Nearly 500 top Sussex athletes assembled for the opening cross-country fixture of the season at Goodwood Country Park.
Team medals and individual fastest-times awards were on offer and Chichester came away with their fair share of prizes, with the highlights being gold medals for the under-17 men’s team and the over-55 women.
After early-morning heavy rain the clouds cleared to leave the runners almost perfect conditions underfoot over the undulating downland course with a mixture of grassland and footpaths through the woods of the country park.
As usual the under-13s were first to go over the junior lap of 2,800m, with Douglas Smith given the opening lap for the Chichester boys and Nicole Boltwood for the girls, both fresh from their fine runs in the Sussex under-13 track final.
Smith settled well into the pack to hand over to Archie Sadler, whose 10.56min was Chichester’s fastest leg of the day for the under-13s.
Tom Hartley brought the team home in 11th, two seconds outside a top-ten place.
In a developing age group there were good runs from Thomas Beasley, William Wells and Jake Farquhar for a 19th-place finish for the B team and Sam Corbett, Sammy Copeland and Eden Murphy took the C team in 21st.
For the girls, Boltwood handed over to Cerys Dickinson and Isobel Buchler to finish ninth with reserve Hannah Carmichael also posting a good time.
In the under-15 race, Liam Dunne was given the job of keeping Chichester in touch on a fast opening leg with over half the boys field breaking the ten-minute barrier.
Dunne stuck to his task, especially over the hilly second half of the course, to bring Chichester home in a close fourth and within touching distance of the leading trio with a time of 9.40, Chichester’s fastest junior lap of the day.
Alex Mani took over on leg two and brought the team into the medal positions in third place.
Unfortunately for Harry Sage, on the final lap, the top three teams had saved their fastest runner until the anchor leg posting three of the top four best times of the day so Chichester had to settle for fifth place just over a minute behind winners Hastings.
There were solid runs from Jeremy Sharp, David Bisatt and Louis Buchler for the B team who finished 16th with Johnny Simmonds a capable reserve.
Unfortunately for Chichester under 15 girls Caitlin Brown and Amber Dodd, they were without a third scorer so had to be content with posting individual lap times as a consolation.
Women - Under-17s, seniors and veteran
With two of Chichester’s silver-medal winning senior ladies’ team unavailable for this year’s race, team manager Sara Ellis was forced to review her strategy and moved Jane Harrop out of the senior team and into her own over-55 age group.
This tactic paid off to great effect as Harrop not only posted the fastest individual time in her age group by more than two minutes but also led her team to the gold medals in front of pre-race favourites Arena 80.
Although the Brighton-based team gradually reduced Chichester’s lead after the opening lap, Amanda Godfrey and Sue Barty kept to their task and brought Chichester home for a well-deserved win by 18 seconds at the finish.
For the seniors Karina Bennett stormed round the opening leg in 15 minutes for the 4,000m course, the fastest under-20 time of the day, and was only beaten by Izzy Coomber of Lewes.
Under-17 Grace Wills kept Chichester in the chase by holding on to their second place but without Rose Ellis, their fastest runner last year and now studying at Birmingham University, reserve Rebecca Brown was not able to maintain the pressure and the team slipped to 10th at the finish.
Also in action in a separate age group were the over-45s who were led off for Chichester by Persephone Hagan with Nadia Anderson and Sandra Nemorin-Noel in support to finish fourth in their age group.
Men - Under-17s, seniors and veterans
There was a fine sight at the start of the senior men’s race with a field of 50 teams lining up including not only seniors but also veterans and under-17s.
As the field approached the first wooded section, Chichester were well represented with Conrad Meagher for the seniors and Will Broom for the under-17s both in the leading pack.
Still up with the leaders coming into the final section of the 4000m lap, Broom was just headed by two senior teams but found himself clear of his under-17 rivals to hand over to Charlie Benson with Lewes the closest under-17s more than ten seconds back.
Benson kept up the momentum on leg two pulling away from Lewes and handed over to Ben Collins on the anchor leg with a huge margin of 50 seconds over City of Portsmouth, who had now climbed into second.
Collins renewed his rivalry with Jacob O’Hara for the Hampshire club and showed a welcome return to form after recent injury niggles to bring Chichester home to win by nearly 40 seconds.
Broom was rewarded by running the equal fastest lap with O’Hara in 12.54 with Collins fourth-fastest behind another long-time rival Joe Body from Hastings in 13.06.
What made the team’s performance all the more creditable was that the trio are all in their first year in the age group, having just moved up from last year’s under-15s.
Benedict Robinson was also in action and with Chichester’s B team affected by injuries, he combined well in a joint Chichester and Horsham team in ninth place.
For the seniors Meagher ran a solid opening leg in 13.17 but Chichester’s position fell away in the subsequent legs with reserves Mark Jennings, Mike Houston and Richard Pullen having to be drafted into the team because of the unavailability of James Baker and Peter Concannon.
The club fielded complete teams in each of the veteran age group with the over-60s having yet another top-three placing as runners-up to a strong Brighton & Hove trio.
Rob Wiggins posted the second fastest lap on leg one in a fine 16.05 with Tom Blaylock on leg two and a brave Dave Worcester on the final leg making up the team despite not having fully recovered from recent surgery.
The over-50s were led off by Jim Garland who set the fastest leg for Chichester with a 15.01 clocking. Good runs from Dave Reading, Peter Anderson and Andy Wingham brought the team home in fifth.
There was a sixth place for the over-40s with Keith Akerman, Mike Moorcroft and Jason Boswell handing over the Charles Rodmell on the final leg for Rodmell to produce a fine sub-15-minute run in 14.47 to become Chichester’s fastest veteran of the day.
* The same Goodwood venue hosts the opening fixture in the Sussex Cross Country League on Saturday, October 15.
It will be the first chance for athletes to impress the Sussex selectors in advance of the South of England Inter-County event in December and also for clubs to set down a marker for the season in all the age groups.
In addition to the league programme which starts at 12.30pm, there will be an invitation under-11 race over 2,000m at midday with club members and non-members welcome.
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