Terrific ten fly West Sussex flag at nationals - Houston on top Tokyo form

Harry Leleu / Picture by Lee Hollyer
Harry Leleu / Picture by Lee Hollyer

A total of 10 local athletes were in action on the National stage at Loughborough for the UK Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships - with all 10 acquitting themselves with credit in what is regarded as the top rated competition in the calendar.

This year even more were attracted to the Loughborough venue as the championships doubled as the final trials for the World Championships to be held in Denmark at the end of the month.

Such is the standard of the fields in all ages groups that any place in the top 100 finishers can be regarded as a major triumph and nine out of the ten Chichester athletes achieved this mile stone with the 10th just a few places outside.

A total of 45 counties sent teams to the event including area teams from Scotland and Wales to make the competition even tougher than the English National held the previous weekend in Leeds.

Under 20 and under 17: The top place finisher of the whole day for Chichester was Alice Cox-Rusbridge in the under 20 women’s race with a fine 62nd place and second Sussex scorer behind county champion Almi Nerurkar from Brighton Phoenix in 14th.

The pair enabled Sussex to finish 12th out of the 40 counties competing. It was in the under 20 men’s race where Sussex had their best team result of the day in sixth place with Leo Stallard and Ben Morton playing their part well in 84th and 94th respectively with Stallard just a couple of minutes outside being considered for National selection over a tough course just short of 10K.

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In the under 17 races Maggie King helped her team achieving a top 10 spot with a score of 197 points in ninth place. King more than justified her selection with a fine run in 80th. Ned Potter also finished fourth for Sussex in 123rd place for a team position of 11th.

The closeness of the competition can be seen in that Potter was barely a minute outside a top 20 placing over 5000 metres of arduous running.

Worthing-based Ethan Fincham was a speedy 55th in the same race as second Sussex scorer.

Under 13s and under 15s: Those who witnessed the exciting finish of the secondary boys race in North Street, Chichester, at the end of February would have seen Harvey McGuiness and Fionn O’Murchu balling it out to the line.

At Loughbrorugh the pair were teammates rather than rivals and both had excellent runs in the under 13 boys race. McGuiness finished 84th and as fourth scorer helped Sussex to yet another top 10 team placing while O’Murchu was close on his heels in 96th. Such is the closeness of competition over the 3000 metres course can be seen that both Chichester boys were barely a minute outside a top 20 placing.

In the under 15 girls race Sussex had their highest position of the day with Bethany Cook from the Eastbourne based Bodyworks club a superb runner-up in the individual race with Chichester’s Olivia Toms 3rd Sussex scorer in 94th and helping her team to just outside the top 10 in 12th place.

Senior men and women: Loughborough University student Harry Leleu did not have far to travel for the race and took advantage of his selection to the Sussex senior team for the first time following his club record run in the Chichester 10K last month and full justified the faith of the selectors with a senior top 100 placing in 78th and 3rd Sussex scorer in the process helping the six man team to 13th In the women’s race Chichester University student who runs second claim for Chichester was also 3rd in the Buckinghamshire team in 97th place.

The event almost brings down the curtain on the domestic cross country season with just the English schools to come this weekend in Leeds and a couple of schools inter county events to fit in before the end of March.

Road Race Round-up

With Harry Leleu in cross country action, the other two members of Chichester 10K Sussex medal winning team have been in action on the roads, both in England and further afield.

Pride of place as to the improvement he has made over the last year must go to Mike Houston who travelled to Japan last weekend for the Tokyo Marathon which attracts not only elite internationals of the highest calibre but also has one of the strongest in-depth fields of any marathon in the world.

With a previous best of 2 hours 44 minutes from 2018, Houston proceeded to knock over five minutes from his previous best and joins the coveted sub 2 hours 40 club with a time of 2 hours 38 minutes 48 seconds and can bask in a UK top 17 placing at this early stage in the season.

This follows a 32.36 10K clocking at Goodwood in February smashing his previous best by over a minute.

The third member of the trio has had an even busier time of it in the last month with a personal best in the Barcelona Half Marathon followed by a 1 hour 53.31 clocking in the Bramley 20 miler then with just seven days to recover lining up with Sir Mo Farah in the London Half Marathon at Greenwich.

Bird crossed the finish in a fine 70 minute 11 seconds, less than a minute outside his time in Spain but nevertheless showing great powers of recovery. Not far from the capital, Lucy Thraves, Chichester first female in the Chichester 10K, tested herself in the Surrey Half Marathon at Woking on Sunday to finish in 83 minutes 44 seconds and 6th woman home.