It’s a sportshall of fame for Chichester’s young athletes

Chichester Runners in sportshall action at Horsham / Picture by Lee Hollyer
Chichester Runners in sportshall action at Horsham / Picture by Lee Hollyer

A dozen of Chichester’s juniors travelled to Horsham for the third fixture in the Sussex Sportshall League.

The club’s representation this season has not been strong enough to vie for team honours but individually there were some encouraging performances.

Chichester star performances of the day came from Cellan Robinson in his first year in the under-15 age group, and his all-round talents were immediately spotted by the Sussex team manager who wants him to represent the county in next month’s southern inter-county championships.

In the two-lap race Robinson was narrowly beaten by Horsham’s Jordan Levy, a Sussex record holder on the track. And he was just below ten metres to gain another second place in the shot putt behind the same athlete.

In the four-lap he was again runner-up to a 400m specialist from Brighton & Hove and the Chichester athlete produced the best standing long jump by any Sussex athlete this season at 2.34m to cement his place in the Sussex team as an all-rounder.

Elsewhere in the boys’ events Jonathan Simmonds and Archie Farquhar battled well for the under-13s covering two-lap, four-lap, speed bounce, long jump and shot putt between them.

Nathan Koakan and Grant Laurie were equally competitive for the under-11s.

For the girls, Olivia Moranne and Emma Farquhar picked up useful points in long jump, shot putt and vertical jump before lining up in the eight-lap paarlauf at the end of the competition.

Also on the start line for Brighton & Hove was newly-crowned national indoor under-17 champion Amber Anning in her first competition in her new age group, having set a European record for the 300m outdoors in 2015.

The Chichester duo were not put off by the strength on competition against an athlete strongly tipped for Olympic stardom in years to come.

Chichester’s under-13s all performed with credit, with Ruby Cousins and Fleur Hollyer posting identical times in the two-lap sprint. Cousins then teamed up with Megan Elkins for the four-lap while Nicole Boltwood used some of her cross-country fitness in the six-lap. The quartet picked up useful points in the field before showing good speed in their final event the 4x2-lap relay. There was promise, too, from Sophie Dudman and Lucy Hollyer in the sprint, long jump and speed bounce for the under-13s.

Senior road and cross country round-up

Three of the club’s top seniors have started 2016 where they left off at the end of last year – and all were in action at the weekend in three different events.

Highest profile of the trio was Chris Zablocki, who gained an invitation place to the Antrim international cross country.

A star-studded group of African athletes took the first five places with a Scot, Andrew Boutchart, the first European home in sixth closely followed by Aldershot’s Johnny Hay who had come within 30 seconds of Mo Farah at the Edinburgh race two weeks previously.

A mere three seconds later was Zablocki having one of his best runs on any surface since moving to England in September.

Meanwhile James Baker was having a steady run in the Hampshire League at Reading and this, coupled with another fine top-ten finish in the recent Sussex Championships, means Chichester will have a strong pair of athletes to lead their charge at the South of England Championships at Parliament Hill at the end of the month.

Peter Concannon, more of a road race specialist, lined up in the Stubbington 10k and was rewarded with second place among more than 1,500 finishers in a personal best time of 32min 22sec.

The winner, who had a best time of just outside 30 minutes, was less than 30 seconds ahead so Concannon can be confident of breaking the 32-minute barrier soon in the right conditions.

Corporate Challenge Preview

The Chichester Priory 10k is not the only popular local road-running event celebrating its 25th year in 2016 – the same is true of the Corporate Challenge.

It sees competitors flood Chichester city centre on three Wednesday evenings between the end of February and the end of March. Starting as a senior-only event in 1992 with just over 100 runners on each of the evenings, the event has mushroomed into races for all ages with up to 800 runners taking part, from primary schoolchildren to seniors.

The dual emphasis has always been to encourage newer runners to have their first taste of competition and to provide a fast, flat circuit for more established runners at the end of their winter season.

The honours board includes with Olympic and international athletes with Commonwealth Games 1,500m champion Michael East still holding the course record at 12.39min for the four-lap 4,500m course in 2008.

Joint second are steeplechasers Tom Buckner (1992) and Andrew Robinson (2007) on 12.53, and these are still the only three athletes to break the 13-minute barrier.

There are a host of local runners in the top 20 with James Baker at 13.14 in seventh followed by Jim Garland ninth in 13.15 and Keith Toop 13.16.

For the women, ex-international Zara Hyde Peters leads the way with a fine 14.15 set in 1996. Hayley Tullett (1999) is second with Chichester’s Linda Spencer all-time third on 14.27, set in 2007.

Another Chichester-based athlete is Jenny Brown in seventh in 14.35 in 2001.

Brown had another link with the event – she was teaching at Sidlesham Primary when a certain Charlotte Browning was a pupil and proceeded to set multiple course records as well as going on the win the English national cross-country championships as a junior. She has since gone on to flourish in the USA.

Many of the best senior times date back several years but that cannot be said of the junior boys’ races, in which Chichester’s Ben Collins just lost out to Jacob O’Hara from the Portsmouth club last year with both boys obliterating the previous record in the process.

Entry forms for this year’s races – the first of which is on February 24 – are available from the Chichester Runners website and the club noticeboard at Westgate Leisure. Queries to race director Phil Baker philbaker5@btinternet.com

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