Young cross-country stars shine for Chichester

Olivia Wiseman (No14) leads the charge for Chichester at Plumpton
Olivia Wiseman (No14) leads the charge for Chichester at Plumpton

CHICHESTER’S under-13s and under-15s produced fine team and individual performances in the Sussex Cross Country League fixture at Plumpton.

In doing so, they were emulating the club’s senior runners, whose performances were highlighted in the Observer last week.

The under-13 boys earned a most unexpected team victory with Leo Stallard leading the way in a fine fourth place, his best run in the league. Just two places behind was Ben Collins, who fought bravely to complete the course despite being hampered by a leg injury.

Harry Sage completed the team with a superb eighth place, far and away his best performance since joining the club.

Crucially Sage finished in front of the Brighton & Hove third scorer to give Chichester the team win on countback as both clubs finished with 18 points.

In a good-quality race, Ned Potter in 24th and Jeremy Sharp (32nd) were capable reserves.

In the girls’ under-13 race, there was more success with a third team spot and Olivia Wiseman leading the way with another good run in fourth place, finishing closer to the leaders than in the first fixture at Goodwood.

Chloe Croad was next in 14th followed by Eloise Lane (21st) for a team total of 39 points. Florence Smith in 23rd and Emilia Freeman (32nd) ran well in the pack to show the club has better strength in depth than in recent years in this age group.

Both under-15 races started at a fierce pace with Chichester’s boys producing their best team showing of the season - they took third place on the day with 24 points, just four behind winners Lewes.

Brodie Keates led the way in an excellent fifth followed by Sam Pink in ninth and Adam Croad (tenth), the first time this team have had all three scorers in the top ten. Just off the pace of these three was Sam Reading, providing good back-up in 30th.

Keeping up the top-ten placings was Grace Wills in the under-15 girls’ race with eighth place, another athlete who produced her best showing over the farmland course.

With Katie Hains in 16th and sister Anna (19th), their team total was 42 points - but such was the competition, they were squeezed into sixth place.

Following the example set by Chichester Runners at Goodwood, the host club for each fixture are putting on an invitation under-11 race before the main league programme.

At Plumpton, Chichester athletes in action included Charlotte Bullard winning the girls’ race and good performances by Fleur Hollyer and Sam Sage.

With fixtures coming thick and fast, the Sussex League’s third fixture of the season takes place today (Saturday Dec 7) on the popular but demanding Lancing Manor course.

All age groups are again in action and the programme starts with an invitation under-11 race at midday. The league programme runs from 12.30pm. This will be the final cross-country race of the year for many of the runners with just the top eight in each age group selected to represent Sussex the following weekend in the Southern Inter-Counties Championships.

The first weekend of 2014 brings the main Sussex championships at Stanmer Park in Brighton.

Chichester’s James Baker has enjoyed yet another successful year over track and cross-country but it is for his efforts on the road that he has gained the runner-up spot in the inaugural Harvey-Curtis Sussex Road Race Challenge.

Across four nominated races from the Sussex calendar, athletes have their best three results taken into account and Baker’s consistency played a major part in his placing.

There was no disgrace in having to give way to the overall winner, reigning Sussex cross-country champion Jon Pepper from Brighton Phoenix. Pepper has also won the South of England championships and made a breakthrough this year to come close to the 2hr 20min barrier for the marathon.

The county’s road runners, including Baker, will be looking forward to the second year of the challenge. The first of the four nominated races for 2014 being the Chichester 10k in early February, followed by the Bexhill 5k, the Barns Green Half Marathon and the Brighton 10k.

Baker, meanwhile, set a new course record in the Hayling ten-mile road race - adding to the vast number of records he has set during his amazing 20 years of competitive athletics.

On a flat course which nevertheless can sometimes provide a challenge with strong winds, Baker crossed the line in 53min 5sec, a season’s best for the distance.

There were eight other athletes from Chichester Runners in the field, led home by Fay Cripps in 66th place overall in the 380-strong field in a time of 69.27.

She was followed by Gareth Glass (69th in 69.47), Matthew Sheldon (87th, 71.09), Sue Baker (265th, 89.54), Carla Wood (284th, 91.42), Emma Searle (288th, 92.23), Carol Palmer (289th, 92.28) and Sandra Nemorin-Noel (314th, 95.56).

Elsewhere at Epsom, Dave Worcester claimed another title in his first year in the over-60 ranks by winning the South of England road race ten-mile title in a time of 66 minutes, a fine feat for his age group, adding to his national marathon title won at Newcastle earlier in the year.