Women the lead the way as Chichester go for Sussex cross-country glory

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Sussex cross-country runners were in action again for the third league fixture of the season at Bexhill - and Chichester’s athletes as ever fared well.

Over fast conditions on an undulating course it was another chance for athletes to press claims to represent Sussex in the national inter-counties in March.

One athlete who didn’t disappoint was James Baker in the senior men’s race. His emphatic victory made up for his disappointing 12th place in th county championships when he was not fully over recent illness.

Baker’s run could not prevent the club’s seniors facing relegation as they are firmly anchored in the bottom two with only one fixture left. This was despite valiant efforts from veterans Dave Dorning in 43rd, Tom Blaylock 80th, Jan Hill 87th and Terry Slade 96th.

In the women’s race, the club’s top two under-17s shone with Beth Garland just getting the better of Georgina Warner, the pair finishing 11th and 13th. Cathy Garland was next home in 54th in her first competitive race for many years – a reminder of when she gained an athletics blue in her days at Cambridge. Bringing the team home was Catherine Betts in 71st to keep Chichester in top spot in division two with a 47-point lead over Hailsham Harriers.

In the junior races, there was another dominant display from the under-15 boys. Harry Leleu again filled the runner-up spot behind county champion Billy White (Brighton Phoenix) and with Josh James eighth and Dan Eeles tenth, their points total of 16 was less than half their closest rivals.

After three matches Chichester have 49 - with a massive gap to Brighton in second on 108 and Hastings, third on 120. To cement their position, Casey Keates also made the top ten with Ed Gerwat 30 seconds behind in 15th.

Chichester’s under-15 girls couldn’t prevent host club Hastings from recording another victory, but they did snatch second team spot in one of the most competitive races of the day.

Rose Ellis led the club home in sixth with fast-finishing Charlotte Reading almost catching her on the line in seventh and Emma Maynard tenth. Their total of 23 was just one better than Brighton & Hove on 24 with Worthing a further point behind with 25. The standings show Hastings on 54, Chichester 65 and Brighton 79.

Showing the club’s strength at this age group Tara Bage led the B team home in 13th with Holly Beaton 18th and Lucy Ellis 20th for fifth place with 51 points.

In the under-13 races Maddie Smith was 22nd in the girls’ race while Josh Eeles had the race of his life to finish an outstanding third and beat many of his Sussex rivals for the first time.

With Brodie Keates in tenth and Adam Croad 16th also having fine runs, the club consolidated their third place in the team standings with 29 points and have a cushion of 64 points over Crawley before the final round.

For the under-17 boys, Greg Smith was a solid 15th.

PHIL BAKER