Distance Running News, 1 December 2018

02 December 2018

Cheltenham Harriers ladies team produced their best ever Midland Women’s Cross Country League result as they finished in an excellent third place at the division one fixture in Stratford, on a day that also saw the men’s team enjoy a fine third place finish in their Birmingham League division one fixture at Warley Woods. Having won the division two title last year, the ladies team had finished ninth in the opening match of the season, but with a stronger squad available they were hoping to break into the top half of the fifteen team division. A tough hilly course awaited the athletes with the infamous long uphill start not to everyone’s liking, but Naomi Eaton again excelled on the challenging terrain. With new recruit Rachel Underhill and Laura Smith not far behind the team were packing well and the trio remained in relatively close proximity for whole race, although remaining in the same order throughout. By the finish Eaton came home in an excellent thirteenth, with Underhill just one place and nine seconds adrift as she finished four seconds clear of sixteenth place Smith.

Whilst it was clear that the university teams of Loughborough (33) and Birmingham (44) were heading the team standings, the battle to be third team was coming down to the fourth scorer in an extraordinarily close three way battle. Wolverhampton had their fourth lady home in 38th place to score 81, before Fee Maycock crossed the line in 36th to give the Cheltenham team a score of 79 ahead of Birchfield whose fourth runner placed 38th to give them an aggregate of 80. The result also moved the Dave Newport coached team up into sixth in the overall standings. Leah Hopton and Roxanne Jones provided vital backup in 96th and 106th respectively, although the day was tainted by Kathryn Morton taking a nasty fall and fracturing her shoulder in the early stages of the race.

The men meanwhile were hoping to consolidate their top five position in the Birmingham League fixture hosted by Birmingham University on a hilly course at Warley Woods. Dom James had made a pleasing league debut with 21st place in the opening fixture at Pittville Park, but made his intentions clear as he put started further up the field to find himself in thirteenth place at the end of the first of the three large laps that followed the initial shorter loop. Running a race that defied his lack of experience at this level, James had moved into ninth with a lap to go before passing two more athletes on the final circuit to lead the team home in an excellent seventh place. Luke Pollard ran a consistent race to move through from around twentieth at half way to cross the line in a pleasing seventeenth as he finished thirty seconds behind James. The battle to be third Harrier home was an extremely close affair, with Richard de-Camps and Dan Owen running side by side for the whole race as they moved through from the late thirties after the opening lap. Both athletes ran well as they shared the work and continually gained places, before Owen kicked three seconds clear in the final straight as they finished in 28th and 29th positions respectively. Jacob Pickering had started too quickly, but held his race together and found himself in a large pack of ten runners that included teammate Doug Wight with a mile to go. Having dropped to the back of the pack, the 800m specialist produced his trademark big kick to gain nine places in the home straight for an impressive 39th position. Wight, who was among those passed by Pickering, followed two seconds and three places later as he produced another consistent run to complete the six man scoring team. With a total of 162 the Cheltenham squad claimed a pleasing third place behind Birchfield (48) and Birmingham University (112), whilst finishing clear of rivals Tipton (169) and Loughborough University (214) in the sixteen strong division. The result means the club remains fifth in the overall standings at the half-way point of the season.

The Harriers B team were led home by Marcus England in 56th position before George Watson and James Bingham crossed the line together ten seconds later for 62nd and 63rd respectively as the team again continued to pack well. Alex Lee then followed in 68th before Dave Aubrey in 78th and Dan Thomas in 80th completed the team. Their cumulative score of 406 earned third place behind Birmingham University and Birchfield, as they also retained third position in the overall standings. Outside the scoring teams, but providing great support in a field of 293 finishers were Chris Booth (113th), Andy Gore (130th), Dan Schofield (187th) and debutant Phil Brush (188th).

Away from cross county action two Caroline Cotterell and Nick Holliday competed in Bromham Pudding 10km , where Cotterell had her best run for over six years finishing sixth lady overall and first LV45 runner in 43:51 whilst partner Holliday finished second V60 runner with 40:42. There were parkrun first places for Liam Roarty (17:03) at the Malahide event in Dublin, Alex Doherty (17:21) in Evesham and Dave Tomiln (18:43) in Newent. Kaitlyn Sheppard (20:28) was first lady and fourth overall in Tewkesbury whilst there were second places for Simon Critchley (18:18) at the Lake Divonne parkrun in Geneva and Gareth Edwards (18:45) at the Gloucester City event. The Cheltenham parkrun in Pittville Park reverted to its four lap winter route where Matt Lambourne (18:38) placed fourth and Oliver Doherty (19:38) had a good run out.