Chi on target for a historic medal haul

Action from the under-17 men's race
Action from the under-17 men's race

CHICHESTER made up for several athletes missing from the third Sussex Cross Country League fixture at Lancing Manor on Saturday with some fine back-up performances from the whole squad – especially those who had been reserves in the previous fixtures.

With a break from league action for over two months when county, schools, south of England and national championships will take place, many of the age groups are finely-poised before the final fixture to be held at Bexhill at the beginning of March.

Several of the team placings in many of the age groups are too close to call, but they have the possibility of winning team medals in seven of the eight age groups, which would be an unprecedented achievement in its 30-year history.

The most successful all-round squads have been the two under-17 teams with the men’s A team coming out top on Saturday, thanks to a superb winning individual effort by Harry Leleu, who was capably backed up by a sixth place from Josh James, and ninth from Casey Keates for a total of 16 points.

This overturned a deficit over arch rivals Brighton & Hove to lead by a single point aggregate of 53 to 54 with one race remaining.

There was more good news with Harry Pink in 16th, Ed Gerwat 17th and Harry Lyne 24th to give the B team 57 points on the day for sixth team spot.

By sheer coincidence the overall standings in the under-17 women’s age group are virtually identical to the men, with Chichester leading the same club, Brighton & Hove, by a single point, 55 to 56 after three matches.

This does not tell the story, however, as only Hannah Croad from the usual A team was in action at Lancing. It was reserves Lucy Ellis and Holly Beaton who deserve great credit for keeping Chichester at the top of the tree.

Ellis had the double distinction of being fourth scorer for the senior team, leading Division 1 before Saturday.

After fine runs from Fay Cripps in 12th, Jane Harrop 14th and Croad 15th, Ellis fought to finish a creditable 51st to give the team 92 points and keep them in a three-way battle for the silver medals, just four points behind Brighton & Hove and eight behind Worthing.

Helen Dean in 75th, Catherine Betts 92nd and Beaton 97th gave the B team a total of 264 points for eighth place in Division 2.

While Chichester’s senior women are battling for honours in Division 1 of the Sussex League, the men are trying to recover after two successive relegations have left them languishing in Division 3.

James Baker once again showed his good winter form and was ahead of all the other Sussex runners after the first circuit of the Dew Pond, high on the Sussex Downs.

On the second lap, Baker could not hold off the Worthing and Brighton athletes who had occupied the first two places in the previous race at Plumpton, but a 16-second deficit on the winner after five tough miles was no disgrace.

Next home was Aaron Hancock in 53rd with Steven Davy 60th and top over-60 runner Rob Wiggins 91st for a team total of 207 points – good enough to keep the club with a cushion of just under 200 points going into the final race in March.

For the B team, it was Andy Maynard who led the way in 102nd, followed by Nick Palmer 122nd, Chris Benham 123rd and Mike Moorcroft 137th with John Betts a reserve in 159th from a quality field of nearly 200 runners.