Perfect conditions greeted 800-plus runners on the final evening of this year’s Corporate Challenge road races series, with the large crowds treated to a thrilling evening of racing.
There was the closest finish in the senior A race in the event’s 28-year history and the schools part of the evening produced more than its share of excitement with some of the fastest times ever seen on the streets of the city centre.
With a total of more than 2,500 finishers over the three evenings, organisers Chichester Runners & AC pronounced the 2019 series as one of the best ever.
A total of 80 teams scored in the senior race with a similar number of schools teams in action, making the 160 plus team total as the highest ever.
Some 130 runners lined up for the senior 4.5k four-lap A race and it was soon apparent fast times were on the cards.
A large group formed at the front of the race with previous winner Jonathan White in contention but not having things his own way as Solent MD team-mate Sam Charig and runner-up from the previous race Jacob O’Hara pressing hard.
In the event it was English schools runner O’Hara who narrowly squeezed home in a time of 13min 11sec, a single second in front of Charig and White who were given the same time. All three runners find themselves in the event’s all-time top ten.
Will Boutwood was first local runner home in fifth for Everyone Active while the Chichester club saw ten more finishers inside the next minute.
The women’s race had the same top three as before with Portsmouth-based Cassie Thorp making it a clean sweep of victories with a 15.34 clocking ahead of Ellie Farrow and Katie Hopkins, all three inside the 16-minute barrier.
A welcome return visitor to the event was former record holder and Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Michael East, who did well to finish inside the top 20 despite doing very little competitive running in recent years.
In the team event, Dstl Portsdown were again too strong for the rest in the corporate category with Cawley Crawlers medical practice leading Rolls Royce for runners-up spot.
With two of the first three home, it was no surprise Solent MD came out on top in the sports rankings with a superb 54.22 aggregate time for their four runners aggregate – although Chichester youth team Conrad’s Lads, with an average age of just 17, pushed them all the way and beat City of Portsmouth Oddbins into third.
In the women’s section, first home were the staff of Bosham Primary School with Polly Neville leading the way, while the talented Chichester under-20 trio of Alice Cox-Rusbridge, Maggie King and Beth Brown had more than a minute to spare over CWTC ladies.
As usual the evening got under way with four races in the primary age group with a fantastic standard set in both the boys and girls’ races.
In the Year 6 boys’ race, previous winner Isaac Glanfield from Downview again set off at a fast pace but on this occasion was spurred by Ben Conti, a new entrant from Marchwood School.
The pair battled over the whole of the two-lap 1400m course with Glanfield rewarded with a new personal best of 4.33 seconds, the second quickest time ever with only the 4.30 of Ben Collins ahead.
Such was the standard that the top seven in the Year 6 race all beat the five-minute barrier, as did Stanley Wilkes who posted a fine 4.48 clocking to win the Year 5 race in emphatic style.
In the team standings, Bishop Tufnell had just three seconds in hand over Fishbourne with Downview in third but all the top teams showed an improvement over their previous times with the top five bettering the winning time of two weeks earlier.
There was a similarly high standard in the primary girls’ race with Florence East from Lyndhurst making it a clean sweep in the Year 6 race in front of Laila Hellyer from Bishop Tufnell, Kitty Bryden from Newbridge and Lillie Hellyer, the top four separated by just four seconds after East’s winning time of 4.50.
With Poppy Tayor from Overton also below the five-minute barrier with a Year 5 record of 4.55, this year was the first to see five girls under five minutes.
Bishop Tufnell dominated the team competiton with Millie Isitt backing up the Hellyer twins to set another team record of 15.02 for the three runners.
Jessie Younghusband were a clear second ahead of Oakwood, who narrowly pipped Bosham for third.
The pace was fast and furious at the start of the combined secondary boys’ race with Year 8 trio of Harvey McGuiness from Bishop Luffa, Fionn O’Murchu from St Philip Howard and Hal Edgar from Midhurst Rother pushing the pace at the front of the pack together with previous winner Eddy Purser from Purbrook Park.
It was the three local boys who came out on top with McGuiness having an inspired run to cross the line in 6.33, the second fastest time ever with only Chris West ahead on 6.32 ,set in 2003.
There was an equally close scrap in the Year 7 age group with Archie Turner from Worthing finishing in 7.01, one second ahead of Josh Dunne from Bohunt.
In the longer four-lap Years 9 and 10 race, four athletes broke the coveted ten-minute barrier with Year 9 Joe McLarnon from Ditcham Park fastest of all in 9.09 followed by Gabe White from Bishop Luffa, while the Year 10 race was won by Jensen Howard from Springfield followed by Archie Sadler from Midhurst Rother.
Team wise Midhurst Rother narrowly won the Year 7 race and Bishop Luffa the Year 8 and combined Year 9 and 10 events, with St Philip Howard runners-up in all three.
With previous winner Olivia East not running there was a chance for Portsmouth duo Natalya Smith and Isabella Bryden to lead the rest home with fellow Year 10 Nicole Boltwood from Felpham CC having her best run of the series in third.
Cerys Dickinson from St Philip Howard was fastest Year 9 girl in front of Ditcham Park pair Emily Dunkly and Bella Digby, while Petersfield’s Hattie Bond and Amelie McGurk from Bishop Luffa took the Year 7 and 8 races respectively.
For the teams St Philip Howard came out on top in Year 7 and the combined Year 9 and 10 groups with Bishop Luffa strongest in Year 8.
* There will be a full report of overall series winners in all age groups in next week’s (Apr 11) Chi Observer.