Chichester opened their under-17 and under-20 National League campaign at Walton against some of the strongest opposition in the south – and all 18 members of the squad gave a good account of themselves.
Along with host club Walton AC and Southampton City, Chichester were the only other single club in the match.
Over the winter Portsmouth have joined forces with Winchester, already strong clubs in their own right, while Salisbury have amalgamated with the Bournemouth/New Forest squad for this league and Team Dorset have been a combination of three clubs for several years.
Though finishing sixth out of the six clubs, Chichester were not outclassed and with a stronger squad next time, a top three place should not be beyond them.
1. Portsmouth & Winchester Combined 650pts
2. Bournemouth / New Forest / Salisbury 442
3. Walton AC 365
4. Team Dorset 337
5. Southampton City 305
6. Chichester 258
With a slightly bigger squad than the men, it was no surprise that the ten-athlete women’s squad contributed more than half the points, with the sprints and throws particularly well represented.
In fact it was in one of the throwing events, the under-17 women’s discus, which produced Chichester’s best result of the whole day with the combination of Maya Solly and Alexia Everley winning the A and B strings respectively and gaining a maximum 16 points for the club.
Earlier Solly had also won the B string shot, supporting Millie Grant who threw close to ten metres for third place in the A string while Grant and Everley picked up more good points in the hammer.
In the under-17 sprints, Fleur Hollyer and Emily Russell battled hard against stiff competition into a strong headwind in both 100m and 200m with both girls contributing to a combined 4x100m relay team with the under-20s.
Nicole Boltwood ran a consistent 800m and teamed up with Solly in the 300m.
For the under 20s it was again one of the throwing squad, Lucie Munday, who had the best results with a runners-up spot in shot and hammer and third in the discus to give a total of 20 points from her three events, the best Chichester women’s total of the day.
Not far behind was Rachel Laurie with a new personal best by a tenth of a second for a 61.9sec clocking in the 400m as well as good runs over 100m and 200m.
Florence Smith and Phoebe Pontet secured third places in the triple jump and 100m respectively before joining forces with Hollyer and Boltwood for the final event, the 4x400m relay for a stirring all-round display, holding off a fast finishing Bournemouth quartet for a brave runners-up spot.
With eight athletes in action, evenly split between the under-20 and under-17s, the under-20s provided two of the top three Chichester performers of the day.
Fresh from a successful rugby season, Alfie Spurle had a good all-round day in his first athletics match of the year. Showing good versatility, he mixed two track races over 400m and 800m with two jumps and recorded his best result in a second place in the A string triple jump for a total of 24 points from his four events.
Ben Collins joined Spurle in the long jump before gaining two runners-up places over 800m and 1500m for 20 points although all athletes had to settle for slowish times in the middle distance races in difficult, swirling conditions.
In the sprints, Max Lambkin and Cellan Robinson battled hard in a very high-quality field in the sprints and were rewarded with good times against the strong headwind.
For the under-17s all four athletes had their first taste of this standard of competition, having progressed from last season’s under-15 squad.
DJ Barth, Will Simmons and Toby Payne picked up good points between them over 100m and 200m as well as with Simmons in the long jump.
Barth and Payne scored the second best event tally of the day with second place in the A string and first in the B string respectively in the triple jump.
Bradley Holder flew the flag for Chichester in both 1500m and 3000m for two personal best times, a fine achievement for his first match at the age group.