Athletes ready for crucial cross-country meeting

Chichester's senior ladies to the fore at Goodwood - can they repeat the feat at Stanmer? Picture by Sara Ellis

Chichester's senior ladies to the fore at Goodwood - can they repeat the feat at Stanmer? Picture by Sara Ellis

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Chichester athletes will go toe to toe with their rivals from across the county as the leading clubs try to cement their places in the Sussex League standings in the third league fixture at Stanmer Park, Brighton, this Saturday.

The course should provide a good test of athletes’ form and fitness with the venue being used for league action for the first time for several years.

With just one league fixture left after this weekend at the end of February, the club will be trying to take a firm hold on their league standings.

The last time Chichester’s runners competed over the undulating course was in the South of England event just under two years ago.

With just one league fixture left after this weekend at the end of February, the club will be trying to take a firm hold on their league standings, especially in the two under-17 races where both the men and women’s league are headed by Chichester.

Grace Wills, Alice Cox-Rusbridge and Florence Smith have all been in fine form for the women and the club’s strength in depth in the men’s division is the strongest in Sussex and probably one of the best in the south of England.

Will Broom, Leo Stallard, Brodie Keates, Ben Collins and Luke Campbell all have a chance of making the top ten while Charlie Benson and Benedict Robinson provide a good back-up.

The under-15s are also in the mix for end-of-season honours and Olivia Wiseman will strengthen the girls’ team and the paring of Alex Mani and Liam Dunne should provide a good platform for the boys’ squad.

Both Chichester under-13 teams are probably too far back to challenge for a top-three spot but their improvement should see them move up the rankings.

As for the seniors, Chichester’s women are in the top three in division one for the third season in a row and the mixture of youth with Grace Wills, first-year under-17 Alice Cox-Rusbridge and university student Alice Wright and the experience of Jane Harrop should keep the club in the hunt for medals.

The club’s men slipped a little in round two at Lancing but still occupy one of the two automatic promotion places for a return to division one but much will depend on James Baker and Conrad Meagher scoring well in their top two places.

The fixture starts at midday with the under-11s and parking will be at the Amex Stadium.

West Sussex Schools Cross Country Championships

In preparation for the main Sussex championships in January, athletes from across West Sussex West met over the Bishop Luffa course for the district’s schools championships.

The local fixture gives a good indication of the form in junior, intermediate and senior age groups.

The most exciting race of the day was in the combined intermediate and senior boys’ age group where the first four athletes home finished within seven seconds.

Bishop Luffa pair Will Broom and Leo Stallard ran stride for stride with Chichester High School’s Ben Collins for virtually the whole race. Collins bravely tried to shake his rivals off at the start of the third and final lap but gradually was reeled in and Broom sprinted away over the final 400m to win from Stallard and Collins.

Luke Campbell was just a few seconds adrift and the first senior home after the intermediate trio occupying the top three places.

In the younger intermediate Year 10 category, Alex Mani from St Philip Howard was too good for his rivals and had more than a minute to spare at the finish from Bishop Luffa pair Ned Potter and Louie Martin.

In the junior boys’ race there were four different schools represented in the first four places with James Gardham from Bishop Luffa just getting the better of Leon Heard from Chichester High School, the pair having run the whole race clear of the rest of the field.

Behind, there were two excellent runs from athletes from the year below with Ethan Ward from Felpham CC just getting the better of Archie Sadler from Midhurst Rother College and Douglas Smith from Bishop Luffa.

In the girls’ intermediate and senior race, two Bishop Luffa pupils unsurprisingly came out on top, both having been selected for the Sussex under-17 team.

Sixth-former Grace Wills led from the start to clinch the senior title but was chased hard by intermediates Alice Cox-Rusbridge and Imogen Matthews to give the host school a clean sweep.

In the younger year, the trio of Holly Heffron, Hannah Anwyl and Amber Dodd gave Bishop Luffa another one-two-three. There was excitement in the junior girls’ race where Charlotte Bullard from Chichester High School decided to go off at a fast pace with the rest of the field closely bunched in the early stages.

Bishop Luffa pair Maggie King and Nina Moranne plus Nicole Boltwood from Felpham CC gave chase and were closing in the latter stages but Bullard proved too strong and had a three-second gap at the finish to win from King, Moranne and Boltwood. Hannah Carmichael and Rose Potter from Bishop Luffa plus Jess Rayner from Felpham occupied the next three places.

PHIL BAKER

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