Nearly 800 runners of all ages brought Chichester city centre and produced some thrilling racing at the opening night of this year’s Corporate Challenge.
Starting its 25th year, the event has again captured the imagination of local businesses, sports clubs and schools and colleges.
In 1992 just over 200 runners contested the first race – and organisers were delighted at least a dozen of the original field were present this time, some still running but others officiating and marshalling.
The emphasis of the event is to encourage a broad range of runners to compete, but two outstanding performances lit up the evening.
In the secondary-school boys’ race CHSB pupil Ben Collin ran the fastest ever time over the four-lap 2,800m course – 8min 12sec, knocking five seconds from the time of Portsmouth-based Jacob O’Hara from 2015.
In the senior A race, Chichester’s new American star Chris Zablocki raced away from a quality field to become the second fastest ever in the history of the event. Only Commonwealth Games gold medallist Michael East with a course record 12.39 has run faster than Zablocki’s 12.49, which made him one of only five athletes to have broken the magic 13-minute barrier for the 4,500m four-lap course.
Get the Chichester Observer’s March 3 edition - out now - for a full list of finishers and their times
More than 350 competitors lined up for a senior event split into the sub-18-minute runners in the A race and the massed start of the B race.
With Zablocki’s stunning run at the head of the field there were numerous other good runs with Brighton Phoenix athlete Josh Guilmant’s speedy 13.14 followed by Chichester’s Peter Concannon in 13.35.
For once multiple winner James Baker was outside the top three in sixth place but he still added to his tally of 43 sub-14-minute times with 13.56.
Emma Monteil in 37th overall was first female to finish followed by the Run Company’s Sarah Fenmor Collins in 16.59 and Havant’s Corin Breakpark in 17.10.
In the corporate team standings there looks to be a battle brewing between holders DSTL (CSSC) and Chichester College Staff while Chichester’s promising under-20s are just trailing Portsmouth AC, running as Oddbins, in the sports rankings. DSTL and Havant Angels hold the respective leading places in the women’s event.
Primary boys and girls
There were four boys who finished under the five-minute barrier in the primary boys’ category. Joe McLarnon from North Mundham and Cameron Walker-Powell from Mayville High were the first home in the Year 6 race with 4.52 and 4.56 respectively.
Just behind on times were the first two in the yYar 5 race Fionn O’Murchu from Bishop Tufnell and Reuben King from Bosham in 4.58 and 4.59. Teamwise North Mundham have established a narrow lead over Jessie Younghusband and Camelsdale – and a record 49 boys’ teams completed the course.
There was a good battle at the front of the girls’ race with Cerys Dickinson from Rose Green just getting the better of Freya Hampshire of Lavant House by a single second to win in 5.30.
The team placings could hardly be tighter with leaders Central, North Mundham and Bishop Tufnell separated by just five seconds.
Secondary boys and girls
The speed of the secondary boys’ race, especially from the Year 9 and 10 runners, was such that the lead cyclists had trouble staying ahead of the pack.
Collins, Chichester’s top runner this winter, decided to take things on from the front and blasted round the opening 700m lap in just 1min 53sec.
Splits of 3.55 at halfway and 6.08 after three laps were the fastest ever seen on the course and a final 2.04 lap saw a new course record of 8.12.
Also setting one of the fastest times ever was Will Broom from Bishop Luffa, second in 8.37 and leading his team to a win, while Ethan Fincham from Angmering College and Adam Kimber from Swanmore were also under nine minutes.
In the three-lap Year 8 race Liam Dunne from Bohunt had just enough in reserve to stay in front of Leon Heard from CHSB and Joe Careswell from Bishop Luffa, whose respective teams lead the team rankings.
In a very competitive Year 7 field there was fine finish between the top two with Josh Fawcett from Portsmouth Grammar just pipping Douglas Smith from Bishop Luffa by a single second in 7.24, leading his team to a narrow win over Midhurst Rother.
Four different schools produced the winners of the secondary girls’ races with Charlotte Bullard from Chichester High School for Girls flying the flag for Sussex in the face of strong Hampshire opposition.
Anya Pigden from Churchers was first to cross the line to win the Year 10 race in 7.17 while there was another battle for Year 8 honours between winner Bo Sansom from Swanmore and Mia Billins from Portsmouth High.
Runner up to Bullard in the Year 8 race was Lily de Lacy from Midhurst Rother while Eloise O’Neill from Cams Hill produced the largest winning margin of 46 seconds in the Year 7 race but good packing from Midhurst Rother ensured a team win.
The second in the series of three race nights is next Wednesday, March 9.
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