Chichester youngsters do battle with top UK athletes

Ben Collins has been starring for Chichester's under-15s  Picture by Lee Hollyer
Ben Collins has been starring for Chichester's under-15s Picture by Lee Hollyer

Chichester’s under-15s travelled to Horsham for the first of the Sussex league fixtures of the season fresh from their good National League showing at Lewes at the end of May.

They were facing a strong Crawley squad as well as host club Horsham, Haywards Heath and a fast-improving team from East Grinstead.

Typifying the standard of competition during the evening, there was a 1.66m winning clearance from the Crawley athlete in the girls’ high jump, which ranked fourth in the UK so far this season, plus a sub 37-second time from the winner of the 300m boys’ race which put the athlete, also from Crawley, third on the UK list for 2014.

In addition, Chichester 800m runner Ben Collins had to face a sub 60-second first lap in the 800m from the East Grinstead athlete, who was chasing an English schools qualifying time.

It was in the throws that the club had their best success with James Gillett and Michael Ackerman notching near-perfect scores in shot and hammer and a good showing in the discus.

Gillett came out on top in the hammer at the start of the evening with Ackerman reversing the tables in the shot.

For the girls, regular pairing Kerrie Pafford and Natalie Gzik were on their usual good form in shot and discus and were joined by Abbie de Villiers for her first match of the season to back up Pafford in the shot and Gzik in the javelin.

On the track there were battling performances from Rachel Laurie and Emogen Spreckly in the sprints while Grace Wills lowered her personal best in the 1,500m just being pipped into third over the last 200m.

Three members of the club’s record-breaking boys’ relay team faced the stiffest competition of the year so far and had to contend with winning times of 11.7, 24.5 and 36.7sec in the 100m, 200m and 300m.

The Chichester trio stuck to their task with Brandon Bell, Lewis Hall and Alex Austin all being pushed through to fast times.

Kai Terry joined Collins in the 800m and also set a personal-best time during the evening while regular pairing Ben Morton and Leo Stallard were involved in a tight finish in the 1,500m with Ross Fortin showing promise in his first competition for the club as a non-scorer in the same event.

Jack Blackman and Harry Carter formed a good partnership in the high jump and ran well on the track in 300m and 800m respectively. Collins and Stallard were an equally good pairing in the long jump and Collins showed his versatility with second place in the javelin.

At the end of the match, the boys were just a few points behind the leading two clubs East Grinstead and Crawley while the girls had to give way to Horsham through not being able to contest all the events

The next match for the under-15s is on Sunday, June 22 when they will join with the under-13s and travel to Bournemouth for the next match in the National Youth Development League.

One of the highlights of the long-distance running scene took place on Saturday with the annual South Downs 100-mile relay following its normal route from the start at Beachy Head and finishing roughly 12 hours later at Winchester.

Conditions were generally good for the runners after some of the early stages had to contend with heavy showers in the morning. With a full complement of more than 50 teams from across the south, teams were able to choose a start time between 6am and 9am with aim of the whole field finishing in the early evening.

The three Chichester teams all opted for an early start with the women’s team setting off on the epic journey at 6am and the two men’s teams starting at 7am. All three were within an hour of their estimated time at the finish.

Full results will be in next week’s Observer but the picture above shows Dan Stones and Chris Benham setting off with the 7am starters from Beachy Head.

In the latest fixture in the West Sussex Fun Run League, a smaller Chichester squad than usual travelled to Hove Park.

Charlotte Reading, still part of the club’s under-17 team, who was first Chichester runner home, beatnot only her senior women team-mates but all the club’s men in the process.

Chichester-based runners occupied two of the first three places in Portsmouth’s D Day 10k road race on Sunday.

With the events having special poignancy this year marking the 70th anniversary commemorations, a field of 600-plus runners was a proper reward for the organisers of this well-established contest.

While not being able to keep pace with the eventual winner – Isle of Wight athlete Joe Wade, running for Aldershot & Farnham – local pairing Jo Corbett and James Baker occupied the next two places, both cracking the 33-minute barrier.

This was a repeat of their finishing order in the recent Bognor 10k, with Baker again having the added handicap of a track 5,000m run the previous day in which he again broke the 15.30 barrier.

Veteran Chris Jack was the third Chichester runner to finish in Portsmouth with a fine sub 37-minute clocking in 28th place.

On Wednesday (18 June, 7.30pm), one of the oldest midweek races in the south takes place with the popular Midsummer five-mile road race starting from Lavant village green.

Encompassing a circuit of the Goodwood motor-racing track, the event is considered one of the fastest five-mile races on the south coast. There is a final chance for athletes to pre-register and forms are available from

A few entries may be accepted on the night but athletes should arrive early as soon after 6pm as possible.