In blustery but dry conditions the annual Sussex cross-country championships took place at Goodwood Country Park – and a record number of teams competed for the first county medals of the season.
A total of 14 age groups were contested with host club Chichester scooping medals in seven, making them second best club on the day behind Brighton & Hove AC.
Chichester’s medal haul was one of the best in the 17 years of the event, which augurs well for the season ahead.
See a slideshow of pictures from the event by Kate Shemilt and Lee Hollyer, above
The relays started in the best possible fashion with Chichester’s under-13 boys striding to victory in the opening race. Fionn O’Murchu did well to make it to the start line after injury and more than justified his place in the first team, handing over to Logan Cooper in third place at the end of his 2,800m leg.
Cooper quickly overtook leading team Worthing Harriers, but was soon joined by strong athletes from Brighton and Lewes. These three kept closely bunched until the start of the last lap when Harvey McGuiness, still in third, was just a second behind the leader.
McGuiness used his experience to track the other two until the final 800m when he gradually increased the pace to pull clear and win the race for his team by a clear six seconds. He posted the third fastest individual lap of the day.
Showing their best strength in this age group for years, Chichester fielded four complete teams with Max Sydenham, Hal Edgar and Barney McLarnon the first B team home in 11th place. Josh Dunne, Arthur Dearlove and Marcus Bone completed the C team while Samuel Tonks, Alessandro Smitt and Ethan Drysdale were just one place behind for the D team, all three competing for the club for the first time.
The girls fielded one team Amelia McGurk, Grace Eminson and Grace Evans finished ninth.
There was much excitement in the under-15 race but it was the girls fighting for medals and out in force. All eyes were on the opening leg which saw 2017 national inter-county champion Bethany Cook from the Bodyworks club line up with Chichester’s best runner, Olivia Toms.
Toms did well to restrict Cook’s advantage to just under 50 seconds to give Eva Buckler a target on lap two. Despite the efforts of Eva and then twin sister Isobel Buckler on the final leg, Chichester were not able to catch the leaders but beat one of the pre-race favourites, Brighton & Hove, into third place by nearly a minute.
Chichester’s B team finished a creditable tenth with Cerys Dickinson, Nicole Boltwood and Nina Moranne while the C team finished a place behind with Tamsin Anelay, Emily Weymouth and Maddie Byers with Rose Potter a capable reserve for an incomplete fourth team.
For the boys, Joe McLarnon and Archie Sadler ran solid legs for the A team but were unable to score after the last-minute withdrawal of their third runner. There were three new faces at Goodwood for the B team with Toby Payne, George Goldsmith and Bradley Holder all having good runs.
Senior and under-17 women
Chichester’s seniors picked up unexpected but well-deserved bronze medals. Led off by Alice Cox-Rusbridge with a good opening lap of 15min 29sec for the hilly course, Sophie Wright kept them in sight of the top six teams on leg two.
University student Alice Wright made inroads to overtake Hastings and Brighton Phoenix, bringing the club home in third place with the second fastest time of the day in 14.54.
There was also a top-ten placing for the B team with Charlotte Bullard and Maggie King, still both under-17s, putting the club well up after the first two laps with improving Jenny Jakeman bringing the team home in ninth.
There was much to celebrate for Chichester in the veteran category with the club winning silver medals in two of the three age groups.
In the over-35 age group, Chichester’s Nicola Jolly, Samantha Pollak and Emma Franklin did well to finish seventh, especially as all three runners were making their debut over the tough course.
In the over-45s, the Arena team were clear winners but Chichester’s Anne Sydenham, Nadia Anderson and Emma Wickens stuck to their task to convincingly clinch runners-up spot.
Things were much tighter in the over-55 race with Helen Dean gaining a six-second lead over arch rivals Arena on the opening leg. Amanda Godfrey battled well on lap two but could not prevent Arena takingo a lead of nearly a minute. Jane Harrop set off in pursuit for the home club but had Caroline Wood, one of the best over-55 runners in the south, ahead of her.
Harrop closed the gap but ran out of time – though she was rewarded with the fastest time of the day in her age group with Dean third fastest behind Harrop and Wood.
Senior and under-17 men
In the largest senior field ever, Chichester’s A team was led off in fine style by Loughborough University student Harry Leleu.
Despite having his annual break from training after a strenuous triathlon season, Leleu stuck with the leading pack for virtually the whole of the 4000m course to hand over in third just over ten seconds adrift.
Under-20 Leo Stallard maintained the place as did Mike Houston on leg three but Joe Godwood, one of the club’s Chichester University runners, just had to give way to Crawley and Horsham to finishing a tantalising fifth, 15 seconds outside the medals.
For the B team, Ben Collins was the star and enabled his student team-mates Om Pulpham, Dan Pearson and Zak Comber to finish just outside the top 20. The under-17s ran well with Harry Sage, Ned Potter and Alfie Spurle combining well for seventh place.
Chichester achieved a similar result to the vet women’s races, winning medals in two out of the three age groups, albeit bronze.
Jason Snow led the over-40s to hand over to Justin Eggins, John Peters and Simon Dunne for an unexpected third place, well ahead of fourth.
Solid runs from the B team of Keith Akerman, Gary Williams, Marcus Hammerton and Martin Hill earned them seventh place.
Jim Garland led off for the over-50s with a speedy 14.31 clocking, the fourth fastest of the day in his age group.
Solid runs from Tim Brown, Simon Ludlam and Paul Stallard gave the club another seventh place.
In the final age group, the over-60s, Chichester came away with more medals.
Richard Miles ran a storming opening leg in 16.55 to help team-mates Tom Blaylock and John Miles to bronze. Just one place behind, Tony Cooley, Martin Miller and John Betts capped proceedings with a well-earned fourth.