Distance Running, 9th November 2019

10 November 2019

Cheltenham Harriers produced an excellent team performance to finish second in the opening Birmingham Cross Country League Division One fixture of the season in Coventry. With the race rescheduled on Thursday evening from a Saturday afternoon event in Malvern to a morning race in Coventry, the Harriers team had lost several athletes, but still sent an eleven man squad to Coundon Hall Park. After his stunning 30:15 10k PB in Leeds, Dom James spearheaded the team and was looking to beat his best ever league finish of seventh. With the leaders pulling clear of him early stages, James put himself in fifth place on the opening lap. He then moved up into fourth before being caught by a chasing group by the halfway mark. Whilst the Birchfield pairing of Will Richardson and Omar Ahmed were way ahead and Birmingham University’s Tom Drabble was isolated in third, James went into the final circuit neck and neck with Tipton’s Louis Boot. Boot led the Cheltenham athlete into the final straight, but James won the sprint for the line for the line to claim a very pleasing fourth place.

Behind James the rest of the Harriers scoring six were all making progress through the field as the race progressed. George Watson built on his excellent track season by improving his best ever league finish from 29th to 13th before Richard de-Camps opened his season with one his highest ever finishes in 26th. Doug Wight and James Bingham ran together for much of the race before the former Wight put a small gap into Bingham in the final lap to finish 38th. Bingham finished just three seconds and three places later to finish as second veteran home. Dave Aubrey passed Jacob Pickering in the second half of the race to complete the scoring six man team in 52nd place as the team posted a competitive total of 174 points. With defending league champions Birchfield taking the win on 50 points the Harriers finished second in the sixteen strong division as third placed Tipton were just nine points adrift on 183. Second was one place higher than the team originally expected after Birmingham University received penalty points for failing to provide an official. Outside the scoring team there was vital back up from Jacob Pickering (55th), Marc Fallows (62nd), Alex Lindfield (137th), Chris Hayes (142nd) and Matt Evans (207th).

The Harriers ladies team meanwhile opened their Midland Women’s Cross Country League Division One campaign on a testing hilly course at Burton Dassett. On a cold and wet afternoon it was Petra Vymetalova who led the team home on her debut for the club as she impressed with a pleasing 42nd position. Team stalwart Fee Maycock then gave a typically determined performance in 62nd before Izzy Lozar followed just ten seconds later for 68th place in her first race for the club.

It was another debutant who completed the scoring team as Amber Bullingham ran well for 73rd position. With a score of 245 this gave the Harriers tenth place in the eighteen team top flight as they finished just two points clear of both Kenilworth and CLC Striders who finished eleventh and twelfth respectively. Hannah D’Ambrosio’s 76th place pushed back the final scorers of these two teams whilst Lucy Goode finished strongly in 172nd place. In the three to score Masters competition Vymetalova, Maycock and Lolar finished fourth just three points behind third placed Spa Striders.

The weekend’s parkruns saw first place finishes for Phil Beastall (17:21) at the Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh and for Jo Wilkie (22:22) as first lady in Cirencester. Mark James finished second (18:17) at Gloucester City and Rachel See (19:54) was second lady in Cheltenham where Steve Hall (18:55) and Matt Wood (19:33) were third and sixth respectively. Alice Stalberg (22:04) was second lady and ninth overall at the Gloucester North event whilst Chris Cleary (18:17) placed fourth at the Riverside parkrun in Newport.