Harriers make home advantage count as Gardner cuts field down to size

Tim Gardner took part in his first championship race for Highgate Harriers and was part of the triumphant men’s ‘four to score’ team at the London Cross-Country Championships on Saturday.

Gardner, a 33-year-old Hampstead resident, returned to athletics in 2008 after a long break and was eighth out of 279 finishers at Parliament Hill Fields, clocking 34 minutes 56 seconds.

With his team-mates Henry Dodwell (34:04), Ryan McKinlay (34:51) and Richard Scott (34:51) coming fourth, sixth and seventh respectively, the combined placings of Highgate’s top four scorers totalled 26 – easily the lowest out of the 26 clubs.

Serpentine and Thames Valley Harriers were next with 80, ahead of Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets (91), Herne Hill Harriers (103) and London Heathside (126).

Peter Downie was 20th in 36:16, while Over-40s veteran Chris Beecham came in 27th in 37:13. Chris Bailey was the first Over-50 competitor to cross the line, coming 96th overall in 40:36.

In the women’s event, Becky Penty came second out of the 130 finishers in 22:48, while Katie Meredith won a titanic struggle up the home straight to clinch third in 23:14.

The other two scorers were were Alexia Trafford, who was 28th in 25:53, and Louise Faherty (41st in 26:51), leaving the team third out of 11 clubs with 74 points.

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Serpentine came first with 38, and they also boasted the individual winner, Andrea Clements (21:50).

Highgate’s Sophie Sheldrake was 47th in 27:14, while Natasha Cendrowicz was 81st in 28:49 and Alex Goodwin clocked 31:39.

Elsewhere, Over-45 runner Stephen Whiting was the first veteran to cross the line in the Brighton 10k road race on Sunday.

Whiting’s time of 33:27 was only 10 seconds off his lifetime personal best of 33:17, which he ran in 2008. He also beat all of the 40 to 45-year olds in the race, and was 27th overall out of over 2,000 competitors.