Harries in hot form to lead Sussex medal charge

Toby Harries won gold at the county schools finals
Toby Harries won gold at the county schools finals

CHICHESTER athletes made their mark at the Sussex schools track and field championships in Crawley – on a day when nine new championship records were set.

Most were competing for West Sussex West, having bbeen selected after their championships in May, and a couple were representing the Brighton area as students at Brighton College.

There championship medals to be fought for at Crawley and a last chance to impress the Sussex selectors for a place in the 60-strong Sussex team at next month’s All-England schools championships in Birmingham.

In the intermediate boys’ age group, local athletes notched three winners including arguably one of the stand-out performances of the day.

This came in the 200m where Toby Harries, now a student at Brighton College, stormed home in the final to leave his rivals trailing and break the tape in a time of 21.8 seconds and equal the mark set by Wade Bennett-Jackson, considered one of the best sprinters Sussex has ever produced.

Harries showed promise as a young athlete at Westbourne House School but had a frustrating year in 2013 with major knee rehabilitation following a rugby injury. However this season he had already put down a marker with a sub 11-second clocking over 100m before showing his true form over the longer distance on Saturday.

His record-equalling time will put him with a great chance of making the national schools final at Birmingham and with a chance of becoming one of the very few local athletes to gain a national schools medal.

The other two victories were gained by Peter Thomas from Midhurst Rother with a fine 11.87m throw in the shot and Harry Lyne from Felpham CC, who ran away from his rivals to set a new personal best of 5min 09.9sec in the 1,500m steeplechase.

Bishop Luffa had strong representation with Collins Alfred fifth in the 100m with 11.8, Joe Roman third in the 400m hurdles in 66.1 and Jack Graham just outside the medals in the triple jump.

They were joined by Zac Hurst in the 800m, Luke Garnham in the 200m and hammer pairing Aiden Ruffle and Sam Henshall. There was a good 1.70m clearance from Owen Seehawong of Westergate in the high jump, not quite enough for bronze.

There were two fine performances by the junior boys on the track with both athletes taking silver medals.

Michael Logan from Felpham ran a speedy 11.8sec in the final but it needed a record-equalling run from the Mid-Sussex athlete of 11.6sec to beat Logan – the co-record holder being Bennett-Jackson. who now shares the intermediate 200m high with Harries.

Over the longer 300m, Brandon Bell from Selsey Academy was just pipped in the final but still recorded another sub 40-second clocking.

There were good performances from Alex Smith, Luke Campbell and Leo Stallard over 800m and 1,500m while Cameron Airzee and James Gillett placed fourth in the high jump and hammer and Jamie Holmes was one place lower in the discus.

A day before his duathlon at Petworth, there was a fine 3,000m victory for Harry Leleu from Seaford College while Dan Eeles from Midhurst Rother was just edged into fourth in a very competitive 800m.

Even though they both had to be content with runners-up places, two local athletes stamped their mark in the intermediate girls’ age group at Crawley.

Probably the unluckiest athlete of the day in terms of her position was Jess Breach from Lavant House, who produced a scintillating 80m hurdles run of 11.7sec in the final, knocking more than a tenth of a second from her previous best.

She ran stride for stride over the barriers but was just pipped at the line by Mid-Sussex’s Abby Beswick, who was given a time of 11.6.

Both girls smashed the previous best of 11.9 seconds, which had been the oldest record of the entire championships – set in 1969.

The other close runner-up was Sophie-Anne Haigh from Bishop Luffa, who was edged out in the 100m, again by just a tenth of a second, in 12.7sec – with both the top two having achieved English schools qualifying times this season.

There was a new championships-best mark set in the age group from Alex Jarrold, also from Bishop Luffa, in winning the shot putt in 9.25m. There were new weights introduced in some of the girls’ throwing events this season.

In one of the strongest showings for West Sussex West, Chayleigh Jennings snatched bronze in the same event.

On the track there was a second place for Rose Ellis in the 1,500m and a fourth and sixth respectively for Caitlin Moore and Mia Faulkner over 200m, plus a close fourth and fifth for Charlotte Reading and Tara Bage in a competitive 800m with Hannah Crossley fifth in the 3,000m.

In the field, Poppy Wildsmith and Amy Brown showed good form in high jump and triple jump respectively while Jess Tomkins and Lauren Cooper were fouth and fifth in the javelin.

In the junior girls’ age group, several athletes showed good promise for the future.

Ellie Whittingham, Alyssa White and Maddie Smith fought well in the sprints and Eloise Lane and Solene Declas ran well over 800m and 1,500m.

In the field, Catherine Scott jumped well over four metres in the long jump with Heather Jacobs and Kerrie Pafford in form in shot putt and discus.

The trio in the senior age group all performed well with Emma Maynard, another pupil at Brighton College, winning the 3,000m, Holly Van Driel fourth in the long jump and Hannah Croad from Chichester College doubling up over 400m and 800ms, picking up a bronze medal over the one-lap event,

After one of the best county schools championships in recent years, places in the Sussex team for the national championships are certain to be at a premium – but a number of local stars are in with a chance of selection.

South Downs Relay

Chichester entered three teams in what is regarded as one of the highlights of the south-coast long distance races.

While not featuring among the medals as the club have done in previous years, there were good performances from all 18 runners.

The club’s A team provided a mixture of youth and experience with Nick Palmer, Keith Akerman, Mark Jennings, Mike Moorcroft, Colin Harley and Dan Stones getting home in 12hr 43min 41sec after 100 miles of the undulating terrain which makes up the South Downs Way from Beachy Head to Winchester.

Probably the most experienced team of all the 50-plus in the race was Chichester’s B team with four over 60s in their ranks who have notched up over 50 South Downs Relays between them.

The quartet of Dave Dorning, Rob Wiggins, Dave Worcester and Tom Blaylock were joined by Chris Benham and Charles Rodwell to come in less than 20 minutes behind their A team.

The ladies’ team also matched experience with a couple of new faces and did well to just dip inside the 15-hour barrier. The team comprised Tracy Jayant, Sarah Webster, Anneliese Shaw, Kim Nelson, Sye Barty and Amanda Godfrey.

Preview

This weekend sees the Chichester club probably stretched to their maximum in terms of the spread of events they have to cover.

They have a senior match which they are hosting at the Mountbatten Centre, Portsmouth, on Saturday and the juniors travel to Bournemouth on Sunday for their National Youth Development League fixture.

In addition, several of the successful athletes from the Sussex schools championships return to the K2 stadium in Crawley for the South of England schools inter-counties, which will certainly make a dent in the club’s senior team.

If that were not enough, the top under-20 and under-23 athletes will be in action at Bedford for their national championships, with Chichester having representation at this elite level in the form on Ollie Smith, Izzie Brown and possibly Charlie Roe.