A sparkling display by a team of 24 athletes gave Chichester’s new crop of under-13s a fine third place at the Sussex grand ginal at Brighton.
Competing against all the other top clubs in the county, Chichester were in the top three throughout but could not quite catch winners Brighton & Hove and Crawley.
The results keeps up the club’s remarkable achievement of always finishing in the top half of the field in the 15 years since the final was first held.
That means Chichester sit proudly at the top of the overall points table from 2000 to 2014 in front of Horsham, Crawley and Brighton, with these four well ahead of the rest.
Since 2000 Chichester have notched up four wins, three runners-up spots and two third places.
Their consistency has seen the club benefit from a steady influx of talent, with a number of athletes going on to county and even national honours. Many of the present senior first team are products of the club’s youth policy with decathlete Charlie Roe one to show early promise as a long jumper, and 400m runner Ollie Smith another.
Some have vastly improved since their under-13 days, with the likes of Harry Leleu and Rose Ellis good enough only to make the B strings in their early years but emerging as county champions when older.
Other sports have also benefited from the youngsters’ early athletic prowess, with ex-Pompey and present Crystal Palace defender Joel Ward a decent middle-distance runner and javelin thrower in his youth and England under-20 rugby international Charlie Matthews a fine thrower at under-13 level.
The dominant feature of the Chichester teams over the years has been the sheer consistency of the 300 or so athletes who have taken part in the final and pitted themselves against the best in Sussex with such success.
Overall Sussex Under 13 Final rankings 2000 – 2014 (10 points for 1st, 9 for 2nd etc)
1 Chichester 122 match pts
2 Horsham Blue Star Harriers 120
3 Crawley AC 117
4 Brighton & Hove 108
5 Lewes AC 80
6 Eastbourne Rovers 65
7 Worthing & District Harriers 64
8 Hastings AC 43
9 East Grinstead 40
10 Brighton Phoenix 39
11 Haywards Heath Harriers 31
With virtually a new squad since last year’s final and only a handful of this year’s squad with experience of the event, Chichester knew only a great all-round team performance would be good enough to match the 2013 third place.
The whole squad surpassed expectations and matched the previous year’s third spot but chased the top two throughout, finishing with a massive 60-point gap over fourth-placed Horsham.
The highlight of the day for Chichester came in the boys’ sprints where Cellan Robinson and Corben Atkinson came away with the only double victories of the day in both the 75m and 150m.
Running in separate A and B races, Robinson clocked marginally the faster time of 10.25sec over 75m with Atkinson less than a tenth slower. Then in the 150m Atkinson was the only athlete who dipped under the 20sec barrier with 19.79, with Robinson just over 20. Both boys were clear of the rest and gained a maximum of 40 points from the two events.
In the hurdles Sam Price recaptured some early-season form for second place in 14.6sec, the same time as the winner. Showing the importance of having a strong B string competitor in each event, Ethan Brown left the opposition in his wake to win by nearly a clear second in a new PB time of 15sec.
The middle-distance quartet kept the tally rolling with Jeremy Sharp a close fourth in the A string 600m and Harry Smith a clear runner-up in the B race. A fifth in the A string 1,000m from Harry Sage was followed by another second in the B string, from Ned Potter. The pair were within a second of each other.
In the field events Chichester were strengthened by two athletes making their first appearances for the club. Alfie Agostinelli teamed up with Price in the high jump then with Sage in the long jump, resulting with all four performances in the top half of the field.
Thrower Jack Purvis teamed up with regular Harry Talbot for the shot and discus resulting in two third places in the A string, but crucially a couple of B string wins gave the pair 36 out of 40 points.
Brown smashed his previous best with 25m-plus in the javelin for third place with Smith keeping up the B-string standard with another second place.
In the relays, Robinson, Atkinson, Price and Purvis clocked 55.9, just behind a strong Brighton squad, while Jack Dean joined Brown, Sharp and Agostinelli for a B string third – meaning the Chichester B strings across the 11 events dropped just 11 points – resulting in 99 points out of 110.
Chichester’s girls squad gave a good account of themselves and played an important part in the overall result.
Lily Bradley and Maya Shankar battled well against quality sprinting, emphasised later in the match when the Worthing and Crawley relay squads broke the existing league record.
There was similar fierce competition in the middle-distance races with Amber Dodd and Rosie Sloane keeping up with the pack in the 600m while Xenia Truman ran a fine tactical race over 1,000m to finish runner-up with a strong last 100m. She was supported well by Charlotte Bullard, who snatched third in the B string with a dash to the line down the home straight.
A new combination of Sloane and Ella Howard ran well in the hurdles, where the league record was broken by a Horsham athlete.
In the field events, Coco Smythe and Rosie Compton put in two solid third places in the high jump while Compton was joined by Howard in the long jump – both girls notching personal-best jumps well over 3.50m.
A new combination for Chichester in shot and discus saw newcomer Eleanor Lowes provide excellent support for regular Caitlin Brown. Lowes threw further in the shot while Brown turned the tables in the discus.
And there were good javelin marks set by Smythe and Connie Stockman, both girls within a metre of each other, resulting in a third in the B string for Stockman.
Match result: 1 Brighton & Hove 349pts; 2 Crawley 338; 3 Chichester 323; 4 Horsham Blue Star 265; 5 Worthing 226; 6 Brighton Phoenix; 7 Haywards Heath Harriers 160; 8 Lewes 152; 9 East Grinstead 120; 10 Eastbourne 76.
* Chichester’s talented crop of under-15 athletes finished third in their grand final at the same venue. A full report follows in next week’s Observer.