The third and final races in the 2014 Corporate Challenge series saw another field of nearly 900 runners thronging Chichester city centre and providing exciting contest.
This year’s series has far surpassed the previous 22 years in terms of numbers, with 2,700-plus finishers over the three events. Team participation has been noticeably stronger with more than 80 complete teams in the senior categories as well as runners from more than 50 primary and secondary schools.
Praise goes to the officials who had the unenviable job of recording times and numbers, helped only by street lighting and head torches, and managed to produce near-perfect results each time.
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With the top two from race one and James Baker, winner of race two, all on the start line, the senior A race was the best of the series.
A first lap of 3min 15sec saw Baker just behind Worthing duo Kev Mason and Darryl Hards with John Morrey and Peter Concannon close behind. Another group of adozen runners was only a few metres adrift, including Chichester’s James McKenzie and Chris West.
Next time round, Baker had opened up a gap and the field were more stretched, but the exertions of the Hastings Half Marathon and a five-mile off road race just three days earlier began to take their toll and the Chichester man had to give way to eventual winner Mason and Hards on the final lap.
All three were again under the 14-minute barrier and had enough to beat improving Concannon, with McKenzie and West seventh and eighth respectively.
Worthing athlete Emma Macready was again too strong for the rest of the women’s field and was just outside 15 minutes with Portsmouth’s Emma Montiel secnd and Tone Zone’s Kari Mack third.
Fay Cripps, Hannah Croad and Georgina Gair broke the 17-minute barrier with local runners Charlotte Reading, Anneliese Shaw and Helen Pattinson making it five Chichester athletes in the top ten.
With a record 36 teams completing in the main category, the consistent DSTL Portsdown squad were again too strong for the rest with an aggregate time of just more than 62 minutes, a two-minute advantage over Chichester College staff, with Chichester Cathedral third.
The sports team categorywas won by Worthing Harriers’ young squad, called Eddie’s Secrets, coming out on top by a mere ten seconds over Chichester Runners, running as Chi Flyers.
In the women’s corporate team event, Bosham School staff led by Polly Neville were again too strong for WSCC in second while the Chichester under-17 trio Croad, Reading and Nicola Mead had a winning margin of more than three minutes from CWTC Ladies in the sports section.
Proceedings got under way with the massed charge of the primary schools races, in which the enthusiasm and energy has been one of the outstanding features of the series.
For the boys, Stanley Kingshot from Westbourne Primary took the lead and opened up a gap after the first of the two 700m laps. The chasing pack - led by previous winner Ben Woolnough from Rose Green - closed the gap to the leader but could not prevent Kingshot from claiming the victory by a single second with Tom Betsworth from Oakwood in third.
The Westbourne team were again too strong for Jessie Younghusband, with Fishbourne in third.
There was a sense of déjà vu in the girls’ race with Charlotte Bullard from Central School again under five minutes, finishing well clear of Eloise O’Neill from Locks Heath with Lily de Lacy leading her winning Jessie Younghusband team home in third. St Richards claimed second team spot with Central just pipping Prebendal by one second in third.
Probably the closest secondary race of the evening came in the Year 8 boys’ race run over three laps of the 700m circuit.
With the top four all breaking the tough seven-minute barrier, Ben Collins from Selsey Academy again led the charge, coming home in 6.37 to equal his time from race two and post the second-fastest time in 20 years of the junior event.
Leo Stallard claimed second just in front of Lachlan Wellington from Cams Hill, an athlete who had finished in the top 20 of the national inter-counties.
There was a repeat victory for Callum Crook of Crofton School in the Year 7 race with Bishop Luffa pairing Ned Potter and Jeremy Sharp occupying the next two places.
The stand-out runner in the longer Year 9/10 race was again Ted Yates from Churchers with a fine clocking of 8.45 to win the Year 9 race in front of Ben Morton from Bishop Luffa and William Wall from Petersfield. Harry Blay from Priory School led home Adam Croad from Selesy Academy and Kieron James from Crofton in the Year 10s.
In the team competition there was a clean sweep for Bishop Luffa with Midhurst Academy and Chichester High School sharing the runners-up spots.
In the secondary girls’ race there was another win for Elizabeth Hedley from Petersfield who completed an impressive clean sweep in the Year 9 race, with fellow Hampshire athletes Lizzie Rose and Maisie Grice close behind.
Newcomer Elisha Coupar from Davison High in Worthing was next home to win the Year 10 race in front of Saskia Gardam from Bishop Luffa and Kathryn Simpson from Swanmore.
In the younger age groups there were nine Year 7 runners under eight minutes with Olivia Wiseman from Bishop Luffa also completing a clean sweep for the series in front of Hampshire duo Cheyenne James and Bo Sampson.
The Year 8 race went to Chloe Croad from Selsey Academy ahead of Emily Guiry from Portsmouth Grammar and Amelia Freeman from Great Ballard.
Bishop Luffa recorded three wins in the team event to record a clean sweep in all six secondary categories.
There will be a round-up of all series winners in next week’s Observer.