Chichester sent a squad of more than 50 athletes to the third round of the Sussex Cross Country League held over the testing Lancing Manor course.
Fortunately for the athletes, the harsh windy conditions from earlier in the week had abated and with firm ground underfoot, it resulted in another great day’s racing in all nine races on the programme.
Chichester wanted to consolidate the positions of the teams in contention for end-of-season honours – but there was the bonus of better results than expected in some of the age groups plus a stunning individual victory in the boys’ under-15 race.
Under-17 men and women
One of the features of the club’s junior sections over the past few years has been the consistency of the under-17s, who have ranked among the top three clubs in Sussex over a decade.
The season is no exception with both the men’s and women’s teams showing great form on Saturday. The women always run with the men in league races.
On Saturday Imogen Matthews and Alice Cox-Rusbridge decided to make a fast start with the seniors and quickly established themselves inside the top 20 in the race and well inside the top ten under-17s.
They kept their pace to the end of the race including a second lap up to the downs and finished sixth and seventh respectively while Beth Brown, running a sensible race in mid-field, was 11th for a team total of 24 points.
They were just behind Horsham on the day but extended their lead at the top of the table to a clear 37 points over Hastings with Horsham in third.
Chichester’s under-17 men welcomed Will Broom back into the team after he missed the first two fixtures and recorded their first team win of the year, with Broom in a fine second place, followed by Leo Stallard sixth and Ned Potter ninth for a team total of 17 points, well in front of league leaders Brighton & Hove on 26.
This brings Chichester into the top three overall and with just the final race to come they look to be certain of team medals with the possibility of upgrading their current bronze prospects to silver at the final fixture.
Under-15s, under-13s, under-11s
The club’s juniors again gave a good account of themselves with under-15 Liam Dunne the star of the day, recording his first cross-country league victory.
Having been just pipped into second spot in the previous fixture at Bexhill, Dunne made no mistake at Lancing and had his speed over the last 400m to thank.
Never outside the leading group, Dunne and the top Lewes runner had pulled well clear of the field over the second half of the race with Dunne just allowing a gap of a few yards to develop with the finish in sight.
His final burst saw him swoop past his rival to win by a single second, a result which should see him full of confidence when putting on his Sussex vest in this weekend’s southern inter-counties match at Oxford.
Dunne was followed by Archie Sadler in 38th place, although again Chichester were deprived of a team placing without a third scoring runner.
In the under-15 girls’ race Maggie King continued her good winter form with a top-ten finish with just a minute separating her from the winner.
Nina Moranne in 22nd and Rose Potter in 26th made up the scoring team with Nicole Boltwood the reserve in 32nd.
The under-13 girls had their top trio in action with Isobel leading twin sister Eva home in 12th and 13th respectively, closely followed by Cerys Dickinson in 15th – just 13 seconds separating the three runners.
Another solid team showing put them into the medal positions and gives them a 30-point margin over fourth-placed Eastbourne with a single race to go. Maisie Sadler was a good reserve in 42nd in a competitive age group.
For the boys, Joe McLarnon once again led Chichester home in a good fourh place with Fionn O’Murchu having his best cross country run just behind in sixth, with Oli Fuller providing a capable replacement for Harvey Mcguiness in 19th., They gave Chichester a top-three team placing with 30 points, leaving them just outside the medals after three matches.
There was a good show from the B team in the same race with Gabryel White 36th, Logan Cooper 40th and Marcus Bone 60th for a team 14th.
The under-11 races are to aid youngsters’ development and although there are no team prizes, the competition gives league athletes of the future a chance to gain experience at club level.
Florence Ingram led the girls home in 15th closely followed by Lillie Hellyer 16th, Carrie Annelay 17th, Leila Hellyer 19th and Grace Emison 28th. For the boys Seb Fenmor Collins and Sam Cato were 28th and 29th.
Senior men and senior women
For the third race in succession, Chichester senior women’s A team were indebted to the under-17s Matthews and Cox-Rusbridge to keep them in the hunt for team medals in division one of the women’s league.
Finishing 20th and 23rd in the open senior field, these two were followed by Sarah Fenmor Collins in 31st and Sophie Wright 45th for a total of 166 points. That leaves them third in the overall standings behind Arena 80 and Lewes but with a 40-point cushion over Hailsham.
University student Emma Hughes led the B team home in 52nd followed by Beth Brown 71st and Jenny Jakeman 74th while the C team also put up a good show with Nadia Anderson 81st, Sue Barty 98th and Elizabeth Robinson 103rd and reserve Rebecca Brown 109th.
In the corresponding fixture last season Chichester’s men’s promotion challenge came unstuck and the club was determined not to make the same mistake this time.
Without several of the club’s leading runners, those who stepped in did the club proud with Ben Morton, still an under-20, given the chance to lead the club senior team home for the first time in his running career.
After battling stride for stride for much of the five-mile course with team-mate Joe Godwood, Morton just pulled away at the end to finish in 25th overall and as second under 20 with Godwood in 28th.
Simon Dunne led fellow veteran Nick Fenmor Collins in 53rd and 60th for a team aggregate total of 166 points to win the second division again on the day and extend their overall lead at the top of the table to more than 100 points.
Barring an improbable complete collapse in the final fixture in February, Chichester’s men should emulate their women and find themselves in division one for next season.
There was good packing for the B team with newcomer to the club Mark Taylor in 83rd followed by Keith Akerman 84th, Graham Woodward 100th and Om Phulphan 114th. John Bullard in 117th, Andrew Wingham 141st and Peter Anderson scored for an incomplete C team.
* The Chichester club’s top junior cross-country runners will be in action at Oxford today (Saturday) representing Sussex in the Southern Inter-County Championships.
The ten counties on show will include top national outfits Surrey, Kent, Essex and Middlesex as well as local rivals Hampshire so the standard of competition will be a first glimpse of what the runners can expect at national level later in the season.
Chichester have more than a dozen runners in the county squad and will be certain to have an impact on their overall performance.
Sunday sees the second fixture in the Sussex Indoor Sportshall league at Tanbridge House School, Horsham. Once again the standard of competition is sure to be tough as the club’s indoor athletes put their recent trial sessions to good effect.