Distance Running News, 8-9 February 2019

10 February 2019

Cheltenham Harriers ladies team equalled their highest ever finish in the Midland Women’s Cross Country League with a fine third place at the final Division One fixture of the season in Berkeley. Hosted by Gloucester AC in the grounds of Cattle Country Farm Park, a testing mud bath of a course greeted the runners with Rachel Underhill leading the Cheltenham team. Having finished fourteenth in her previous two league outings, Underhill found herself in the exact same position at the end of the opening lap. She then maintained this throughout the second circuit to claim a third consecutive fourteenth spot.

In her first cross country race Tara Grosvenor excelled as she picked her way through the field to gain places throughout as she finished in a fine 18th place. Laura Smith then came home in 25th before Fee Maycock completed the scoring quartet in 29th position, with the LV50 runner also finishing in third place in the masters category for runners over 35 years of age. Nicola Whiteman made a welcome return to action to provide vital back up in 90th place. With a team score of 86 the Harriers finished in an impressive third place behind Birchfield (18) and Birmingham University (32), but ahead of rivals Leamington (88), BRAT (92) and Loughborough University (101). Despite on the day gains on some of the teams just ahead in the overall standings, Jo Wilkie’s team remained seventh in the league standings as they ensured a top half of the table finish after winning the division two title last season.

The men’s team meanwhile travelled to Shropshire as Telford AC hosted the final Birmingham Cross Country League Division One fixture at the Lilleshall’s National Sports Centre. Ben Price again headed the Harriers squad and was looking to beat his season’s best of 13th place as the field set off the twisting four lap course. With the top seven quickly breaking clear the England duathlon champion found himself leading the second group round for much of the opening lap.

As the field split on the second lap Price found himself in tenth, a position he maintained for the second half of the race to finish just one position outside his highest ever finish. Whilst Dan Owen put himself just outside the top thirty the opening lap, Richard de-Camps made a more cautious start than usual before picking off places and passing Owen on his way to a pleasing 27th place.

Finishing just six seconds and two places later, after starting steadier than de-Camps, was George Watson who claimed his highest ever league finish with what was arguably the Harriers performance of the day. Owen then finished a further nine seconds later in 32nd place.

The battle for the final two A team places was a close affair with Jacob Pickering and Liam Roarty holding a small gap ove Charlie Jones and Eliot Taylor at halfway. It was Jones who finished strongly to move up to 50th and claim his highest ever league finish before Roarty closed the team in 54th as he made a welcome return to the team. With a team score of 202 this gave the Harriers fifth place on the day behind Birchfield (58), Birmingham University (100), Tipton (170) and Loughborough University (177). This also meant the Cheltenham squad finished fifth overall in the sixteen strong division, with the same four teams ahead of them in the final league standings.

The Harriers B team then packed well with Taylor (60th), Dan Thomas (62nd), Pickering (66th), Dave Aubrey (78th), James Bingham (101st) and Andy Gore (142nd) winning the B team competition on the day. Elliot Prince (152nd), Steve Linton (170th) and Phil Brush (174th) then completed the club’s fifteen strong squad.

Dom James meanwhile made the trip to Spain for the Barcelona Half Marathon where he took over a minute and a half off his personal best with an impressive 68:43 that earned him 62nd place in the high quality race. Weekend parkruns saw first place finishes for Alex Lee (16:17) in Cheltenham, Phil Beastall (17:20) at the Linford Wood event in MIlton Keynes, Dave Tomlin (17:28) in Eastbourne and Mark James (17:49) at the Kingsway event in Gloucester. Naomi Eaton (20:27) was second lady and eighth overall at the Queenstown event in New Zealand whilst Caroline Cotterell (22:30) was fourth lady at the Worcester Pitchroft event where Nick Holliday (19:45) was fourth across the line.