A record number of more than 500 of the best cross-country runners in Sussex battled over the tough Goodwood course to put down early markers in the first league match of the season.
With every one of Chichester’s A teams finishing in the top ten in their age group, there were some encouraging early-season performances showing great promise for the championship events later in the season.
As with the Sussex relays, held at the same venue three weeks earlier, Chichester’s under-17s once again provided the highlights with both men’s and women’s teams leading their respective tables.
Over a 5k course, the under-17 women ran with the seniors and were soon to the fore in a Sussex record field of 100-plus runners.
With Worthing’s top senior Emma Taylor-Gooby setting off at a fierce pace and top south of England over-35 Caroline Hoyte in pursuit, Chichester’s Rose Ellis led the next pack with fellow under-17s Hannah Croad, Charlotte Reading and Emma Maynard not far behind.
After the tough 3k woodland lap, Ellis emerged in a clear third, which she maintained, marking the second best Sussex league result from the 15-year-old, beaten only by Linda Spencer who won a Sussex race at the age of 16. Spencer is now setting senior records in Australia having in the past year won the Australian 10,000m championships.
At Goodwood, Croad was having her best ever run to finish as sixth under-17 with Maynard ninth for a team total of 16 points and a clear lead over Brighton & Hove in second.
These three were joined by veteran Jane Harrop in the senior standings with a third place in division one capping a fine day for Harrop, who once again leads the over-45 veteran rankings.
Chichester’s second team were all under-17s comprising Reading in tenth, Nicola Mead 14th and Lucy Ellis 17th, which put them fourth in the under-17 league and third in the second division of the senior league.
The club’s third team also emerged with credit finishing 12th in division two with Linda Roberts 47th, Holly Beaton 64th (19th under 17) and Sandra Nemorin-Noel 99th.
Fresh from a thrilling relay victory in September, Chichester’s under-17 men have a great chance of county honours this season and a chance to shine on area and national stages.
There will be fierce competition from the two Brighton clubs with Brighton & Hove choosing to run their top under-17 Stephen Ferroni in their winning senior team in the relays, where he gained the fastest lap in front of Chichester’s Harry Leleu.
These two continued their battle this time, running stride for stride until the final kilometre of the 5k course, when Ferroni made a burst to gain a clear gap to win in impressive fashion.
Leleu did well to hang on to second place and hold off a fast-finishing Josh Woods, also from Brighton & Hove. Josh James was next for the home club in eighth and a great run from Casey Keates in tenth left Chichester on 20 points, the same as Brighton but top of the table as their third scorer crossed the line first.
There were also good runs from Ed Gerwat in 14th, Harry Pink 23rd and Harry Lyne 26th the give the B team 53 points and sixth team placing.
While their women counterparts have been promoted twice in the past three seasons, Chichester’s men have been going in the opposite direction plummeting from division one to three in successive seasons.
Missing talisman James Baker, who was running in Devon, 18-year-old James McKenzie repeated his good run in the relays to finish a fine 12th out of a quality field of nearly 200, easily his best result as a senior over the two-lap 8k course.
Aaron Hancock was next to finish in 45th with improving Steve Davy 64th and 15th veteran with university student James Campbell completing the scoring in 71st to give a lead of more than 40 points at the top of division three.
The test for Chichester test will be to see if they can keep up the momentum in the next league fixture at Plumpton College on November 23.
Chichester’s men’s B team also gave a good account of themselves with Dan Stones leading home in 78th followed by Keith Akerman 92nd, Rob Wiggins 98th and Andy Maynard 103rd to finish sixth in division three.
There was extra celebration for Wiggins, embarking on his first full season in the over-60 ranks - he had nearly two minutes to spare over his closest rival in the age group.
Showing their best strength in depth for many years, Chichester fielded a competitive C team with Lee Neumann 110th, Chris Benham 118th, Nick Palmer 131st and club chairman Tom Blaylock 135th. An incomplete D team comprised Colin Harley 150th, Martin Miller 156th and Angus Farrelly 169th.
The day’s action at Goodwood started with a primary schools’ invitation race over 2,000m which saw a number of talented future team members in action.
First away in the league programme were the under-13 girls, where two of Chichester’s newcomers to the age group showed their mettle.
Olivia Wiseman in fifth and Charlotte Bullard in ninth ran well and were followed by Chloe Croad in 19th to occupy the fourth team spot, just one point behind third. Florence Smith in 22nd and Alyssa White (29th) were able reserves.
The boys’ under-13s did take third place on the day, led home by another good performance from Ben Collins in third followed by Leo Stallard in tenth and Harry Smith 19th.
The club’s B team, like Smith, all have another year in the age group and packed well with Harry Sage 21st, Ned Potter 26th and Jeremy Sharp 33rd.
The C team were all newcomers to the club and gave a good account of themselves with Tom Main 37th, Charlie Waldron 41st and Finn Buckingham-Rhyder 45th.
Chichester did not manage any individual top-ten places in two hard-fought under-15 races but good packing meant both A teams finished in the top six and in close contact with the top three in the league.
In the girls’ race, Grace Wills ran a good race to finish 12th followed by Anna Hains in 18th and Olivia Pine 19th for sixth place, while the boys went one better in fifth.
Sam Pink in 18th was just in front of team-mate Brodie Keates in 19th with Adam Croad close on their heels in 22nd. Also making a top-ten spot were the B team with Ben Morton 30th, Sam Reading 31st and Kai Terry 35th.
League action returns to Goodwood on November 9, when the Chichester club will be up against a different set of rivals including some of the very best in the south.
The next Sussex League action is on November 23 when the runners will face a different style of course over the fields around Plumpton Agricultural College just north of the Downs near Brighton.