In one of the highlights of the winter season, Chichester athletes put in some outstanding performances at the National Cross-Country Championships.
Some 5,000 runners congregated at Parliament Hill, considered the home of English cross-country running, in perfect conditions for participants and the hordes of spectators who watched the action unfold across Hampstead Heath.
Any placing in the top 100 is considered an achievement against England’s top athletes and Chichester produced one of their best-ever tallies. The under 17 women set the scene over a tough 5,000m course with Beth Garland and Georgina Warner settling into the top 100 after the first long uphill start.
They battled through the field to finish a superb 52nd and 64th respectively. Lucy Thraves had a consistent run in 134th and credit goes to final scorer Alice Sowden, in only her second race for the club, whose 194th place ensured 16th team position, one of the best in the club’s history at the event.
The under-15 boys were in a field of nearly 400, with Harry Leleu in great form after finishing runner-up in the Sussex Championships and 16th in the South of England. Leleu set off in the top 50 and established himself inside the top 30 after the first mile of the 4,500m course. He made his way through the field to finish 16th, the best run of his career.
There was good packing from the rest of the team with Josh James 108th, Casey Keates 145th and Ed Gerwat 242nd with Harry Pink reserve in 324th. Their team position of 14th was the club’s highest of the day and one of the best from any Sussex team.
In the girls’ under-15 race Rose Ellis was an impressive 93rd and with good support from Charlotte Reading 159th, Nicola Mead 171st and Lucy Ellis 252nd, the team finished 25th - the second Sussex club behind county champions Hastings.
The under-13 boys’ race was the most tightly-packed with 300 of the 400 runners finishing within three minutes.
Zac Hurst and Brodie Keates were given the same time with Hurst 164th and Keates 166th. Sam Pink ran bravely in 250th despite feeling below par while Sam Reading battled to 354th place to give the team 34th place.
The start of the senior men’s race is regarded as one of the most inspiring sights in British athletics with 2,000 athletes charging up the half-mile opening uphill stretch from starting pens some 200 metres across.
It proved a fast race with the leaders covering the 12k course in a little over 36 minutes. James Baker was squeezed for space in the opening couple of miles and got into his stride only on the second of the 6k laps so was just outside the top 100 in 109th despite overtaking runners for most of the race.
His time of just under 40 minutes was a reflection of the standard of the event but a minute quicker would have placed Baker inside the top 50 and among the elite of English cross-country runners.
Four of the remaining five members of the Chichester team had their first experience of the national event. Chris Tucker excelled in 1,053rd in front of Tom Blaylock, the only previous runner, in 1,326th. Terry Healy was 1,387th, Dave Reading 1,396th and Nick Palmer 1,476th to leave the team 103rd.
Two Midhurst-based athletes had fine runs in the senior women’s race.
Emma Macready, running for Midhurst Milers, confirmed her status as Sussex champion by finishing a superb 20th, among the cream of English middle-distance runners, while Emily Alden was 56th in the colours of home club Epsom and Ewell.
* The 2012 Chichester Corporate Challenge got under way last night (Weds) with well over 600 runners, adult and junior, enjoying perfect conditions for the city-centre course.
City of Portsmouth ace Harry Carter won the first-night A race ahead of Chichester favourite James Baker, while Harry Leleu was among the youngsters who were dominant in their events.
We will have a picture gallery and results from the event on this website in the next few days and full coverage in the Observer next week (March 8).