott’s Harriers teammates Owen, Harry Bishop and Dave Roper were joined in the leading pack by guest runner Huw Evans of Welsh club Les Croupiers. In the forest section for the first time Roper took on the pace and managed to open a gap over the group as they returned onto the field section of the course with Owen lying in fourth place. Roper’s lead was reduced slightly on the second circuit of the field before Owen and Bishop overtook him in the forest. The pack then reformed on the third circuit of the field before Owen made a decisive move that split the group. Entering the forest for the final time the steeplechaser had a significant gap, whilst Roper was looking tired from his earlier efforts at the back of the pack. By the time the runners came onto the field for the fourth and final time it was Owen who had a clear race winning advantage. In second place Mott was a few yards ahead of Roper and Evans, whilst Bishop was notably adrift of the trio. Whilst Owen remained unchallenged and went on take the win, confusion reigned behind him. The finishing route was not what the organisers had published in advance of the race which clearly impacted the battle for second place. Expecting to run the published short section on the final field, Mott frustratingly jogged in when the runners were sent on a full lap of the field. In the final run in Roper outsprinted Evans to finish as runner-up in the championship yet again, eleven seconds behind two time champion Owen. Evans was third across the line one second adrift of Roper, with the fast finishing Bishop closing the gap to Evans to a single second as he took the under 20 title. Mott cruised in for fifth place some way adrift of Bishop.

Marc Fallows successfully defended his county veteran title as he took sixth place overall ahead of second veteran John Parker who placed seventh. With Evans a guest runner, this meant that the Harriers six man team had completed the perfect team score of 21 in the Championship event by filling the first six places. Eighth across the line to take the under 20 silver medal was Jacob Pickering as he led the Harriers B team to team silver thanks to third veteran Roger Mullins in tenth, vet 45 gold medallist Andy Gore in thirteenth, Marcus England and Elliot Prince in fourteenth and fifteenth respectively and V45 silver medallist Dave Rantell who took sixteenth place. In 24th place Dan Minors ensured the Harriers made a clean sweep of the V45 age group medals as the Cheltenham veteran B team took second place behind their own veteran A team. Matt Evans finished in 25th place after a close battle with Elliot Goodman who earned the under 20 bronze medal. Dave Hemmings took vet 50 bronze in 39th place and Steve Maguire completed the Harriers contingent in 47th place. In the women’s race new Harriers signing Shona Crombie Hicks made her debut for the club. Making a rare cross country appearance the former Scottish marathon international soon established herself in third place and remained in that position for the rest of the race as Bristol’s Kate Hulls took the win ahead of Helen Brown (Forest of Dean). Rachel See ran well to take under 20 gold in sixth place and veteran Christina See helped the Cheltenham team to earn fourth place as she finished in 35th place.