An astonishing 70 per cent of athletes who took part in the ‘Highgate Harriers: Night of the 10,000m PB’s’ celebrated new lifetime best performances after an evening of impressive running and entertainment at the Parliament Hill athletics track in London.
With the sun beaming down on the competitors and spectators, the programme was divided into six races, with the women’s and men’s A races providing the finale, as well as the British and English 10,000m Championship competitions.
Banchory Stonehaven AC’s Rhona Auckland and Liverpool Harriers’ Jonny Mellor came through to win their respective events and British titles, with Stockport Harriers’ Jess Coulson, who finished second in the women’s race becoming the English champion.
Others put themselves into contention for selection for the European Junior Championships by running inside the required qualifying time.
Following the completion of the Schools Relays event, which featured primary and secondary school children running 25 laps of the track in teams, Race 1 was the only mixed adult race in the schedule.
Dominant from start to finish in the red and yellow jersey of Serpentine Running Club was Davide Covolo, who crossed the line in a time of 33:52.77, taking more than 90 seconds off his personal best. In turn, Eastleigh’s Andrew White ran half a minute faster than he had ever done before to clock 35:00.52, ahead of Eastbourne Rovers Richard Jones (35:41.48).
The first female to finish, doing so in sixth place overall was Mornington Chasers Julia Davis. After being behind Armagh AC’s Danielle Fegan for most of the race, Davis timed her move well to take the lead in the last kilometre. She also set a personal best time of 36:24.48, six seconds ahead of Fegan.
That set the tone in Highgate, as the top six in Race 2 all set new lifetime bests, with the weather staying bright well into the evening. Belgrave Harriers’ Alex Miller came through in 32:41.66, followed by Neil Aitken of Clapham Chasers (32:54.82), and Bexley’s Thomas Wright (32:59.53).
Races 3 and 4 provided great displays of quality from two veteran athletes. First of all, 41-year-old Declan Reed, running in the red vest of the City of Derry Spartans, finished just two seconds clear of Birchfield Harriers’ Andrew Peat in a time of 31:27.10.
Then, a terrific battle at the front in Race 4 saw the leading group of Notts AC’s Alastair Watson, Morpeth Harriers’ Peter Newton, Derby AC’s Joshua Bull, and Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers’ Kojo Kyereme all jostle for the lead in the opening five kilometres.
But with 3000m to go, the 40-year-old Kyereme, coached by Conrad Milton injected the pace, consistently doing 71 and 72 second laps to break away from the chasing group. His race time was 30:08.94, with Watson behind in 30:18.71, closely pursued all the way to the line by Newton (30:20.04), and a fast finishing Jack Rowe.
By running a time of 30:23.29, the Aldershot, Farnham and District athlete Rowe, coached by Mick Woods, ran seven seconds under the 30:30.00 European Junior qualifying standard set by British Athletics.
Plenty of reason to smile for the 19-year-old St Mary’s University student and his coach, who then stood with the rest of the supporters to watch the two championship races, as the floodlights came on and crowds began to build, creating a wall of noise on the back straight to cheer on the competitors.
One of Woods’ main hopefuls in the women’s A race was Stockport Harriers’ former European under-23 Cross Country champion, Jess Coulson. She was part of a trio, along with Banchory Stonehaven’s reigning BUCS 5000m champion Rhona Auckland, and 2013 British 10,000m champion Alyson Dixon, who were inseparable throughout the early stages of the race.
With Sunderland Strollers’ Dixon dropping back in the last few kilometres, Coulson, who finished in the top ten in the Great Manchester 10K Run a week earlier, tried to gap Auckland, running 75 and 76 second laps.
But the Scot, who finished 19th for Great Britain in the World Cross Country Championships in China earlier this year, showed the confidence she has gained from that performance and her recent BUCS victory, to produce a sensational comeback with less than 800m to go, to take the British title.
The 22 year old, coached by Joyce Hogg, overtook Coulson as they entered the back straight to the delight of fans, coming through in a personal best time of 32:28.32.
Finishing second in 32:41.59 to become the English champion – both her and Dixon (32:55.36) also set new best marks for themselves – as did eleven out of the thirteen athletes who finished the race.
That included Birchfield Harriers’ Becky Straw, who took home the English bronze medal on her 10,000m track debut.
With the gauntlet thrown down to the men, it took a while for the pack of athletes to separate behind the pace makers. Reading AC’s Jonny Davies and Donore’s Irish athlete John Travers were the early leaders, with Swansea’s Dewi Griffiths and Liverpool Harriers’ Jonny Mellor remaining in close attention.
In the second half of the race, Griffiths, the Welsh Cross Country champion coached by Kevin Evans, appeared most likely to battle Mellor (Steve Vernon), as the two looked to build on finishing fifth and third in the event last year respectively.
With less than four kilometres to go, Mellor’s distinctive yellow vest hit the front. Building a 50m lead, the 28-year-old was in control in the last few laps, coming home in 28:46.80, in front of Dewi Griffiths 28:55.24, and the unattached Ben Lindsay (29:02.93).
Jonathan Thewlis, coached by Thomas Watson took the English silver medal from seventh, while Jonny Davies, coached by Rob McKim was awarded bronze, having finished the race 11th overall.
With last year’s victories for Jo Pavey and Andy Vernon providing springboards for European Championship success, many of the athletes who ran well in this year’s Highgate 10K will be hoping for similar rewards in the major competitions they compete in this summer.
Full results can be obtained here: https://www.thepowerof10.info/results/results.aspx?meetingid=123891&event=10000&venue=Parliament+Hill&date=16-May-15