Chichester’s winter season ended in fine style at the Sussex Road Relays with a host of team and individual medals among a squad of more than 50 athletes.
On a fine day in the grounds of the Christ’s Hospital School near Horsham, the seniors used their speed to great effect over the relatively-short lap of just over two miles, while the junior lap of 1,800m was also a test of speed over endurance.
With under-17s running for senior teams in this event, there were just under-13s and under 15-s in the junior races. With both age groups fiercely contested, it was the boys’ under-15s who provided the most exciting race.
Chichester’s A team put Liam Dunne on the opening leg and the club’s faith was justified as only former county champion George Pool from Hastings was narrowly ahead at the changeover, with Crawley and Brighton a few seconds further back.
Ned Potter caught up with the leader halfway round his leg to give Alex Mani a five-second lead over a pack of about half a dozen clubs all vying for a medal position, and 15 seconds over Crawley, who had county champion Joe Smith to run the final lap.
Mani kept his lead and increased the advantage over everyone except the Crawley athlete who was gradually closing the gap. On the final turn to the finish with just 400m to run, the Crawley man made his move and just had enough to fight off Mani.
Chichester were clear in second for silver medals and set a new club under-15 record, and saw Dunne scoop the third-fastest-time prize behind Smith and Pool. In 15th place in the same race were the B team of Jack Dean, Jeremy Sharp and Oscar Hares.
There was nearly a team medal for the under-15 girls with Olivia Wiseman back to form setting the second fastest time of the day behind Brighton & Hove on the opening leg.
Maggie King kept the team in touch to hand over to Caitlin Brown who kept a fast-finishing Brighton B team at bay until the last 200m and had to settle for fourth place. Reserves Charlotte Bullard and Chloe Benson ran well for an incomplete B team.
In two very competitive under-13 races, Chichester’s girls recorded a good ninth place through Cerys Dickinson, Nina Moranne and Rose Potter, with Hannah Carmichael reserve in the B team.
The under-13 boys battled well with a dozen teams finishing virtually in sight of the medallists at the end of the three legs. Chichester A finished 12th with good runs from Seamus McCormack, Archie Sadler and Ollie Beach while a very inexperienced B team did well in 20th thanks to Oliver Fuller, Charlie Pemberton and Tom Sunray.
With half of Chichester’s six-man senior A team still in the under-17 age group, the club’s future looking at its healthiest for many years.
Seniors Chris Bird and Will Boutwood got things off to a fine start over to put Chichester inside the top ten before a trio of under-17s, Will Broom, Leo Stallard and Ben Collins, took over.
They improved things to place the club in the top five with only Conrad Meagher to run. Meagher gradually wore down the lead of Brighton & Hove A and rounding the final bend summoned up the energy to pip his rival on the line.
That gave them an excellent team fourth place and the satisfaction of the whole team breaking the 11-minute barrier.
The three under-17s hasd three of the top-five fastest times of the day with Stallard fastest, Broom runner-up and Collins tied for fourth fastest.
Ex-junior county champion Chris West led the second team and was well-supported by Brodie Keates and Charlie Benson with Justin Eggins, Jim Garland and Boutwood having their second runs of the day to come home 13th.
The men’s over-40 team also finished 13th with Eggins, Mike Moorcroft, Winston Bond and Peter Anderson making up the quartet. Probably Chichester’s best run of the whole day came in the over-50 men’s race with Jim Garland putting daylight between him and the rest of his age group on the opening leg and being rewarded with a fastest lap by over half a minute in 11.04.
David Pike and Tim Brown kept up the pace but could not quite hang on to a medal, finishing fifth. There was also a fifth place for the over-60 men with Rob Wiggins, Chris Benham and Dave Worcester running a brave race but having to give ground to younger rivals who had just entered the age group.
The B team also made the top ten thanks to the efforts of Tom Blaylock, Peter Shaw and John Betts.
There were team and individual medals in both senior women’s age groups. The senior race saw a record number of nearly 30 Sussex teams at the start.
More used to longer distances, Chichester’s Rebecca Moore showed a fine turn of speed over the two-mile course to head the field after leg one with a time of 11.20, the second fastest of the day.
Under-17 Grace Wills kept Chichester in the hunt for medals on leg two to hand over in third place with the third-best under-17 time.
Emily Moore on leg three, while not able to make inroads on the top two, cemented her third place to come home nearly a minute ahead of Brighton & Hove.
Florence Smith, also an under-17, posted a good time for her leg in an incomplete B team. In the over-50 race, run together with the seniors, Jane Harrop once again had a sparkling run to lead her age group home by nearly a minute and post the fastest time of the day, 13.05.
Helen Dean kept the team in front on leg two and Nadia Anderson on the final leg could do nothing about Sussex county runner Caroline Wood on the final leg but was delighted to bring the team home in second place for well-deserved silver medals. Also making the top ten were the B team of Sue Barty, Jill Renson and Sue Baker.
The Chichester and Bognor area had its best-ever result in the Brighton Marathon with three locals in the top 20 out of the massive field of more than 13,000 runners.
Former Sussex cross county champion Jon Pepper made the pace but with a winning time of 2hr 27min, the local trio were in touch with the front of the race far more than in previous years.
First man home for Chichester was James Baker in a fine sixth place. Now in the over-40 veteran ranks, his time of 2.33.15 nks him number two in the country for his age group at this early stage in the season.
Simon Gill from Tone Zone excelled with a time of 2.40 in tenth place.
The final member of the trio was Chris Bird in 2.45 in 19th place.
- PHIL BAKER
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