Chichester’s cross-country success is tinged with sadness

The senior women's race at Lancing / Picture by Sara Ellis
The senior women's race at Lancing / Picture by Sara Ellis
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A record turnout of more than 600 of the best cross-country runners in the county runners braved wind and rain at Lancing Manor for the second fixture in the Sussex Cross Country League season.

Despite wet conditions underfoot, there were some excellent competitive displays from clubs across Sussex with eyes on team positions and possible individual selection for the South of England inter counties event next month.

Conrad Meagher led Chichester’s senior men home in 19th place in one of the best-quality senior races seen in Sussex in recent years.

There was an element of sadness during the meeting as athletes, officials and spectators paid their respects to the two teenage Aldershot & Farnham club athletes, Stacey Burrows and Lucy Pygott, who were tragically killed last week in a road accident outside the club’s headquarters in Aldershot.

Many of the Sussex under-17 runners had competed against the girls in club and inter-county events and they were part of the Aldershot team who ran at Goodwood in the Hampshire League in 2014.

Senior and under-17 women

As reigning league champions, Chichester are battling hard to stay in contention in division one of the senior women’s standings while the under-17s, who run in the same race, are also defending their title.

A record field of 130 athletes set off on the arduous 5k course and were soon tackling the steep climb on to the Downs after a couple of laps of the Lancing Manor field.

Chichester were without their strong under-20s, who are at university, and had to do without their top scorer at Goodwood at October, Karina Bennett, who is recovering from injury.

But the club’s top four – three teenagers and a veteran in her late 50s – all packed well to finish within 21 seconds of each other.

Grace Wills had another consistent run to finish in 16th place and sixth in the under-17 age group. Her time of 20min 38sec for the hilly 5k course should put her in the frame for the Sussex team.

Ever-consistent Jane Harrop was not far behind in 21st and well clear of all her rivals in the over-55 category, where she is defending champion.

Chichester University student Alice Wright followed in 24th with Alice Cox-Rusbridge a place behind and just squeezing inside the 21-minute barrier, eighth in the under-17s.

The team total of 86 points gives an aggregate after two matches of 146 points, with Lewes on 106 and Brighton Phoenix on 152 to keep Chichester in the mix for honours.

There was a spirited performance from the B team led home by Sarah Loy in 34th with Florence Smith 64th, Annabel Jeffries 72nd and Nadia Anderson 103rd – but they are having a challenging season as they are the only B team in Sussex in division one of the women’s league.

The C team of Rebecca Brown in 110th, Sue Barty 113th and Liz Wingham 123rd finished in the middle of the pack in division three.

There was good from the under-17s as a 16th from Smith added to the scores from Wills and Cox-Rusbridge for a total of 30 points to win on the day from Brighton & Hove and overtake early leaders Brighton Phoenix to head the overall rankings.

Senior men

With James Baker flying the flag for Chichester in the Hampshire League at Bournemouth, where he finished a creditable tenth, Conrad Meagher led Chichester’s senior men home in 19th place in one of the best-quality senior races seen in Sussex in recent years.

Next home was Charles Rodmell in 45th with university student Joe Godwood 74th and a remarkable run from Rob Wiggins in 105th. Now well into his time in the over-60s, Wiggins proved he can still compete against younger club-mates and claimed the fourth A team spot.

Their team total was good enough for third place on the day in division two which keeps them in second spot overall and in line for a quick return to division one.

There was good packing from the B team led home by Jason Boswell in 119th with Dave Reading 134th, Tom Blaylock 137th and Mike Moorcroft 145th to finish tenth in division three.

Mark Jennings led home the C team in 152nd followed by Graig Bowdery 155th, Peter Shaw 166th and Peter Anderson 168th for a team placing of 19th in division three.

Under-17 men

Having been just pipped in their opening fixture at Goodwood, Chichester’s under-17 men wanted to make their mark at Lancing – and did so.

Will Broom’s fine form continued and he showed his intention from the start by settling into the first pack with Brodie Keates and Leo Stallard not far behind and Luke Campbell and Charlie Benson content to stay in the main pack.

Running over the same 5k course as the senior women, Broom stayed with the leaders for most of the long hill to the top of the Downs while Campbell was chasing Keates and Stallard in the next group.

Over the final stretch Broom was just squeezed into fourth in a time of 17min 27sec with Keates and Campbell fighting to the line to finish half a minute behind in seventh and eighth respectively with Stallard also making the top ten and Benson within a minute in 18th.

With just 19 points from their three scorers, Chichester finished six points ahead of Brighton & Hove with Horsham and Crawley further back to overturn a one-point deficit from the first match and sit five points clear at the top of the table.

Under-15s

Things were very tight in the under-15 boys’ category before this race and although Chichester put up another fine performance to finish second on the day, the standings remain very close with Chichester one of four teams fighting for the title together with Crawley, Horsham and Brighton & Hove.

Alex Mani and Liam Dunne continued their fine early-season form to finish virtually together in sixth and seventh places and there was another battling run from Harry Sage in 16th to give a total of 29 points. In a strong field Jeremy Sharp was 31st with David Bisatt 44th.

Chichester’s girls were depleted by a clash of fixtures with Olivia Wiseman and Charlotte Bullard, the first two finishers for the club at Goodwood, opting for the Hampshire League and Hannah Anwyl on duty for Bishop Luffa in the south east area final of the Schools Cup at Tonbridge. Another regular Coco Smythe was on schools duty in Taunton in the south west region.

Despite these disadvantages, the trio on duty did really well to keep Chichester in the mix for end-of-season medals.

Caitlin Brown had another very consistent run to make the top 20 in finishing 18th while relative newcomers Chloe Benson and Ashleigh Jennings deserve much credit for tacking probably the toughest course in Sussex in 23rd and 26th places respectively for a combined total of 67 points and fourth team spot overall.

Under-11 and under-13

The programme started with the youngest age groups with a field of 77 runners contesting the opening race for school Years 5 and 6.

There was good packing from all five Chichester boys, separated by less than 50 seconds. Fionn O’Murchu again led the club home, as he had at Goodwood, in ninth place closely followed by Joshua Dunne in 15th, Logan Cooper 32nd, Barney McLarnon 38th and Marcus Bone 42nd.

The under-13 girls were another age group to suffer from a clash with the schools cup with leading runner Nina Moranne in action at Tonbridge. Nicole Boltwood and Cerys Dickinson kept the flag flying for Chichester in 18th and 29th.

For the boys there was a welcome return from Joe McLarnon, who just pipped Archie Sadler to the line in 26th, while Will Wells made up the scoring team in 59th for a total of 112 points, leaving them in 12th place in the team standings.

PHIL BAKER

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