Running in testing conditions on one of the hardest courses in the county, Chichester’s squad of 30 veteran athletes produced some fine performances and returned with a clutch of medals from the Sussex Masters Championships at Lancing Manor.
With the standard of veterans’ athletics improving year on year, it is becoming increasingly difficult to vie for honours.
But battling efforts from the Chichester squad ensured they were top club in the men’s events and second overall with the combined men’s and women’s score, beaten only by the all-conquering Arena 80 women’s squad who notched a clean sweep in all three women’s age groups.
For the first time for many years, Chichester turned out in force in the over-40 men’s race. Despite of the late withdrawal of 2017 runner-up James Baker, who still has not fully recovered from a fall while training before Christmas, the eight-man Chichester squad were confident of putting in some solid performances and packing well.
A fine run from Charles Rodmell led the club home in fifth position followed by improving Simon Dunne in 14th and Justin Eggins in 26th.
Battling efforts from the Chichester squad ensured they were top club in the men’s events and second overall with the combined men’s and women’s score,
With four to score there was a battle to the line between Keith Akerman and Stephen Davy with Akerman just getting the final A team spot in 29th, with both awarded the same time.
Their points score of 74 was just five behind Haywards Heath in third and eight behind Lewes in second.
Davy’s 30th led the B team with support from Jason Boswell 33rd, Matt de Lacy 35th and Gary Williams 36th for a team total of 134 in fifth place.
With the club’s top over-50 Jim Garland deciding to give the rough steep terrain of Lancing a miss to avoid aggravating an injury, it was left to John Bullard to bring the club home in that age group in 21st place.
Dee Caldwell followed in 26th with Tim Brown closing in the three-man team in 37th with reserves Andrew Wingham 40th and Peter Anderson 44th. In the most competitive age group of the day, ten clubs fielded at least one team and Chichester’s total of 84 points put them eighth.
As with the over-40s, Chichester’s over-60s were out in force. Once again all six runners packed well and ran to form but the club was three points outside a team medal.
Richard Miles finished in third place among the over-60s, relegating a host of previous medallists to positions outside the top three.
Following Miles were Tom Blaylock in 12th and Jah Hill in 15th for a team total of 30 just behind Brighton Phoenix on 27 in third and Crawley in silver on 25.
Just losing out to Hill for third spot in the A team, John Miles led the B team in 16th followed by John Betts in 21st and Peter Shaw 23rd. Betts bravely kept going after becoming one of a number of athletes to fall on the tricky downhill section of the course, which was increasingly difficult to navigate after previous races churned up the surface.
All three women’s age groups ran at the same time although there were separate over-35, over-45 and over-55 races.
The overall race was won by multiple previous winner Caroline Hoyte of Arena 80, an over-45 runner, who beat all the younger age group athletes home.
There was a similar story for Chichester with over-60 Helen Dean leading the club home and gaining a well-deserved individual bronze medal in the over-55 age group.
She was followed home by over-45s Nadia Anderson in 17th and Elizabeth Robinson 19th in their age group – but without a third scorer the pair were unable to gain an almost certain top-five place.
Julia Hammond was the club’s first over-35 home in 27th, followed by Catherine Betts in 37th although once again the lack of a third scorer meant no team placing.
Mention must go again to the Betts family as father and daughter John and Catherine emulated Sue and James Baker from last year by becoming the club’s second pair of two generations in the same event.
Team-wise, there was great news from the over-55 age group with Sandra Nemorin-Noel and Sue Baker making it across the line in 15th and 18th with the team having the luxury of reserve Liz Wingham as back-up in 20th.
The team total of 36 points was three points off silver but after all the trials and tribulations of the day, the Chichester over-55s were delighted with county medals.