VIDEO: Chichester Corporate Challenge: Baker back where he belongs

A fine evening greeted another field of 900-plus runners for the second night of the 2014 Chichester Corporate Challenge series.

The city centre’s streets were packed with athletes of all ages and their supporters, who witnessed excellent performances in all seven races.

The elite runners set off in the A race  Picture by Kate Shemilt C140335-12

The elite runners set off in the A race Picture by Kate Shemilt C140335-12

Such has been the popularity of this year’s series that extra finishing funnels have had to be put in place to cope with the number of runners crossing the line in a short space of time. The event’s record number for a single night before this year was less than 700.

Senior races

Having missed the first race in order to concentrate on the end of the Sussex cross-country league season, local favourite James Baker was back in action in an event in which he has excelled over the past 20 years.

With Havant-based Matt Gordon for company over the first half of the race, Baker pulled away over the last two laps to finish well clear in a fast time of 13min 38sec for the 4,500m.

Gordon just held off Worthing duo John Morrey and Martin Footman, with all three just outside the 14-minute barrier, with newcomer Peter Concannon in fifth.

In the women’s race, Worthing runner Emma Macready was again in excellent form knocking more than 20 seconds off her first race time to cross the line in 15.01, one of the fastest times recorded in the 22 years of the series. Also making great strides from race one was Emma Montiel from Portsmouth, with Kari Mack from Tone Zone in third.

Teamwise, the consistent DSTL Portsdown squad recorded just over 60 minutes in the corporate category with Chichester College Staff, led home by Simon Gill, just edging out Chichester Cathedral for second place.

The first four sports teams all broke the hour barrier with Worthing Harriers, running as Eddie’ Secrets, a clear minute ahead of Havant and Chichester Flyers.

A new name appeared at the head of the women’s Corporate rankings with Bosham school, led by Polly Neville, beating WSCC. Victory Vixens turned the tables on Chichester’s under-17s in the sports category with Jessie Joggers in third.

See our video (at the top of the article) in which James Baker talks about his win and how much he loves the race

See our race video from the second night of the series

Primary school races

The primary boys were again split into separate Year 5 and 6 races to accommodate the numbers - with an amazing 55 teams completing the race from no fewer than 34 different schools - most from West Sussex but some from Hampshire.

Overall, the same pair as in race one occupied the top two positions with Ben Woolnough from Rose Green just getting the verdict over Stanley Kingshot from Westbourne, both recording 4.41. With Westbourne’s Liam Dunne in third, the school had a 22-second win over Jessie Younghusband and Fishbourne.

In the primary girls’ race, Charlotte Bullard from Central became one of the very few girls to dip under the five-minute barrier with 4.59 from Eloise O’Neill from Locks Heath and Lily de Lacy, the latter leading her Jessie Younghusband school to a 32-second team victory over St Richards with Southbourne in third.

See our gallery of pictures from the first race night and the second

Secondary school races

In the secondary girls’ race, there was a fine battle at the front of the race with Elizabeth Hedley from the Petersfield School breaking the seven-minute barrier with a time of 6.55. She led home a Year 9 Hampshire-based trio with Lizzie Rose from Churchers and Maisie Grice from Cams Hill occupying the other places.

Another Churchers pupil Anya Pigden led the Year 8 race in 7.19 with Olivia Wiseman from Bishop Luffa close behind in 7.22, just a second outside her time from race one which put her third in the all-time rankings for the age group.

With team-mates Amber Dodd and Trixie Ellis offering good support, the Bishop Luffa Year 7 team emerged with one of the fastest times in any age group.

Midhurst Rother edged out Bishop Luffa by a mere six seconds in the Year 8 race while Amber Westron, in winning the Year 10 individual race, helped Luffa to reverse the tables in the combined Years 9 and 10 team event. With just one short of 100 finishers, yet another record was set in the secondary girls’ race.

There was an equally good field in the boys’ race, where Ben Collins from Selsey Academy stamped his authority and posted a time of 6.37 for the three laps which raised him to second place overall in the all-time rankings with only ex-Bishop Luffa pupil Chris West having a faster time.

West, now a senior, overcame a serious injury during the winter to finish well up in the senior A race.

Chasing Collins hard were Hampshire-based Lachlan Wellington in 6.46 and Leo Stallard from Bishop Luffa in 6.50, the first time ever the top three have recorded 6.50 or less.

Stallard had the consolation of leading his Luffa team to a narrow 13-second win over Midhust Rother. The Year 7 rankings were turned upside down with the first three having missed race one.

Crofton’s Callum Crook posted a fast 7.06 for the three laps with Bishop Luffa duo Ned Potter and Jeremy Sharp ten seconds back and leading their team to a win over Felpham.

Two fine Hampshire runners led the field in the combined Year 9 and 10 race, run over a longer distance of four laps of the 700m circuit.

In a dash for the line, Ted Yeates from Churchers just crossed the line in front of Harry Blay from Priory School recording 8.56 and 8.57 respectively. In the joint Years 9 & 10 team standings, Ben Morton led Bishop Luffa to a win over Chichester High School for Boys.

The final race of this year’s series will be held next Wednesday, March 26. Organisers will be unable to accept any further entries in either of the primary school races or in the senior B race because of the numbers already competing. Further entries will be accepted on the night only for the two secondary school races and the senior A race for athletes able to complete the 4,500m course within 18 minutes.

PHIL BAKER