Young and not-so-young relay runners shine for Chichester

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On another perfect day for middle-distance running Chichester runners fared well in the final event of the winter club programme.

The Sussex Road Relays at Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham, involved more than 50 Chichester athletes.

They came away with six sets of team medals from ten events, equalling their best haul in the 20 years since the relays moved to their present location.

The club cemented their growing reputation as one of the top junior clubs in the county by convincingly leading the standings after the four junior races.

In the under 13s, improving Saskia Gardham put the club in a great position at the end of the first leg covering the 1,850m junior lap in 6.42, the third best time of the day.

Molly Whatmore and Mia Selman stayed in touch with the leaders to bring Chichester home third.

An inexperienced B team of Maddie Smith, Emily Dodd and Lucy Gerwat ran well to finish 16th.

In the boys’ race Chichester had one of their strongest squads ever with 11 closely-matched athletes on show. They finished with three teams inside the top six but all were outside the medals.

The A team of Eddie Williams, Zac Hurst and Max Newton crossed the line in fourth, nine seconds outside the medals.

Ollie Gibson, Brodie Keates and Josh Eeles completed the B team line-up, who were just eight seconds behind in fifth. The C team were the next to appear into view in sixth place, a mere six seconds further back as Ben Collins and William Broom kept up with their older team-mates with Sam Gibson bringing them home. Sam Pink and Sam Reading were 15th for the D team.

Both under-15 teams lived up to expectations with silver, all runners showing a marked improvement in their times from last year.

Harry Leleu’s storming 5.28 clocking on the first leg gave Chichester a commanding lead and was just two seconds outside the record, but it was later eclipsed by county champion Billy White from Phoenix AC.

Casey Keates and Dan Eeles had solid runs but could not keep the two Brighton runners at bay. In the same race Ed Gerwat and Ewan Willis finished inside the top ten for the B team.

The girls’ race provided one of the best team performances of the day with county champions Hastings setting a new course record but being pushed all the way by Chichester’s Rose Ellis, Emma Maynard and Charlotte Reading, who were clear in second for silver.

Behind them the B team of Nicola Mead, Lucy Ellis and Clare Fraser were sixth place with Ellie Humphreys running as a reserve.

Chichester’s under-17 women again showed their strength, this time as part of the club’s senior A team.

Joining Beth Garland and Georgina Warner was under-20 Rosie Hiles with all three clocking sub 13 minutes for the two-mile, 100-yard senior lap to finish third, the club’s highest position in the 20 years of the championships.

Garland won the fastest under-17 lap prize for her 12.09 clocking and took another club record.

In the same race Chichester’s mixed B team came 16th thanks to senior Maria Wright and veterans Persephone Hagan and Lynn Harley.

In the veterans’ events Jane Harrop again broke her over-50 record with a fine 12.27 to lead Jane Leonard and Sue Baker to team silver medals for the second year in succession.

The fastest men’s lap for Chichester was under-17 James McKenzie with a sub 11-minute lap but close on his heels was Jim Garland with 11.08, leading the over-40 squad of Gary Wright, Andy Maynard and Dave Dorning to fifth.

There was more medal success for the over-60s with John Betts having a strong lead-off leg, supported by Alastair Kennaugh and Don Faircloth to claim bronze while the over-50 trio of Andy Harrop, Tom Blaylock and Colin Harley came home in 9th.

Last but not least was the end of an era for Dorning and his fellow over-50s Dave Worcester and Rob Wiggins. This year brought to an end a remarkable run of nine years of team medals for them in the over-50s.

Having set the course record in 2003, they have been the model of consistency since - but younger rivals saw off their challenge in 2012 and they finished just outside the top six. Next year when they will do battle in the over-60 ranks.

PHIL BAKER