Chichester in fine cross-country form on Plumpton’s perfect course

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Perfect conditions greeted the top Sussex cross-country runners for the second league fixture of the season at Plumpton College.

The athletes had to negotiate frozen ground in this fixture last year, but conditions underfoot were ideal.

With most Chichester teams well-placed after the first races at Goodwood, the squad did not disappoint and only the senior men’s team look to be struggling to retain division-one status for another season.

This was despite a sterling performance from James Baker who finished second, beaten only by international Ben Tickner. In a quality field of 150 runners under-20 Ed Porter was next home over the testing 8km course in 59th, closely followed by Dave Dorning (61st), fifth in the over-50 race.

Fellow veterans followed suit with Tom Blaylock 84th, Colin Harley 119th, Jan Hill 124th and Martin Miller 125th.

In the senior women’s race Chichester comfortably won division two and beat all the top-division clubs.

In-form veteran Jane Harrop scythed through the field after a steady start to finish fifth overall and was clear winner of her over-45 age group. Equally as impressive were under-17s Georgina Warner in 15th and Lucy Thraves 17th, third and fourth in their age group.

A team total of 37 points gives Chichester an aggregate of 61 after two matches, well ahead of Horsham with 129 and Phoenix on 174. Providing the club can field equally as impressive teams in the two fixtures in the new year, promotion to division one looks a distinct possibility.

It was another outstanding day for the club’s under-15s with both the girls and boys winning. Having suffered an unexpected reversal at Goodwood, Harry Leleu was back to winning ways after a battle with talented Ben Golding from Crawley. Josh James in fourth and Dan Eeles in eighth gave the team 13 points, which gives them 33 at the halfway stage, well clear of their closest rivals. A second team of Casey Keates in 12th, Ed Gerwat 17th and Harry Pink 26th all ran to form.

There was the usual fine packing from the under-15 girls with Emma Maynard in sixth just getting the better of Rose Ellis in seventh and Charlotte Reading in eighth for 21 points, ahead of Brighton on 30 and Hastings on 36, which leapfrogs Chichester to top spot with 42 points.

Tara Bage led the second team home in 12th despite a fall. Nicola Mead was 14th followed by Holly Beaton (18th) and Lucy Ellis (24th).

The under-13 boys packed well to cement third place with Josh Eeles 11th, Ollie Poole 14th, Sam Pink 16th, Brodie Keates 23rd and Sam Reading 37th. Saskai Gardam and Molly Whatmore finished well for the under-13 girls in tenth and 17th while Greg Smith was an inproving 17th among the under-17 men.

Before the next league fixture, Chichester’s athletes will battle for honours in the Sussex championships on the weekend of January 7-8.

PHIL BAKER