Runners take on the elite at national championships

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The Bedford and County AC senior men’s squad were in action at the weekend at the National Cross Country Relay Championship at Berry Hill Park in Mansfield.

The event – which Bedford won for three years in a row between 2008 and 2010 – is probably the most hotly contested of all the winter domestic championships and regularly features a number of Great Britain internationals and Olympians.

This year was no exception, with a truly exciting race over the traditional four legs of 5km.

Despite being slightly under-strength, Bedford performed brilliantly to finish in eighth place of the 143 teams that completed the race.

The team got off to a flying start, with Matt Leach running brilliantly to finish in eighth place on the opening leg with a time of 15:14.

Mitch Burton, running for the first time in the Bedford A team, slipped back to 15th with a leg of 16:25, only for Ryan Parker to again advance the team forward to 12th with a time of 16:06.

GB international Mark Draper blasted the final leg, closing on all the teams in front and eventually coming home in eighth place with 15:01.

Bedford’s B and C teams also performed creditably, finishing in 37th and 67th places respectively.

The club’s U20 men had been hoping for a podium finish, but it was not to be as they also finished in eighth place in their 3 x 3km race.

The team was led off by bottom year Jono Janes who ran well to come home in 21st place with 9:05.

Ben Alcock moved the team to within sight of the medals, finishing fourth with a fine 9:01.

The in-form Mike Harrison had been ill all week and, despite a promising start, the debilitating effects of this slowed him in the second half of his leg. ]He brought the team home in eighth place with 9:27, a frustrating 30 seconds away from the medals.

The B team finished in 23rd, with the C team not finishing due to being a runner short. Andrew Headley’s run of 9:24 on first leg for the B team was worthy of note.