Western front turns shade of gold as schools athletes compete
In perfect conditions, West Sussex West athletes played their part in one of the most successful Sussex schools track and field championships for many years.
Over a packed day spanning well over six hours of action and nearly 100 events in six age groups there were no fewer than 11 meeting records set during the day.
A squad of more than 40 athletes from Chichester, Bognor, Midhurst and the surrounding district formed the West Sussex West team, one of eight areas in the county, and came away with more than 20 top-three places including ten gold medals.
All eyes will now be on the Sussex selectors as they pick the team for the English Schools championships next month.
Senior boys and girls
Despite smaller numbers, the seniors accounted for half the gold medals of the whole WSW squad.
Alyssa White, just back from injury and on no training, was back to form in the 200m, winning in 26.39 seconds. Midhurst Rother’s Jess Hall repeated the success in the pole vault with a 3.20m winning clearance while Alice Cox-Rusbridge claimed the steeplechase top spot after finishing runner-up in the 1500m.
Bishop Luffa team-mates Imogen Matthews and Beth Brown opted for the longer 3000m with Matthews gaining silver in 11.13 and Brown a place back in third.
For the boys, Ben Collins was untroubled in winning the 800m in a modest 2min 03sec with Ollie Shergold running a good 2.16 further down the field.
There were runners-up spots for Ben Morton with a 9.21 clocking in the 3000m and Ethan Hartley with a speedy 52.44 in the 400m.
Intermediate boys and girls
In the well-contested intermediate age group, both gold medals were won in the girls’ events although the boys were rewarded with a number of top-three placings.
It was no surprise to see Olivia Macdonald from Seaford College at the head of things in the 3000m to win in a fast time of 10.33.
The other success came in the field with improving Lucie Munday winning the discus with a new best of 26.33, with Alexia Everley sixth in the same event with just over 20m.
There was a fine third place for Freya Chandler in the javelin with a distance of 30.64 while Rebecca Mann was not far behind in seventh place after a throw of 27.72.
In the jumps, Eloise Longhurst had a best of 10.59 in the triple jump, good enough for third place while Ella Howard was fifth in the long jump with 4.26.
Maggie King was once again under the 2.30 barrier to finish fifth in the 800m while Phoebe Pontet was a whisker away from making the final of the 80m hurdles after posting a time of 13.62 in the heats and finishing fourth.
For the boys, Midhurst Rother pairing Max Lambkin and Jacob Piper finished second and fourth in a keenly contested 200m final having safely negotiated the heats. Lampkin set a new best time of 23.46 with Piper a few tenths behind on 23.85, just a shade outside his time of 23.74 in the heats.
In the middle-distance races Ned Potter continued his good summer with a 9.20 clocking in the 3000m, just outside the medals in fourth, with Alfie Spurle sixth in 10.15. James Gardam ran well to clock 4.35 in the 1500m in a competitive race to finish ninth.
In the field there were another three medals for local athletes with Joe Spiby recording a good runners-up spot in the discus with 34.89 while Aaron Whittam achieved the same result with 5.60 in the long jump.
Caelen Stanton was one of three athletes to break 12m in a high-standard shot put to finish third with a best of exactly 12m.
Junior boys and girls
As usual the most competitive age group in terms of numbers was the juniors, where many of the track races had to be run in heats and finals and in some cases led to crowded fields in the middle-distance races.
Among such competition it was in the field events where the two gold medals were gained. Both the athletes concerned have been on form for Chichester in club matches this season.
It was no surprise to see Seaford College student Ollie Beach too good for the opposition with a winning throw of 36.33 in the discus. Millie Grant, one of a number of talented Bishop Luffa athletes on duty, had the best win of her athletics career so far with a new best of 9.53 in the shot.
There was more local success in this event with Brooklyn Santer-Smith from Felpham CC throwing a promising 8.90 for third place.
There was more success for Felpham with Ethan Ward gaining a good third with 4.26 in the 1500m.
Harry Angell was equal third on countback with a 1.55m clearance in the high jump while Sam Spiby was fifth in the javelin with a fine throw of 38.29m, while Ollie Robinson just dipped under five minutes in the 1500m.
In the girls’ events, there was the best representation of any age group with a host of hard-fought top-ten places in track and field.
Best of these was from Olivia Toms breaking the five-minute barrier, a real marker for the junior girls’ age group, with a 4.57 clocking for third place.
Twins Isobel and Eva Buckler were ninth and tenth in the same race with 5.09 and 5.11 respectively but are among a number of athletes who will have another year in the same age group.
There was good 75m hurdling from Sophie Dudman and Mia Brown who both came through strong heats to make the final. Dudman came in at 12.57sec, with Brown close behind.
Fleur Hollyer and Poppy Chandler both lined up for the 100m with Hollyer progressing to the final to finish sixth after a personal-best time of 13.37 from the heats.
In one of the most congested events of the whole day, Nicole Boltwood did well to battle through the large field to finish sixth and there was a good fourth place in the discus from Maya Solly and a close seventh from Elise Pullen in the high jump.
* Chichester’s Emily Russell, representing the Waverley schools region in the Surrey Schools Championships at Kingston, came fifth in the intermediate girls’ 200m in 28.16sec.
Another local athlete, Florence Smith (senior girls), competed in the Hampshire schools championships at Basingstoke, representing Portsmouth schools, and won the triple jump with a leap of 9.26m.
PHIL BAKER & DAVID CHURCHER
Under-15 Sussex League
A smaller-than-usual squad of Chichester under-15s travelled to Horsham for the first of the Sussex League Friday evening matches.
With six of the top Sussex clubs contesting the west division, the league gives athletes a good opportunity to branch out into different events.
Oliver Beach continued his winning run in the discus but was also just a tenth of a second outside the 40-second barrier in the 300m.
Jack Wadman backed up a good 300m B string with a second place in the A string shot where Sam Spiby showed good form in winning the B string as well as throwing over 33m in the javelin.
William Simmons ran a personal best in a very fast 100m and also competed well in the 200m and long jump.
The middle-distance trio battled well with Gabryel White in the 800m and Archie Sadler partnered by Bradley Holder over 1500m.
Sadler also cleared 2.10m in the pole vault while the unluckiest athlete of the evening, DJ Barth, was forced to pull up in the hurdles with a repeat of a previous injury.
For the girls there were two convincing middle-distance wins with Nicole Boltwood producing a fine burst of speed in the home straight to overtake the East Grinstead athlete who looked to have the race sewn up with 200m to go.
There was no late charge needed from Olivia Toms in the 1500m with the Chichester athlete leading from the gun and winning by the length of the home straight.
Toms’ only regret was to cross the line just three tenths of a second outside the five-minute barrier.
Millie Grant had another good match in 100m, shot and hammer while Cerys Dickinson, normally a middle-distance runner, teamed up with Maisie Sadler in the 100m as well as gaining experience at long jump and shot.
As with the boys’ match, the pole vault competition was a very high standard with Skye Sadler clearing two metres.
The under-15s are in action together with the under-13s at Poole on Sunday in the third fixture in the National Youth Development League.