A club record 13 athletes from Chichester donned their county vests for one of the highlights of the cross-country season, the UK Inter-Counties championships at Crofton Park, Birmingham.
With Sussex athletics on a high, simply to make the county team was a feat in itself but the Chichester squad rose to the occasion in fine style.
A total of 40 English counties were joined by area teams from Wales and Scotland to make up 300-plus for most of the ten races where a position in the top 100 represents a considerable achievement.
Chichester’s highest placing of the day came from a storming run from Harry Leleu in the under-17 men’s race leading the Sussex team home in 43rd place.
He was closely followed by the impressive Casey Keates just 11 seconds further back in 55th and, with two more Sussex runners in the top 100, a fine ninth place was the result. A third Chichester runner, Josh James, was just outside the scoring four in 165th place.
As double league champions in this age group, the club had another three runners in the women’s event where the club’s only disappointment came from county champion Rose Ellis, who was forced to retire with a recurrence of a knee injury when a top 20 place looked possible.
The Sussex team nearly matched the men’s result with a tenth team place with Chichester’s duo of Emma Maynard in 93rd and Hannah Croad 125th just outside the Sussex top four.
In the youngest age group, there was success for Olivia Wiseman who ran superbly in her first year at this level to finish 50th as the fourth Sussex athlete home to secure a team bronze with 93 points from the four runners.
In the under-13 boys’ race, Leo Stallard was full of confidence after his fine second place in the league race the previous weekend and didn’t disappoint with 45th place, making him fourth scorer for Sussex. That helped them to sixth place in one of the most competitive races of the day with 100 runners finishing within a minute at the busiest part of the race.
While Chichester’s two representatives in the under-15 age group did not make the scoring Sussex teams, both gained great experience for the same age group next year with Brodie Keates 203rd in the boys’ race and Grace Wills 238th for the girls.
Another top-100 placing was achieved by James McKenzie in the under-20 men’s race in 80th but the team were deprived of another Sussex top ten finish by fielding the only incomplete county team in the ten races.
There was double delight in the senior women’s race with Rosie Hiles another to make the top 100 with 70th place, third Sussex athlete home, while Jane Harrop, delighted to make the county team, was next Sussex athlete in 188th and unsurpassed in her over-50 age group.
It is very rarely that a competitor receives a round of applause from fellow athletes before an event but that is what happened to James Baker before the start of the rearranged Hangover 5 at Goring on Sunday.
Travelling back from a fine sixth place in the Hastings Half Marathon earlier in the day, Baker picked up a spare number from team manager Jill Renson and took his place on the start line together with the other 230 competitors.
Just over 31 minutes later, the Chichester athlete emerged into view in splendid isolation at the end of the tough five-mile downland course which, luckily for Baker’s legs, was mainly off-road.
With a minute to spare over the rest of the field in 31.33, the time would have been respectable for his first run of the day, but a great performance had preceded it with sixth place out of a field of 3,500 in the tough Hastings race, reckoned the be one of the most demanding courses in the south.
With two Kenyan athletes in the top three, Baker just missed out on becoming Sussex champion again, beaten into second place by in-form Hastings runner Jeff Pyrah but was content with his time of 72.17.
With the afternoon start time for the Hangover 5, postponed from its usual January 1 date because of flooding at race headquarters, Baker was able to lead the Chichester squad into 2nd team spot, their best result of the season to date.
Another top-ten placing and maximum bonus points was achieved by Dan Stones in ninth.
Other Chichester finishers: Keith Akerman 16th, Nick Palmer 27th, Tom Blaylock 33rd, Kevin Lockyear 47th, Ashley Hiom 50th, John Betts 59th, Tony Cooley 65th, Jan Hill 67th, Amanda Godfrey 70th, Tracy Lockyear 84th, Sue Barty 93rd, Peter Shaw 111th, Jill Renson 112th, Dave Barty 117th, Sue Baker 124th, Dave Grunwell.
No sooner will the winter athletics season have finished with the Sussex road relays at Christs Hospital School near Horsham on Saturday, April 12, than Chichester Runners & AC will embark on their 2014 summer athletics league campaign.
It begins with the opening senior joint men’s and women’s league fixture at Bracknell on Easter Saturday, April 19. The older National Youth development league for under-17s and under-20s gets under way on Sunday, April 27, while the under-13s and under-15s embark on their own programme on the first Saturday in May.
Meanwhile the club are moving to their summer headquarters at the University of Chichester in College Lane for their first outdoor training session this Saturday from 3pm to 5pm.
Potential new members are invited to attend and can contact the club secretary Phil Baker on firstname.lastname@example.org
Junior training commences on Monday and continues on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the summer.