Fine weather greeted the runners for the second races in the Corporate Challenge series as another bumper field of more than 850 finishers across the various age groups.
In the 27th year of the event, this was the 80th evening of the Corporate Challenge since its inception in 1992.
The final races of the 2018 series take place tomorrow (Weds March 21) from 6.30pm.
Since then, nearly 40,000 runners have crossed the finishing line and it epitomised the range of ages that the winner of the primary boys’ race a decade earlier in 2008 added his name to the roll call of senior winners.
Harry Leleu is now a student at Loughborough University and made a lightning trip down from the midlands to make the start.
Leleu, also an accomplished triathlete, first raced in this event as a pupil running for Downview Primary School, Felpham.
In the intervening years he has progressed through the age groups, finally joining the senior ranks this season and having a breakthrough race at the Southern cross country Championships in January.
With nearly 100 runners in the A race, Leleu opened up a gap after the first of the four laps of the 4,500m senior course.
He was followed by a trio comprising the winner of the first race, Ed Dodd, and Havant-based duo Matt Gordon and Chris Spinks.
Leleu held this gap for the whole race although Dodd was closing at the end for second place and Gordon getting the better of Spinks in third.
Rhiannon Dunlop made it two wins out if two in the women’s race finishing nearly a minute ahead of her nearest rival Lucy Thraves with Charlotte Bowsher in third.
In the team event, the main Corporate category saw 43 scoring teams with Russell Giles Partnership coming out on top, followed by Irwin Mitchell with previous winners Dstl third.
Barring any misfortune in the last race, it looks as though the title will be contested by these three teams.
In the equally-popular sports team category with 30 teams finishing, Chichester’s combined under-17 and under-20 team running as Conrad’s Lads again had a narrow margin over Worthing Hares and broke the coveted 60-minute aggregate barrier.
Third was the Tuesday Club led home by Mike Houston – and all three teams are still on with a change of the title in a week’s time.
In the women’s rankings, first-time winners Dstl were unable to field a complete team, leaving WSCC Ladies and Bosham School to occupy the top two places.
There was no doubting the top women’s sports team with Chichester University trio of Alice Wright, Sophie Wright and Emma Hughes finishing more than nine minutes ahead of their nearest rivals.
The evening started with the primary schools races with a huge number of spectators lining the streets of Chichester to cheer the athletes on.
Samuel Tonks was fastest primary runner of the day with 4min 48secs for the 1,400m course in front of Tristan Jooste, from Herne, and Josh Eaton, from Fittleworth, while Henry Court, from Central, just pipped James Taylor, from Parklands, in the Year 5 race with both recording 5.02.
Teamwise the top four of North Mundham, Aldingbourne, Walberton & Binsted and Bosham were separated by just seven seconds on aggregate time for their three runners.
A record field of 148 completed the girls’ primary course and the Hampshire trio of Hattie Bond, Florence East and Kitty Dryden came out on top with Florence Ingram, from Jessie Younghusband, the best-placed local runner in fourth.
In the team event, Bishop Tufnell were clear of Jessie Younghusband and St Richards at the head of the standings but things are wide open with one race to go.
There was a new name at the front of the senior girls’ race with Hampshire runner Holly Wilkinson, from Brookfield School, leading home previous winner Maggie King, from Bishop Luffa, in the Years 9 & 10 combined race.
Olivia East again got the better of sisters Eva and Isobel Buckler, from Bishop Luffa, in the Year 8 category leading their school to a team win over Midhurst Rother.
Daisy Wilkinson won the Year 7 race from Tilly Russell-Stoneham but good packing again from Bohunt school won the team race from Felpham.
First-time winner of the Year 10 race, Liam Dunne, decided to give race two a miss to stay fresh for the National Inter-County event at Loughborough.
In Dunne’s absence James Gardham, from Bishop Luffa, led from start to finish and once again dipped under the nine-minute barrier for the four-lap 2,800m course.
Occupying the next two places were George Ashby, of Portsmouth Grammar, and Leon Heard, from Chichester High School, with Adam Robinson in fourth the first Year 9 runner to finish.
Teamwise, Bishop Luffa lead Portsmouth Grammar with St Philip Howard just pipping Chichester High School for third place.
With the Year 7 and 8 boys running over a shorter course of 2,100 metres, the positions of race one were reversed with Joe McLarnon, from Ditcham Park, from Year 8 just getting the better of Fionn O’Murchu, from St Philip Howard, in 6.49 and 6.50.
Third was another Year 7 runner Eddy Purser, from Lyndhurst, also breaking the seven-minute barrier.
In the team rankings there was double triumph for St Philip Howard in winning both the Year 7 and 8 races with Midhurst Rother, Chichester High School and Bishop Luffa likely to challenge for team medals in the final race.
by PHIL BAKER