Chichester athletes can’t quite rule on Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill Fields are a beautiful setting for the south of England championships

Parliament Hill Fields are a beautiful setting for the south of England championships

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A smaller Chichester squad than usual made the journey to Parliament Hill Fields - but were rewarded with some fine performances in the South of England Cross-Country Championships.

From an area stretching from East Anglia right through the home counties to Cornwall, a position in the top 100 of any race is no mean achievement.

An indication of the standard can be seen with James Baker just failing to make the top 50, finishing 62nd.

Going well over the first six miles of the nine-mile strength-sapping course, Baker was the leading Sussex athlete for much of the race but just faded over the final three-mile lap to allow Sussex championship runner-up Ben Warren the honour of being first Sussex runner home in 41st place.

Next home of local interest was Jonathan Worcester, running for his work team Metropolitan Police in 133rd. This represented a remarkable comeback for an athlete who a year ago was rushed to hospital needing an emergency operation.

Another returning to form as a senior was Chris West in 238th. Having enjoyed a fine junior career including a fifth place as an under-13 in the national championships, West is training hard to recapture his early form in the senior ranks.

Tony Radice, who has been running with the club for only a few weeks, finished in the top 500 – followed closely by club chairman Tom Blaylock, while two of the club’s over-60 veterans, John Betts and Terry Slade, ran well to finish in the top 1,000, the latter deserving special mention being just a few months short of his 70th birthday.

In the senior women’s race, Fay Cripps had the best run of her career with an impressive 58th position just seven places behind Holly Wheeler of Hastings, winner of the Sussex Cross-Country League race at Goodwood earlier in the season. Midhurst schoolteacher Emily Alden was 29th running for home club Epsom and Ewell.

Several of the club’s juniors choosing to have a week’s break from racing to avoid burn-out later in the season, but there were good runs from Harry Lyne in the under-13s. His 75th place was the highest of the day.

A trio of under-15s were led home by Harry Leleu in 76th and just three seconds later by Josh James in 84th, such is the close packing in such a competitive race. A mere 20 seconds further back in 115th was George Dempster. All three athletes have another year in the age group.

With Dan Eeles returning to form after injury, the quartet look to have a great chance of gaining Chichester’s highest team position in 2012 when the championships will be held in Brighton, their first appearance in Sussex for 47 years.

PHIL BAKER