International runners join Chichester 10k line-up

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ORGANISERS of this Sunday’s Chichester Priory 10k are delighted with one of the race’s strongest-ever line-ups.

A number of runners who are well up in the national rankings have thrown their hats into the ring for an event which has established itself as one of the most important early-year tests for local athletes and those highew up the ladder.

The fast, flat course lends itself to an exciting race and this year there are a number of male runners

who have run or are targeting a time around the 30-minute mark, which will make for a very competitive race. Many have very high rankings in the UKA Power of 10 chart for the 10k distance in 2012.

Returning are last year’s runner-up Chris Powner of Winchester, buoyed by his recent win in the Stubbington Green 10k, third-placed Paul Whittaker of Chelmsford AC and fourth-placed Neil Gamester of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers.

Phil Wicks of Belgrave Harriers - a Chichester debutant this year - has been a road and cross-country international since 2007 and has been a medallist in national road championships at 10k, ten miles and half-marathon. He’s the fastest 10k runner in the field, with a personal best of 28.54.

Also entered is Ben Tickner, who has an international vest for cross-country as the south of England champion. He was 11th in the 2012 nationals.

Others well ranked include Alister Moses of Reigate Priory AC, Paul Rodgers of Aldershot, Farnham & District, Ian Leitch of Pheonix AC, Chris Busaileh of Herne Hill Harriers, who was eighth last year, Jon Pepper of Phoenix (seveth Last year) and Toby Spencer of Coventry Godiva Harriers.

Highly-regarded Brian Wilder of Herne Hill Harriers will be out to take the vets’ prize.

James Baker is usually the first of the Chichester Runners home and is expected to repeat that feat on Sunday.

The women’s race features plenty of contenders for the medals.

Back to defend her title and perhaps break the course record is last year’s winner, Charlotte Purdue, from Aldershot, Farnham & District, a former English national ten-mile road champion and junior European Champion at cross-country.

Also from Aldershot is Steph Twell, who, since 2006, has been one of Britain’s most promising junior athletes on the track and in cross country.

The 2008 female junior athlete of the year was the surprise winner of the junior race at the European

Cross Country Championships in 2006 and she successfully defended her title,

with consummate ease in 2007. In 2010 she won BUCS cross-country gold. Last year she took inter-counties cross-country silver and English national cross-country silver.

Also returning is previous winner Caroline Hoyte of Arena 80 AC, while others in the field include Louise Damen of Winchester AC, another athlete in top-class form who won bronze in the European cross-country in Budapest.

Julie Briggs and Louise Vallier of Arena 80 AC, who was third last year, another previous winner Kathy Bailey of Winchester, Bryony Proctor of Aldershot, Shona Mcintosh and Clare Elms of Dulwich Runners

and Ruth Clifton of Thames Hare and Hounds should all feature in the top ten.

Angela Carpenter of Chichester Runners was third in the vets’ race and will look to be in the honours again.

Favourites for the women’s team prize look to be Arena 80 AC while the men’s team race appears far more open with competition from Sussex clubs and those farther afield.

As reported, one of the biggest club entries is from Tone Zone in Bognor, and Chichester Runners have their usual excellent turnout with nearly 50 runners entered.

There are special prizes available for anyone who breaks the male or female course records - 29.02 and 32.07 respectively.

Prizes for local runners include the Chichester Observer’s Ben Steppel memorial prize for the first under-23 local man home.

The Colin Thorne memorial prize goes to the first under-23 local woman finisher and the Nuffield Health prize will be awarded to the first local team home.

The race, in its 22nd year, is again sponsored by Peter Cooper, the local Volkswagen dealership and Brooks, the international sports equipment company.

Don’t miss next week’s Observer for reports, pictures and a full list of finishers. We’ll have the outcome of the race on www.chichester.co.uk on Sunday and a photo gallery on the website on Monday.