Chichester athletes are Midsummer marvels

The Midsummer 5 field tackle the motor circuit in the evening sun / Picture by Lee Hollyer
The Midsummer 5 field tackle the motor circuit in the evening sun / Picture by Lee Hollyer

Runners for this year’s Midsummer 5 race encountered the hottest conditions in the 30-year history of the event – but still battled to some fast times.

With the course encompassing a lap of the Goodwood motor circuit, the field was led off from the start once again by local favourite James Baker with fellow veteran Julian Manning from Denmead Striders and Chichester club-mate Conrad Meagher offering the nearest challenge.

Both the top two are now in the over-40 age group but they still showed the way to their younger rivals and when they arrived back at Lavant village green after a hard five miles of effort, Baker had opened up a clear lead to cross the line in 26min 41sec.

Manning was just under a minute further back in 27.35 with Meagher a few seconds adrift in 27.48.

It was the start of a successful evening for promoting club, Chichester Runners & AC, as next home was the first of the club’s top juniors, Leo Stallard, who enabled his club to win the team prize and scooped the under-20 award.

Seniors Mike Houston and Mikey Neville finished seventh and 12th while two more of the club’s under-20s were next in line with Ben Morton in 13th and Charlie Benson 14th.

Chichester were just as impressive in the women’s race with the first-ever clean sweep by the club in the event.

They just pipped first over-50 home, Jim Garland in 30.14, making it eight Chichester athletes in the top 15. Further back another local runner John Miles was first over-60 home in 53rd overall while the first over-70 was Roger Osgood from Havant AC in a fine time of just outside 40 minutes.

Chichester were just as impressive in the women’s race with the first-ever clean sweep by the club in the event. In a fine 31st place overall, Fay Cripps strode home for the victory in 33.32 followed by Lucy Thraves in 34.03, who pipped Ann Sydenham for the runners-up spot.

With a perfect score of six points the team event was wrapped up and there was further good news for Chichester when Rose Ellis came home to win the under-20 prize and Kim Nelson was first in the over-45 category.

In the junior one-mile race, Chichester clubmates Liam Dunne and Tom Bocquillon stamped their authority on the field after a mad dash at the start by nearly 100 runners.

This was a few days after Dunne had received the excellent news he had made it into the Hampshire squad for the English schools track and field championships in Birmingham in July thanks to his fine 800m in just over two minutes in the inter-counties the previous weekend.

* Chichester’s senior athletics team continued their fine season with a close second place at their latest Southern League match at Winchester in the middle of the recent heatwave.

Once again the good all-round men’s squad were too good for their rivals and it was thanks to the heroics of three of the club’s under-23 women that the runners-up spot was secured.

Match result

1 City of Salisbury 225pts

2 Chichester 190

3 Worthing & District Harriers 124

4 Exeter Harriers 90

Men’s events

Chichester’s men’s squad again showed their all-round strength in both track and field and were a match for the other clubs in all 19 events.

In the absence of Tim Brown on team-manager duties for the Sussex schools, reliable pairing Andy Hall and Phil Kearney gained a host of second places in shot, discus and hammer, having come up against the nationally-ranked Evans twins from Worthing in all three events.

Once again Hall was close to 40m in the hammer, one of the longest throws in the country for his over-55 age group.

The pair then gained near-maximum points in the pole vault with Kearney close to three metres despite being hampered by an Achilles injury.

Liam Telford joined Kearney for the javelin to good effect and is rapidly turning into a reliable multi-eventer with good marks over 100m and in high jump.

On the track there was a mixture of youth and experience with James Baker continuing his remarkable record of league victories stretching back to the mid 1990s when the club first entered the league.

On this occasion the 12½ laps of the track in scorching heat did not deter him and he crossed the line in exactly 16 minutes with team-mate Conrad Meagher also dipping under the 17-minute barrier.

Will Boutwood showed a good turn of speed in the 1,500m to win the A string with Ben Morton securing maximum points in the B string. There were further maximums from Ben Collins and Alex Mani over 800m, Collins and Brandon Bell over 400m and Meagher and Mani in the steeplechase.

In addition the middle-distance under-17 trio of Jack Dean, Alfie Spurle and Harry Sage gained valuable experience on the track and helped the points tally in hurdles and triple jump.

In the sprints Lewis Hall and Max Lambkin joined Bell to battle hard against some talented Worthing sprinters while Lambkin again spearheaded the club’s hurdles.

Tom Claydon was unlucky in having to retire from the high jump while in full swing, having aggravated an earlier injury but both Ryan Thorn and George Orchard showed promise for the future.

Women’s match

Missing a number of regular members, some of whom were representing Sussex, it was left to three of the club’s under-23 athletes plus one veteran to make as much of a mark on the women’s events as they could.

Amy Brown had already shown her versatility in the previous match at Poole and was joined by Holly Beaton and Renae Brown, both recently back from university.

Between the trio, they managed to compete in the sprints and hurdles on the track, all four throws, shot put, discus, javelin and hammer, plus high jump, long jump and triple jump – with Brown close to a new personal-best in the pole vault.

The 60 points they accumulated between them enabled the joint men’s and women’s team to finish well clear of both Worthing and Exeter. Over-50 veteran Suzet Jessop showed great team spirit by running the 400m and 800m after arriving at the match purely as a supporter.

For the next fixture in the Southern League, the club travel to Swindon on July 8 when they will face league leaders Plymouth as well as Team Kennet and Guildford & Godalming.

PHIL BAKER

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