Chichester runners in contention for cross-country honours

The senior women's race at Stanmer Park / Picture by Sara Ellis

The senior women's race at Stanmer Park / Picture by Sara Ellis

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Sussex League cross-country running returned to Brighton after an absence of several years and organisers were rewarded with record numbers for the second fixture in a row with more than 600 runners in action.

A squad of nearly 50 kept Chichester’s fine season on track and while a few individual titles are already settled – including Chichester’s Jane Harrop’s perfect score after three races – the majority of team placings are too close to call.

All eyes will be on the strength of clubs at the final fixture at Hickstead Showground in February.

Senior, veteran and under-17 women

Chichester men’s and women’s squads have reversed fortunes in recent years and Chichester, as defending women’s champions, have put up a brave defence of their title but look as though a top-three placing may be a more attainable target this season.

With their top two runners from 2015 not in action, Chichester have still been able to challenge the best in the county, thanks to excellent packing.

Chichester veterans also kept up their challenge with the trio of Harrop, Loy and Sydenham keeping the club in medal contention with a realistic of gaining bronze for the first time.

Emily Moore led the squad home in 11th place followed by Grace Wills in 21st, Alice Cox-Rusbridge 24th and Jane Harrop 25th, the quartet split by less than a minute. A total of 81 points was good enough for fourth place on the day and fourth overall with the final fixture left.

Things were even closer for the B team with Ann Sydenham 36th, Sarah Loy 41st, Czech student Linda Mejstrkova 42nd and Charlotte Reading 45th ,separated by just 30 seconds at the finish. Their total of 164 points was enough for seventh in division one.

Behind them came university student Jade Elphick in 50th, Anneliese Shaw 62nd, Helen Dean 79th, Florence Smith 80th, Amanda Godfrey 104th and Amanda Callaghan 113th.

There was more good news in the age category standings.

The under-17 trio of Wills in fifth, Cox-Rusbridge seventh and Smith 15th in their age group gave them a winning total of 27 points to extend their lead to eight points at the top of the table.

It will need a fine effort in the final fixture but Chichester have established themselves in prime position with the other teams having ground to make up.

Chichester veterans also kept up their challenge with the trio of Harrop, Loy and Sydenham keeping the club in medal contention with a realistic of gaining bronze for the first time.

Senior and veteran men

Chichester’s men’s squad found themselves depleted for this match and have drifted away from the automatic promotion places, so their challenge to return to division one looks as though it will have to wait for another year.

With three key members of the team deciding to focus on the Victory 5 at Portsmouth the following day, there was good packing from the Chichester squad but none made the top 100 in an impressive high-quality field.

Gary Williams led the club home in 131st followed by Jason Boswell in 134th, Richard Pullen 143rd, Dave Reading 147th, Derry Lozano-Hoyland 151st, Mike Moorcroft 162nd and Paddy Clark in 179th, one of one over-70s to complete the demanding, undulating downland course.

Under-17 men

Even with two of the club’s top under-17s Will Broom and Charlie Benson unavailable through illness, the rest of Chichester’s squad put on an impressive display to win by four points and further extend their lead which now stands at nine points.

Leo Stallard and Ben Collins were just behind the leaders on the opening lap with Brodie Keates not far behind and Luke Campbell also in touch. At the finish all three of the club’s scorers made the top ten with Stallard fourth, Collins seventh and Keates ninth for a total of 20 points, four better than main rivals Brighton & Hove, to give Chichester a little breathing space at the top of the table.

Campbell put in a solid run in 23rd just over a minute back to reinforce the club’s strength in depth at the age group. Much will depend on their training over the next month but the club have an outside chance of getting two of its teams into the top three medal places at the county championships in January.

Juniors

There were some promising performances in the junior races with the club’s under-15s in particular showing fine form.

In the boys’ race, Alex Mani led the team home in fifth with Liam Dunne 11th and Harry Sage just getting the better of James Gardam in 18th for the final A team place after a sprint finish to the line.

The 34 points keeps Chichester third but with just 25 points separating the first four teams after three races, it is all to play for in the final fixture.

Gardam in 19th was followed by Ned Potter in 24th and Jeremy Sharp 41st to give the B team ninth place, with David Bisatt 42nd and Johnny Simmons capable reserves.

In the girls’ race Olivia Wiseman ran a brave race to finish fourth despite not feeling at her best. Where many athletes would have decided to pull out after the first lap, Wiseman refused to give in and finished strongly just outside the top three in a race won by the Hastings athlete whom Wiseman had beaten in the opening fixture at Goodwood in October.

There was good packing from Maggie King in 114th and Charlotte Bullard in 17th for a team total of 35 points for fourth place, just outside the medals.

There was a solid performance from the B team with Caitlin Brown in 26th, Sophie Lambourne 30th and Chloe Benson 31st. In the races at the start of the programme the under-13 girls’ trio of Annette Moranne in 14th, Nicole Boltwood 23rd and Rose Potter 35th finished in eighth place while Archie Sadler was 17th in a very competitive under-13 boys’ field of nearly 70.

Fionn O’Murchu repeated his fine run at Goodwood for another runners-up spot in the under-11 boys’ race followed by Max Sydenham 16th, Joshua Dunne 17th and Marcus Bone 47th who managed to keep going depite a muscle strain midway through the race.

PHIL BAKER

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