Chichester hope for record cross-country turnout

In the first major event of 2011, Chichester are aiming to send one of their strongest ever teams to the Sussex cross-country championships this Saturday at Stanmer Park, Brighton.

In the first major event of 2011, Chichester are aiming to send one of their strongest ever teams to the Sussex cross-country championships this Saturday at Stanmer Park, Brighton.

In every age group from under-13s to seniors there are individual and team medals up for grabs as well as invitations to represent Sussex in the national inter-county event in Birmingham later in the season.

A total of 90 athletes have been entered across the nine events and there is a chance of the club’s previous record of 65 finishers being broken.

As in all sports, however, there are always injury and illness concerns, especially at this time of year, and it remains to be seen how many of the Chichester contingent are able to produce their best form on the day.

As usual, the under-13s are first to race and it is the experienced trio of Rose Ellis, Holly Beaton and Charlotte Reading who will be spearheading the girls’ challenge while Ed Gerwat and Harry Lyne will be looking to lead the way in the boys’ race.

These five will be joined by a dozen or more improving athletes so team medals are not out of the question.

In the under-15s, Georgina Warner and James McKenzie showed good pre-Christmas form and will be well supported by a strong squad.

Katy Bird and Beth Garland are hoping to reproduce their fine track form of last summer for the under-17s as is multi-eventer Jamie Moore in the boys’ event.

While Katie Johnson and Jess McKenzie run as under-20s in the senior women’s race, there is a separate under-20 men’s race where Chichester could have as many as six runners, which would be their best-ever turnout in this age group.

As for the seniors, Jenni Harley and Fay Cripps have shown fine recent form in road and multi-terrain races in recent weeks and should spearhead the women’s team to their best showing for several years – despite ex-county champion Linda Spencer having had to return to Australia after a recent visit to West Sussex.

In the men’s race, Chichester could have three scoring teams on the day having entered 20 runners, but there is a doubt about the fitness of Mr Indestructible James Baker, who has picked up a knee injury over the Christmas period.

Having kept remarkably free from injury during his 18 year running career, the 34-year-old will be hoping that he will make the start line on Saturday.

There is another incentive for all the club’s runners to score for their respective teams as Chichester will be aiming to win the coveted Sussex team shield in which they narrowly pipped Brighton & Hove last year for first place.

The first event starts at 11.30am with the rest of the junior races in the morning and the senior men at 1.30pm and the senior women at 2.25pm.

For full coverage, see the Observer next week.