Perfect racing conditions greeted record fields totalling nearly 600 competitors for the opening fixture of the Sussex Cross Country League at Goodwood.
Athletes in all the age groups were keen to set down a marker for the season ahead and put their teams into contention for end-of-season honours.
There was the added incentive of impressing Sussex selectors in advance of the first major representative fixture of the season, the Southern Inter-Counties in December at Oxford.
Among the 60-plus runners from Chichester Runners & AC, there were five individual winners of various age groups in addition to countless top eight finishers which will put them into contention for a Sussex vest.
Opening the proceedings were the junior races with an invitation 2,000m for under-11s, where Chichester fielded 12 runners from their new under-11 training group.
For the boys, Douglas Smith and Seamus McCormack were up with the leading group in the early stages and did well to finish fifth and eighth and were well in sight of the winner at the finish.
They were followed by Morgan Glew in 20th, Freddie Thomas 21st, Leo Stirzaker 22nd, James Bullard 29th, Albi Sisted 34th and Elijah Green 38th.
In the girls’ race, Gracie Roberts ran strongly and came through on the second lap to overtake the early leader from Brighton Phoenix within sight of the finish to win by two seconds. Not far behind were Nina Moranne in fifth and Nicole Boltwood in sixth, with Fleur Hollyer in 12th
In the under-13 girls’ race, a leading pack of four broke clear with a talented Hastings duo joined by Olivia Wiseman and Cheyenne James, making her first appearance for the club.
On the second of two laps, Wiseman pulled away to finish 13 seconds clear for her first league win, overturning the result of the respective times of the recent relays. With James a close fourth and Amber Dodd 26th and Rosie Sloane 27th, Chichester are well poised in fourth place in the standings.
In the boys’ race, Harry Sage and Jeremy Sharp were well up with the leading pack on the opening lap and maintained their pace to the end with Sage fifth and Sharp ninth. James Gardam, in his first race for the club, finished 28th just beating Tom Davy in 32nd with George Cooley 45th. Teamwise they lie fifth, just a few points behind the top three.
In the under-15 races, Chichester’s boys squad had anticipated a battle with the Hastings team who had narrowly beaten them for the gold medals in the relays over the same course the end of September.
It became clear these were once again the dominant clubs, accounting for nine of the top 16 runners at the finish.
Ben Collins was again chasing the Hastings runner who had set a course record in the relays and had a fine run to be within 15 seconds of the winner at the finish after nearly 15 minutes of running.
With the top five having broken clear, Luke Campbell had his best run for the club in seventh and was closely followed by Leo Stallard in 12th, Jack Blackman 13th and Brosie Keates 16th to give the A team 21 points in second place. The B team totalled 83 points for ninth place.
The girls’ race in the same age group witnessed a fine piece of front-running from Almi Nerurker, daughter of former London Marathon winner and GB International Richard.
Chichester’s squad were looking good at the halfway stage with three runners in the top 20 but Grace Wills was forced to retire when in the top ten and Anna Hains had to withdraw with an ankle injury.
Chloe Croad and Katie Hains sluck to their task to finish 21st and 23rd while Rachel Laurie came in 30th in her first cross-country run for the club.
While the under-17 women run in a combined senior race in league fixtures, the men have their own 5,000m event. The senior men run over a longer distance of 8k.
A squad of six Chichester athletes lined up at the start in a strong Sussex field and Casey Keates kept pace with his closest rival from Eastbourne at the head of the race until he strode away after halfway to finish more than ten seconds clear and record his first-ever league win in any age group since joining the club as an under-13.
Harry Lyne was ninth with Adam Croad completing the scoring for the A team in 13th to give 23 points, just five behind the leaders and well clear of the rest.
Sam Pink in 19th led the B team home with Will Kallaway 26th and Sam Reading 27th for eighth team spot overall.
In the girls’ age group, Rosie Ellis achieved fourth place in the under-17s followed by Charlotte Reading in tenth, Amber Westron 12th and reserve Holly Beaton in 23rd. At the top of the standings, Hastings are out in front and Chichester are just two points behind Brighton in third.
Seniors and veterans
With the under-17 women also able to score in the senior women’s race, Ellis, in eighth place overall, led the team home with veteran Jane Harrop 15th just edging our Georgina Gair in 16th and Anneliese Shaw in a fine 20th.
That gave them 59 points and put the club well in contention in division one, where Lewes were the surprise package, edging out Brighton and Arena 80 for top spot.
Hannah Croad was next home in 23rd and was joined in the B team by Reading 30th, Westron 37th and veteran Linda Roberts 45th.
Chichester fielded a C team with Sophie Wright in 82nd, Frances Carruthers 91st, Maria Wright 94th and Rebecca Brown 96th, with reserves Beaton and Sandra Nemorin-Noel. The 128 finishers in the women’s race was a new record for the Sussex League.
One of the club’s youngsters led the men home with Harry Leleu a fine fifth overall and the top under-20 to finish in his first year in the age group.
Veteran Jim Garland was next across the line in 58th, or 16th in his age group. Fellow veterans John Bullard in 80th and evergreen over-60 Rob Wiggins in 93rd completed the scoring to put the A team a close fourth in division two but within a few points of one of the two promotion places.
Wiggins faces a new challenge in his quest to retain the over-60 age-group title as he had to give second best to a new athletes from the Brighton Phoenix club who has moved into the area.
Dave Prickett in 95th led the Chichester B team home with Matt de Lacy 101st, Harry Williams 129th and Alan Rowley 130th, with reserves Nick Palmer 143rd, Tom Blaylock 152nd and Paddy Clark 177th.
Chichester’s next main cross-country fixture will be the third of their Goodwood events on November 8 followed by the second Sussex League fixture at Plumpton Agricultural College on November 22.
by PHIL BAKER