Chichester in the medals at county athletics championships

Chichester athletes at the county championships  Picture by Sara Ellis
Chichester athletes at the county championships Picture by Sara Ellis

Chichester’s track and field athletes were in form at the Sussex county championships and returned with a fine tally of medals from two days of fiercely-fought competition.

As well as these top-three places, there were a number of club records set - including one which has stood for 18 years and which the athlete in question has been trying to beat in all that time, a great example of perseverance winning the day.

The best individual overall performance was from heptathlete Isobel Brown, who set a season’s best with a 1.70m clearance in the high jump, beaten only by a championship record 1.76 from rival Robin Pettit (Crawley). Both girls are ranked in the Sussex top ten of all-time.

After another second place in the long jump, Brown struck gold in the shot putt with a personal best and new club record of 10.10m, two metres in front of her rivals.

In the under-17 age group, Rose Ellis came away with two medals in the middle-distance events with third place in an exciting finish in the 1,500 metres - her time 4min 54sec - followed by second place with 10.40 in the 3,000m with rival Sophie Markwick from Hastings winning on each occasion.

Team-mates Nicola Mead and Hannah Croad were fifth and sixth in the 3,000m with Lucy Ellis eighth in the 800m. In the same age group, Holly Beaton gained a silver in the 300m as well as making the 100m final while Jess Breach ran a speedy 12.1sec to make the final of the 80m hurdles followed by a bronze medal in the final.

Star performer in the under-15 age group was Sophie Ann Haigh, who gained silver in the 100m then proceeded to scorch to a new club record to win her heat in the 200m with 26.4sec, a full half-second faster than any other competitor in the three heats.

Adopting the same front-running tactics in the final, Haigh looked set for a clear victory only to hit the wall after a busy weekend’s competition just a few metres from the finish - and a painful lunge for the line resulted in a blanket finish from the first three, with the judges ruling in favour of the other two.

Hurdler Mia Selman did her best to catch her rivals after a slow start but had to settle for fourth in the same time as the bronze medallist.

With Grace Wills sixth in the 1,500m and Maddie Smith just edged out of a place of the 300m final, the girls’ day was capped by Alyssa White, who claimed fourth in the under-13 girls’ multi-event competition, scoring in high jump, shot and 150m.

In the boys’ events, the quality of competition was the best seen for many years with two championship-best performances and a host of English schools qualifying marks set over the two days.

The Chichester squad stuck to their task with some good times led by Greg Smith with a fifth place in the under-20 800m with 2.07 and under-17s Josh James and Casey Keates 2.09.7 and 2.12 respectively.

In the 1,500m, Ed Gerwat posted the fastest time with 4.55.3 in the under-17 race with Brodie Keates and Kai Terry notching 5.04 and 5.35 respectively in the under-15s.

In the senior age group, Harvey Byrne and George Grainger, both former members of Chichester’s junior team, won gold in the 100m and 400m hurdles respectively.

Then in one of the most competitive senior 5,000m race seen for many years, Chichester’s James Baker was in the leading group in a fast time throughout the 12½ laps, just losing out in third place by four seconds but rewarded by a new personal best and a club record at the age of 36 and in his 20th year of club competition.

His time of 15.06.7 knocked just over three seconds from the time of former inter-county winner Joe Foreshew set way back in 1995 and was excellent justification for his decision to miss a spring marathon and concentrate on speed work.

Baker will now be looking for just the right race to dip under the magic 15-minute barrier, recognised as a benchmark for good 5,000m runners.

PHIL BAKER