Cheltenham Harriers men filled the top three places as their team won a twentieth consecutive Gloucestershire Cross County League race at their home fixture in Pittville Park. The first of the three laps of three kilometres saw a large front pack of eleven, which included seven Harriers, pull clear of the field in the opening mile as the Cheltenham squad responded to team manager Andy Prophett’s target of packing their six runners in the top ten for the first time in their five year unbeaten run. Fresh from their Birmingham League success the previous weekend, Harriers Graham Rush and Dave Roper were content to sit in a pack that also intriguingly included their 1500m international teammate James Brewer who was making a rare cross country appearance for the host club. After Dmitry Nazarenko had forced the pace on the second half of the opening lap, Roper made his move at the front on lap two and took himself and Rush clear of the next group that saw Brewer follow Severn’s Harry Bishop and Stroud’s Tom Mortimer. Rush made his move in the final lap to pull ten seconds clear of Roper by the finish for his second league victory of the season whilst Brewer moved clear of his rivals to complete the Harriers 1-2-3. Ben Price ran well for fifth before Nazarenko finished as third junior man home in seventh and leading veteran John Parker completed the victorious six man team in an impressive ninth place. This gave the team a score of just 27 points, twelve points better than their own previous record of 39 set two years ago and all but guarantees the club a sixth consecutive league title.
With a very strong A team the foundations were set for the club’s aim of taking the Harriers B team up into second place in the overall standings. Matt Crew again showed great potential for the future with a pleasing 12th place before Roger Mullins and Dave Aubrey followed in 15th and 19th respectively. Andy Gore and Marc Fallows then finished as second and third veterans home in 21st and 23rd places before James Bingham completed the Harriers B team in 28th. This equalled the club’s best ever B team score of 118 and earned a comfortable second place on the day to move the team back up into second place in the league table. Mike Gray outsprinted John Merrett as the pair led the C team home in 32nd and 33rd positions, with Merrett completing the Harriers veteran team that finished as dominant winners to extend their overall lead at the top of the table. With fellow veterans Steve Hall (40th), Dave Rantell (44th), Steve Linton (47th) and Ian Giles (76th) packing well the Masters B team emulated the men’s teams by claiming second behind their own A team. Steve Stretton completed the Harriers C team in 66th place as he finished one position ahead of Steve Maguire as the Cheltenham third string finished fifth overall, beaten by just two other clubs A teams. Dave Hemmings and Michael Imeson completed the 22 man squad in 150th and 204th respectively.
In the women’s event Rachel See ran an excellent race to finish in ninth place and as first under 20 runner home as she saw off the challenge of Vickie Wilkinson who was the second over 40 athlete in tenth place. With Katrina Hawkins the second over 50 runner home in 25th position this placed the Harriers fifth on the day, but they remain third in the league standings. Joan Shaw was the third over 50 runner in 30th to help the masters team to second on the day, a position they also hold overall, whilst Nicola Whiteman finished in 40th place.
Three Harriers made the trip to Shropshire for the Telford 10k and were rewarded with PBs in one of the top road races in the Midlands. Alex Bampton passed teammate Anthony Bailey at around 6km and went on to record a time of 32:27 for fortieth place. Bailey also broke the 33 minute barrier for the first time with 32:59 for fiftieth whilst Richard Evershed ran well for a 34:22 PB. In windy conditions at the Bolsover 10k Andrew van Kints placed eighth in 34:37.