Fine weather and perfect racing conditions greeted athletes of all ages for the Sussex cross-country championships.
On courses similar to those being used for the South of England event later in the month, the routes chosen among the hills and woodland of Stanmer Park were some of the toughest tests cross-country runners are likely to face anywhere in the south.
The 60 Chichester athletes all performed with credit emerging with four sets of medals including two team golds and an overall performance from their juniors which put them a close second to host club Brighton & Hove.
Proceedings started with the under-13s, where Chichester had modest expectations with a relatively-inexperienced squad.
Saskia Gardam set the tone by not being overawed in the girls’ race, slotting into the top ten from the start and maintaining her position to finish sixth at the end of the 3,000m followed closely by Molly Whatmore in 14th and Mia Selman 15th to snatch team bronze from Hastings by a single point.
Abbie Moss in 28th and Mia Faulkner (34th) had good runs as reserves.
Josh Eeles led the charge for Chichester in the boys’ race with a fine seventh, with Sam Pink in 12th and Oliver Poole 13th less than 20 seconds behind. Their total of 32 points gave them fourth place.
Brodie Keates in 15th and Zac Hurst in 16th led the B team and, with Adam Croad in 30th, they snatched sixth spot with 61 points, with Sam Reading (40th) and Harry Carter (43rd) reserves.
There were high hopes of medals in both under-15 races with the girls knowing they had a chance behind unstoppable Hastings.
Rose Ellis led the way with a storming run to finish fifth and claim a place in the Sussex team in the national inter-county competition in Birmingham later in the season. Charlotte Reading had a strong second half of the race to pull through to tenth, meaning the third finisher needed to finish inside the top 15 to ensure a medal. Emma Maynard strode down the long downhill final stretch to finish 13th and gain team bronze, two points behind silver winners Brighton.
Showing the club’s strength in depth the B team had a fine sixth place with Tara Bage 16th, Nicola Mead 20th and Lucy Ellis 26th - while the C team were 11th with Holly Beaton 27th, Caitlin Moore 35th and Jess Goddard 36th.
The boys’ under-15s had Dan Eeles out injured and it appeared the pre-race favourites would have to settle for the minor medals. Harry Leleu led from the front but even his superb winter form was unable to shake off Sussex No1 Billy White from Phoenix and the Chichester athlete had to settle for a well deserved silver.
Josh James battled well to stay in the top ten and came in an excellent seventh. That left Chichester and Brighton neck and neck with the third and final scorer to determine the outcome.
A superb run from Casey Keates put him ahead of the Brighton athlete to finish 13th and give Chichester gold by a single point, 22 to Brighton’s 23. Another sixth team spot was gained by the B team with Ed Gerwat 16th, Jamie Woolnough 18th and Harry Pink 25th, with Ewan Willis reserve in 33rd.
In the under-17 races, Callum Adams was Chichester’s only finisher in the boys’ race in 18th but the girls more than made up for it with a fine gold-medal winning team performance with Georgina Warner fifth, Beth Garland sixth and Lucy Thraves seventh for a team total of 18 points.
This was despite Garland going off course when fourth because of a lack of marshals at a crucial part of the course.
Their ten team points were a fine end to the junior races but could not stop Chichester’s arch rivals Brighton from retaining their overall junior shield by a mere four points.
News of the seniors’ efforts at Brighton will be featured next week.