Chichester’s cross-country runners achieved the club’s best-ever all-round showing in their 30-year history in the Sussex League fixture at Lancing Manor.
Throughout the nine races, the Chichester green and white vests were prominent – resulting in two wins and two second places from the six junior races and finishing with a magnificent women’s division-one victory and a table-topping performance from the senior men in division two.
In addition, a number of individuals from across the age groups gained top-eight spots to confirm their selection for this weekend’s southern inter-counties race at Oxford where they will be wearing Sussex vests.
Under-11 mixed race
Nearly 50 runners lined up for the under-11s’ race, with Douglas Smith confirming his fine form with a third place just six seconds behind the winner.
Leo Stirzaker was 23rd with Nina Moranne 28th – tenth girl – with Rose Potter 38th, and 17th girl.
There was a dominant showing from Chichester in the three junior boys’ age groups with one win and two very close second places.
The under-13s were first to go over a challenging course of just over 3,000m with enough undulations to make it a true test of cross-country running.
Harry Sage, Ned Potter and Jeremy Sharp were content to stay just outside the top ten over the first part of the race. They then moved forward as a team to finish within 12 seconds of each other in seventh, eighth and tenth places for a total of 25 points, with JJ Staples a good reserve in 42nd.
The score of 25 points from the top three runners was just enough to win the fixture by the narrowest of margins from home team Worthing and league leaders Lewes and move them into second place with the final race to come at Bexhill in February.
The under-15s again packed an impressive five finishers into the top 14. Ben Collins, with two second places already this season, looked comfortable in the leading pack on the opening lap and by the time the runners went out to tackle the steepest part of the course for the second time, the Chichester athlete had only Joe Body from Hastings for company.
Collins had to let his rival go on the hill but recovered strongly to finish second and was chased home by an in-form Luke Campbell in fifth, with Jack Blackman edging out Brodie Keates for the final scoring place in 11th. Keates was close behind in 12th, Leo Stallard 14th.
An A-team total of 18 points might have been enough for Chichester to win but a full-strength Hastings trio totalled an even-better 14 to close the gap to 11 points at the top of the overall standings with Chichester on 55 and Hastings on 66.
The under-17 race took the runners to the highest part of the course on their 5,000m run but with three scorers in the top 11, Chichester coped admirably with the terrain.
Casey Keates hasn’t been out of the top places all season and his fifth place led home Harry Pink in eighth and Harry Lyne in 11th to score a total of 22 points, just two behind leaders Lewes. Another solid result in the final fixture should bring Chichester medals with at least silver virtually assured.
There was an equally-good showing from the B team with Adam Croad in 19th leading home Will Kallaway in 22nd and Sam Reading in 24th for a total of 65 points which move the team up to fifth.
With three of Chichester’s top four under-13 girls on Hampshire League duty, it was the turn of the reserves to keep the club in medal contention.
Xenia Truman again used her strong finish to cross the line in 12th followed by Charlotte Bullard in 17th and Caitlin Brown just getting the better of newcomer Maggie King in 26th.
Their 55-point total was just enough to keep them in medal contention with 103 points and a share of third place with Brighton Phoenix.
Running with the seniors, the under-17 women were boosted by the return of Rosie Ellis from injury. Ellis bounced back to form with probably her best run of the season for a splendid third place overall in the race and second in the under-17 age group.
She comfortably beat her Hastings rival which enabled Chichester to win the team event thanks to eighth and ninth-placed Charlotte Reading and Amber Westron.
Their lead at the top to just two points so the final match will be vital.
As with the under-17 men, Chichester fielded two teams in the women’s race with good runs from Saskia Gardam in 17th, Holly Beaton 24th and Rosie Riedel-O’Brien 24th for 68 points.
Thanks largely to their under-17s who are able to score in their own age group and for the seniors, Chichester’s senior women notched a famous victory for the club with a division-one total of 47 points, three in front of hosts Worthing.
This was thanks to supervet Jane Harrop in ninth overall joining her junior team-mates Ellis in third, Reading 17th and Westron 18th.
The result leaves Chichester in overall third with 165 points, just five behind Worthing and a mere 15 behind leaders Lewes. It looks as if all three medal spots will be up for grabs in the final fixture.
There was good back-up on Saturday from Hannah Croad in 37th, veteran Sue Baker 98th and newcomer Alexandra Vasiliescu 108th.
Another large men’s field were faced with two climbs to the highest point of the Downs and 2013 winner Chris Smith, a mountain racer and international running for Haywards Heath, stamped his authority from the first mile.
James Baker wisely decided not to try to follow the pace and his judgment proved spot-on as the Chichester athlete moved gradually through the chasing pack to finish a well-deserved runner-up to put him well in the frame for another Sussex League title after a win in the previous fixture.
Behind Baker were Conrad Meagher in 25th and veterans Steve Davy and John Bullard, 36th and 62nd respectively, for a winning division-two team total of 125 points which lifts the club to the top of the standings and puts them in prime position for a return to division one after a three-year absence.
Neil Trotter, in his first race for the club, led the B team home in 109th followed by Gary Williams and three of the club’s over-60s, Tom Blaylock in 124th, John Betts 149th and Paddy Clark 150th.
- PHIL BAKER