Middle-distance runners hold key for Chichester at Bournemouth

Liam Dunne is now in the Chichester under-17 squad / Picture by Lee Hollyer
Liam Dunne is now in the Chichester under-17 squad / Picture by Lee Hollyer

It was the turn of Chichester’s under-17s and under-20s to test their early season form in their opening Young Athletes League fixture at Bournemouth.

Even though the rain held off, conditions were far from ideal with runners having to battle against gusting wind down the home straight.

Despite this, athletes from the five clubs involved produced performances of the highest quality with Chichester having their fair share of first places, the majority of which were in the middle-distance events.

Following their fine winter cross country season, Chichester’s distance athletes have made a confident transition to the track. Nowhere was this more evident than in the men’s 800m races where the club won both the under-17 and under-20 age groups with good tactical performances in both races.

Liam Dunne, having just moved up from the under-15 age group, has quickly found his feet among athletes in the under-17 age group and was content to stay with the leading pack over the opening lap before unleashing a fine turn of speed down the home straight to pull clear of his rivals.

Although the time of 2min 04sec was relatively modest, Dunne recorded an impressive negative split to run the second half of the race in 61 seconds.

In the under-20 race Ben Collins took the lead with just over a lap remaining and held on to a comfortable win in another sub 2.05 clocking, with Leo Stallard equally as dominant in winning the B string in 2.06.

Collins was joined by Ben Morton to record another double first in the 1,500m before Morton teamed up with Stallard to complete a clean sweep in the 2,000m steeplechase.

In the sprints Brandon Bell showed his best form of the season to date and Ethan Hartley showed a good turn of speed over 400m.

With Chi lacking specialist field event competitors in this age group, Hartley and Morton gained good points in the triple jump while Collins showed his versatility in the long jump and javelin.

There was more double success for the under-17s when Ned Potter and Alfie Spurle teamed up for the 1,500m at the start of the match and were equally as impressive in the steeplechase a couple of hours later.

The under-17 men’s sprint squad produced the best all-round showing at this stage of the season for many years. Jacob Piper, Max Lambkin, Cellan Robinson and Oscar Hares all recorded sub-13-second clockings into the fierce headwind with Piper’s 12.4-sec time the fastest of the quartet.

Piper and Lambkin were also impressive in the 200m while Lambkin teamed up with Hares for near-maximum points in the 400m hurdles in the opening event.

Dylan Giles was another to make his first appearance at the level having been part of the club’s under-15 squad last season. He competed well in shot and discus and had his best result in the hammer when teaming up with Robinson for near-maximum points.

Chichester were able to call on only a squad of five under-17s in the women’s part of the match so lost ground on the stronger clubs with regard to the overall match score. However all five performed with credit in both track and field.

Emily Russell and Phoebe Pontet battled well over 200m while Maggie King joined Russell for the 300m. Pontet and King made their mark over the 80m hurdles and 300m hurdles respectively while King nearly produced a win in the 800m.

Russell and Pontet combined for the long jump while Jess Rayner kept the score going in high jump and triple jump as well as testing her speed over 100m.

Lucie Munday was the club’s only specialist thrower on duty and performed well in her top event, the discus, as well as gaining points in the javelin.

The next match in this league will be at the Withdean Stadium, Brighton, on Sunday, May 27 but the majority of the squad will be in action for Chichester’s senior team a week earlier at Poole.

PHIL BAKER