Chichester aim to make mark on Sussex cross-country season

Cross-country action at Goodwood / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Cross-country action at Goodwood / Picture by Kate Shemilt

After a hectic summer season of league matches, county championships, schools events and open meetings, Chichester Runners & AC are switching their attention to the cross-country and winter programme with the addition of indoor and sportshall competition for the sprinters and jumpers.

The Sussex cross-country season will start this year two weeks later than usual with the popular county relay championships being held over the usual course at Goodwood Country Park.

This will mark the 20th year the event has been held although it is in the past decade that the event has flourished with more than 150 teams taking part last year over the age groups.

Sussex athletics has been booming recently with the county in the top ten of the 45 counties and areas in Great Britain.

Chichester’s prospects are looking promising although the club knows it will have to be at its best to be in the medals.

In the junior age groups, the strongest club teams on current form look to be the under-13 boys and the under-15 girls with Fionn O’Murchu and Olivia Toms likely to be leading from the front.

After a successful end-of-season athletics campaign in which the middle-distance runners more than able to compete with the best, the club will be able to give a number of new members their chance to represent the club at a high level.

As for the under-17s, several of last season’s gold medal winners have moved up to the under-20s but Liam Dunne and Ned Potter will be looking to keep up the boys’ record of have won medals for the past five years.

Likewise the girls will have a new-look team this year with Maggie King likely to be leading the ranks.

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This does mean, however, that the Chichester men’s and women’s teams who include under-20s in their scorers will be all the stronger. Indeed both teams are likely to have the youngest average age ever.

For the men, Will Broom, Leo Stallard and Ben Morton all have a chance of making the A team of four, while veteran James Baker may opt to run for the seniors while still being able to be in line for a fastest lap in his over-40 age group.

In addition Mike Houston has been showing fine form in recent months, shown as recently as last weekend when he posted his fastest time of 16.18 for the Chichester parkrun, just ten seconds behind Baker.

The time lifts parkrun founder Houston to fourth fastest ever on the Chichester course with only Steve Naylor at 15.39, Chris Zablocki on 15.50 and Baker himself on 15.59 posting faster times.

University students Harry Leleu and Will Boutwood will also be in contention if they can get back for the event.

For the women, Alice Cox-Rusbridge and Imogen Matthews have moved up to the under-20 age group and are eligible for the senior team, as is Lucy Thraves who has featured strongly in local summer races.

Such is the popularity of veteran running these days that all six women’s masters races are sure to be well-contested.

The rest of the league season will start with the Sussex League at Stanmer Park, Brighton, on November 10, with the major championship taking place after the New Year.

The main Sussex championships will again be held at Bexhill on the first Saturday in January with one of the season’s highlights certain to be the South of England Championships, returning to its iconic course at Parliament Hill Fields at the end of the month.

Nationally there will be quite a bit of travelling for southern clubs with both the clubs and schools National Championships being held in Leeds, albeit on different courses.