The New Year started in familiar fashion for Chichester Runners with the opening fixture in the West Sussex Fun Run league, the Hangover 5 at Hill Barn, Worthing.
A massive field of 504 finishers including more than 200 women is testament to the popularity of the league and the field were not put off by recent rain, which had made parts of the Downland course even more slippery and treacherous than usual.
The Chichester squad totalled 82 points out of the maximum 85 on offer including a near-perfect bonus score of 59 from their top six athletes.
A total of 23 from Chichester lined up and were led off by evergreen James Baker, who will be joining the veteran ranks at the end of 2016.
For once in this league Baker did not have things his own way and was joined at the front of the field by Crawley athlete Paul Navesey and Cambridge University under-23 Patrick Roddy.
Such was the dominance of the trio that they quickly pulled well clear of the rest of the field to finish nearly two minutes clear at the end of the tough five-mile course.
Navesey repeated his win over Baker in the Sussex League race at Lancing Manor in December while Roddy followed him for second place leaving Baker in third but gaining the maximum ten point bonus towards the league standings.
Next home for the city club was Derry Lozano-Hoyland in 27th for another maximum ten points followed by Nick Palmer and Keith Akerman, both scoring nine in 54th and 55th respectively.
Chichester’s other three ten-point earners came from fine runs from Charlotte Reading, Katherine Bond and Helen Dean finishing fifth, sixth and 20th in the women’s category, 90th, 113rd and 201st overall in the race.
The rest of the squad were: Mike Moorcroft 103rd, Dave Reading 108th, Jan Hill 118th, Ashley Hiom 126th, Tony Cooley 139th, Tom Blaylock 187th, Tracy Lockyear 233rd (F 38), Megan Anderson 265th (F 48), Emma Newberry 301st (F 66), Amanda Godfrey 317th (F 75), Jill Renson 326th (F 80), Tom Newberry 338th, Sue Baker 359th (F 96), Eva Mikuska 432nd (F 148), Georgie Bingham 479th (F 180), Sally Cowan 480th (F 181).
The next fixture in the 17-race season will be a very different test of fitness with the Worthing Lido four-mile race along Worthing Seafront on Sunday, January 31, where some of the fastest racers in Sussex will be aiming to go inside the 20-minute barrier.
Sussex Cross Country Championships preview
This Saturday (Jan 9) sees the first of a number of cross-country championship races to be held between the start of the year and the end of March.
All eyes will be on what happens at Bexhill this Saturday, when the top athletes in all age groups from under-13 to seniors will be vying not only for individual medals but also aiming to help their respective clubs to team honours.
In addition there will be the incentive of seeing which Sussex club can emerge as the overall winner of the three county shields.
Chichester are the current holders of the junior shield while the seniors will be scoring points towards the senior and combined trophies which will be decided after the Sussex Masters championships at Lancing later this month.
As for Chichester’s prospects, nothing can be taken for granted – but the form of some of the junior teams as well as the senior women has been impressive so far this season.
Probably the women’s under-17s, led by Grace Wills, have the best chance of success – they lead the league rankings by a clear margin. Not far behind will be the under-15 boys, with the trio of Ben Collins, Will Broom and Leo Stallard all running well and backed up by a strong B team.
The senior women will be strengthened by Rose Ellis and Charlotte Reading, who will score for the senior team as well as challenging for individual under-20 honours.
They will join veteran duo of Jane Harrop and Ann Sydenham, who have both shown good form among the seniors this season. The senior men look to have too much to do to challenge for medals with only James Baker from among the club’s top five due to compete.
With inter-county selection in mind, runners will know that a top-five place will mean automatic qualification for the national inter-counties in March.
So there will be much to run for when the action begins on the Little Common course with an invitation under-11 race at 11.15am. The medal action begins with the under-13 girls at 11.30am and entrance to the course is free for spectators.
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