Chichester athletes boost Sussex cross-country glory bid

Action earlier in the cross-country season at Goodwood / Picture by Sara Ellis
Action earlier in the cross-country season at Goodwood / Picture by Sara Ellis

At the end of the cross-country season, the final major event of the year took place at Norwich with the best of the country’s juniors taking part in the English Cross Country Championships.

At the end of September the season started for local clubs with the Goodwood cross-country relays and the intervening period has seen league races, county, area and national championships.

Once again the intermediate age group shone for Sussex, and for Chichester in particular, as local runners made up half the scoring team, enabling Sussex to scoop bronze medals from among the 44 counties taking part.

With Chichester-based and other local athletes making a major impact, this has been the best overall performance by Sussex as a county for many years and Saturday’s showing at Norwich was no exception.

Once again the intermediate age group shone for Sussex, and for Chichester in particular, as local runners made up half the scoring team, enabling Sussex to scoop bronze medals from among the 44 counties taking part.

Will Broom, whose preparations had been geared for this race, was unlucky to be struck down with illness in the week leading up to the day but ran well nevertheless to finish 64th.

Leo Stallard continued his run of form to finish 89th and the third local athlete was Ethan Fincham, winner of the first race in this year’s schools Corporate Challenge in Chichester a month ago.

Another feather in the cap for this Sussex team is that they scooped the prize for being the first county to have all their eight runners to finish in 134th place.

In the girls’ intermediate race, Olivia Wiseman was nearly first Sussex runner home. Starting at the back of the pen, Wiseman scythed her way through the field and was left with only county champion Almi Nerurkar ahead of her in 49th, with Wiseman 56th.

Running for Hampshire, another Corporate Challenge schools winner, Ellie Farrow, finished a fine 14th while Seaford College student Olivia Macdonald, running for Surrey, finished 64th.

Elsewhere there was a good performance from Ethan Ward in the junior boys’ race making 84th while Brodie Keates and Grace Wills battled hard in the most competitive age group of all, the senior event, in 261st and 171st respectively.

* While the older age groups were in action at Norwich, the youngest age groups had their first experience of inter-county competition at Reigate.

Chichester’s Joe McLarnon was best placed, though he was running for Hampshire as a student at Ditcham Park finishing 13th in the Year 7 race followed by Bishop Luffa student Oliver Fuller in 56th.

Twins Isobel and Eva Buckler were 52nd and 53rd in the same age group while Nina Moranne was one place lower in the Year 8 race.

One consolation for all runners at this event was that the other four counties competing, Surrey, Essex, Kent and Hampshire, are the strongest quartet of counties across the UK.

Road races round up

Generally recognised as one of the fastest course in the south, the Eastleigh 10k attracted its usual strong field of nearly 2,500 runners, although strong winds on the day hampered the quest for fast times.

Now in the over-40 age group, James Baker led the club home in a season’s-best time of 32.24 in 17th place.

Both other Sussex top veteran runners were also in the field – Neil Boniface from Horsham and Howard Bristow from Brighton & Hove – so Baker had to settle for third over-40 spot.

Conrad Meagher was not far behind in 37th in 34.16 while Rebecca Moore had another fine sub 35-minute run to be third female home in 34.49.

Moore was back in action a week later in the Mel’s Milers 10k at Horsham and very nearly repeated her feat from earlier in the year when she finished runner-up in the whole race.

James Collins from Haywards Heath fended off the Chichester athlete with the next male finisher a distant 50 seconds away in third.

There was one category winner for Chichester at Eastleigh, however, when Jane Harrop scooped the over-55 veteran prize with a fine time of 40.48, quicker than the majority of men in the race finishing overall in 312th place out of a massive 2406 finishers.

Nowhere is James Baker more at home than running along the footpaths and hills of the South Downs, as those who have witnessed his Chichester Half Marathon performances will testify.

So the 20-mile off-road Jog Shop race on Sunday presented no problems, although the margin of victory must have surprised even Baker himself.

Starting from Brighton Marina, the course zig-zags up to the cliffs above and continues to undulate throughout most of its course.

Baker finished in 2hr 5min 51sec, a respectable time for a standard half marathon for the majority of runners.

Exactly eight and a half minutes later the second finisher crossed the line, a good county-standard competitor James Turner from the Brighton & Hove club and it was more than ten minutes later that the third finisher crossed the line in 2.24.59.

This was part of Baker’s preparations for a spring marathon so the endurance part of his training looks to be right on track.

* Chichester Runners can now claim to have a link to a newly-set world record as American doctor Chris Zablocki set a new indoor world record for the marathon with a time of 2hr 21min in New York at the weekend.

For obvious reasons the distance is rarely run indoors as it comprises nearly 210 laps of a standard 200m track, more a test of mental will than simple running stamina.

Zablocki worked at St Richard’s Hospital in 2016 and is remembered for his scintillating record-breaking run in last year’s Corporate Challenge series as well as finishing runner-up in the South of England cross-country championships.

PHIL BAKER

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