Dan Owen took victory in the Gloucestershire Cross Country Championship as Cheltenham Harriers teams took gold and silver medals over a testing course in Coleford. After the opening mile on the grass, a lead group of six had formed as the race entered the forest for the first time with three full laps remaining. This front pack stayed together until they returned to the playing fields when Owen moved to the front and took himself, teammate Dmitry Nazarenko and Severn’s Harry Bishop clear at the front. Bishop led the trio back into the woods with the two Harriers content to follow his pace. Again there were no significant changes during the more technically demanding forest section, with the three runners locked together before Owen, feeling more comfortable on the grass, upped the pace to quickly open a lead over Bishop who in turn created a gap over Nazarenko.
Further down the field Phil Beastall made a welcome return to action for the Harriers after a seven month injury absence and had moved through the field and up into sixth place. Exiting the forest for the final time Owen had a hundred metre lead over Bishop with Nazarenko a further twenty metres adrift. Beastall meanwhile was just a few metres behind Richard de Camps (Gloucester) and Andrew Watt (Stroud) who in turn were around eighty metres behind Nazarenko. Whilst Owen claimed the gold medal by a 24 second winning margin to become the first Cheltenham runner since Andy Prophett in 2006 to win the race, the battle for the remaining medals was to go to the wire. Nazararenko caught and opened up ten metres over Bishop with around a kilometre remaining. Meanwhile, Beastall had moved up into fourth and was gaining ground on the pair ahead. Bishop responded well to the threat from behind to go back past Nazarenko who was caught by Beastall with around two hundred metres remaining with Bishop just five metres ahead. In the sprint for the line Bishop hung on with Beastall just two seconds adrift and two seconds clear of Nazarenko who had the consolation of finishing as second under 20 runner home.
From the start of the race it was clear that the Harriers would again lead the team standings, as a large pack of white vests dominated the top twenty positions. Richard Dare, Roger Mullins and Marc Fallows were battling for seventh place and the trio entered the forest for the final time together before Dare moved clear of his teammates. Mullins rallied to close the gap and leave Fallows in the final field, with Fallows taking the county veteran title as he finished ninth overall to complete the gold winning Harriers A team. The club B team packed very well to secure silver medals through Will New (11th), Richard Evershed (12th), Matt Crew (14th), James Bingham (15th), Dave Aubrey (16th) and John Merrett who was the third veteran home in nineteenth place. The Cheltenham C team finished just thirteen points short of bronze medals as they took fifth place through Mike Gray (21st), Jay Dowding (25th), Elliot Prince (29th), Dave Rantell (31st), Gavin McCaugherty (33rd) and Miguel Mundinano (36th). Rantell also took the over 45 individual silver as he completed the Harriers three man winning veteran team. Mundinano, who took V45 bronze, combined with Ian Giles and third V50 runner home Dave Hemmings to earn the veteran B team bronze medals.
Two Harriers battled for medals in the women’s race that was also closely contested. Whilst Stroud’s Jane Wassell was a comfortable winner, Jane Thomas and Rachel See had a close battle with Jo Wilkie (CLC) for second place. With one lap remaining Thomas fell off the pace and was twenty metres behind her rivals as they entered the forest for the final time. However, as they returned to the field for the final circuit the 24 year old was back level with Wilkie with a gap to fourth placed See. Whilst Thomas upped the pace to move clear, See was closing down on Wilkie but the positions remained unchanged to the finish with Thomas claiming her highest ever county finish in second and See taking the under 20 women’s title.
Elsewhere Graham Rush retained the Cambridgeshire title and Alex Bampton finished fourth in the Buckinghamshire Championship whilst Mia O’Connell claimed the South West under 20 silver medal as she placed tenth overall in the women’s race. Anthony Bailey (17:14) won the Cheltenham parkrun ahead of Alex Lee (17:32) and fifth placed Matt Evans (18:43).