Three members of Chichester Runners & AC made the long journey to the north-east to represent Sussex at the English Schools track and field championships at the Gateshead International Stadium.
Glorious sunshine and an unpredictable blustery wind greeted them, as well as about 2,000 young athletes from across the country.
The three Chichester athletes were part of what is reckoned to be the most successful Sussex team there in the past 50 years.
With 13 medals including four golds from the 60-strong squad, a total of 32 athletes achieved top-eight places, showing that schools athletics in the county is in fine fettle.
In the intermediate girls, Sophie-Anne Haigh celebrated her third visit to these championships with a series of fine performances – progressing through the rounds of the 200m to get to the final.
In the heats she recorded 25.83sec for second place before going on to run 25.39sec for third position in the semi-final.
Running the tight lane-one bend while on an earlier relay duty had resurrected a heel problem, which was to hamper her performance in the final.
Drawn in lane seven, Haigh had a good start and great bend run. She entered the home straight in contention but with 30m to go, unluckily slipped back into a still-very-creditable sixth place in 25.62sec.
In the junior girls, Alyssa White, making her debut at these championships, conducted herself in an exemplary way, posting automatic qualifications throughout the rounds to reach the 100m final.
She comfortably won her heat in 12.51sec and in the semi-final ran a wonderfully exciting close second place in 12.55sec – crashing on to the track just beyond the finish in the process.
A hesitant start in the final saw her have to battle her way to a hard-fought 12.61sec clocking to finish a highly respectable and very pleasing joint seventh spot.
Chichester High School pupil Ben Collins had his first taste of all-England athletics action at Gateshead and, while not being able to set yet another personal best time, revelled in the atmosphere of a big occasion and gained valuable experience from the championships.
Having brought his 800m time down from 2min 27.5sec in 2013 to 2.11.8 last season, Collins has now a sub-2.05 mark to his credit of 2.04.87.
Although running sub 2.10 in his heat at Gateshead, Collins was not fast enough to make the final – but he must take great credit in finding himself among the elite middle-distance athletes in his age group.
DAVID CHURCHER & PHIL BAKER
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