More than 650 cross-country runners from all over the south produced fine competition at Goodwood in the Hampshire Cross Country League.
National champions and Olympic hopefuls were joined by club runners from five counties to cement the fixture as one of the most competitive in the Sussex calendar.
Chichester athletes fared well, highlighted by a superb team victory from the under-17 women with Beth Garland a fine third, Georgina Warner sixth and Lucy Thraves eighth for a team total of 17 points, well clear of nearest rivals Basingstoke, Salisbury, Reading and Winchester.
Running together for most of the race, the three started conservatively on the first lap of the 4,500m course, but by halfway were scything their way through the field.
In the final mile, Garland pulled clear of the other two but good packing meant all three finished within 30 seconds.
There was a similar story in the girls’ under-15 race where Emma Maynard, Rose Ellis and Tara Bage finished within 12 seconds of each other in 11th, 12th and 14th.
Their team total was bettered only by national champions Aldershot and rivals Winchester to give Chichester an excellent third place with 37 points.
Charlotte Reading in 20th led home the B team of Nicola Mead (28th) and Lucy Ellis (40th) with reserve Holly Beaton in 52nd taking things easily in her first race after injury.
There were plucky runs from the under-13s with Molly Whatmore 38th, Maddie Smith 43rd and Amelia Freeman 59th in the biggest junior field of the day with 70 finishers.
In the boys’ races, the best result of the day was a fine third from Harry Leleu in the under-15 race. He pulled clear on the second lap with two Southampton athletes and looked in with a chance of a famous win until the final hill, when his rivals made a burst to gain a few vital metres. But the result is a great boost for Leleu’s confidence for the area and national championships after Christmas.
Dan Eeles in 18th and Casey Keates in 34th gave the team a close sixth place with 65 points, with reserve Harry Pink in 54th.
There was good packing from the Chichester squad in the under-13 race with Josh Eeles 15th out of the 65 finishers. Less than 30 seconds farther back, Sam Pink just got the better of Ben Collins – the pair were 25th and 26th to give the team 66 points and ninth place in a competitive age group. For the B team Brodie Keates led home in 40th, followed closely by Ollie Poole in 42nd and Sam Reading in 53rd.
For the under-17s Greg Smith was first home in 33rd in the absence of injured James McKenzie. Joe Pink ran well in his first taste of cross-country for the club in 36th.
Chichester Runners treated the day as their club championships so congratulations go to the club champions Garland, Maynard and Whatmore for the girls and Smith, Leleu and Eeles in the boys.
With GB international and course record holder Stephanie Twell training in Kenya, it was left to another of Aldershot’s talented runners, Emilia Gorecka, to lead home the quality field of 120 runners in the senior women’s race.
Chichester’s Jane Harrop and Fay Cripps did well to finish in the top 30 with Harrop first home in 20th and Cripps not far behind in 27th. These two scooped club prizes for top veteran and senior with fellow veteran Persephone Hagan third scorer in 68th.
The rest of the squad were Amanda Godfrey 71st, Sue Barty 85th, Tracy Jayant 88th, Sue Baker 100th, Kelly Baldwin 111th and Rachel Austin 114th.
In the senior men’s race it was a frantic start from the leaders in the 230-strong field with James Baker content to stay off the pace just inside the top 30 in the early stages.
Baker moved up to finish 11th at the end of the 9km course, conserving energy for the Bexhill half marathon the following day, but comfortably clear of his team-mates to ensure his club championship.
Jim Garland was first veteran over-40 to finish, in 82nd, with Dave Worcester scooping the over-50 award in 137th. Other Chichester finishers were Tom Blaylock 142nd, Chris Tucker 147th, Justin Eggins 186th, Jan Hill (club over-60 winner) 187th, Michael Moorcroft 191st, Colin Harley 192nd, Martin Miller 194th, Mark Jennings 203rd and John Betts 213th.
Many of Chichester’s seniors run in the Gosport half marathon this Sunday while the club’s juniors will be in action at Tanbridge House School, Horsham, in the opening Sussex Sportshall Indoor League fixture.