Chichester hit track running as new athletics season starts

James McKenzie goes for broke in the 800m at Bracknell  Picture by Sara Ellis
James McKenzie goes for broke in the 800m at Bracknell Picture by Sara Ellis

A fine all-round performance gave Chichester’s men an exciting and narrow win in their opening athletics match of the season at Bracknell.

And a depleted women’s team managed fourth - giving the club third place out of six clubs and a early mid-table position in their division in the Southern League.

The fixture represented the start of Chichester’s 21st season in league athletics, having entered what was then the men-only Southern League in 1994. Chichester started a women’s team in 1999 and in 2011 were one of the first clubs to join the new Southern League catering for men and women in a joint fixture.

In the team of 1994 was a fresh-faced 17-year-old running in the 100m and relay, unable to gain a place in the middle-distance races. His name was and is James Baker and he has been ever-present since and scored countless points and numerous victories.

Baker was again in action on Saturday, running in the 5,000m and steeplechase and while not managing another win against strong opposition, he showed no signs of losing his form.

It was not just a good day for some of the club’s more senior athletes as, apart from over-40 veteran thrower Tim Brown, the rest of the men’s squad comprised eight teenagers and two in their early 20s, beckoning a new era for the senior team.

Decathlete Charlie Roe, 21, had his usual busy day competing in eight individual events plus a relay and gaining 38 points for Chichester.

A good 1.90m winning high jump was matched by another win in the 110m hurdles and close seconds in pole vault and javelin, showing Roe’s superb range of abilities.

He and Brown combined well in shot and discus to score good points after Brown’s very satisfactory hammer throw of nearly 35m.

The other 20-year-old in action was Ollie Smith, who set a new division record with a 49sec clocking in the 400m. Smith stamped his authority on the race from the gun, opening up a clear lead at the 200m mark and having sufficient strength to hold his form against a headwind in the home straight.

For the teenagers, James McKenzie showed good early-season form in the 800m and 1,500ms with Adam Croad and Ed Gerwat supporting well for the B strings.

Baker was joined by Conrad Meagher in the 5,000m and Harry Pink in the steeplechase resulting in a haul of 36 points from the four events.

Collins Alfred ran well against a high standard of competition in the 100m and 200ms while Jake and Zac Hurst teamed up in the 400m hurdles and triple jump - resulting in four runners-up places as well as making sure good points were picked up in the B string pole vault, high jump and long jump.

That went a long way to giving Chichester’s men their narrow victory over strong clubs such as Winchester, Aldershot and hosts Bracknell.

With many of Chichester’s women unavailable, a skeleton squad of six athletes flew the flag for the club comprising three teenagers, one 21-year-old and two veterans.

Two members of Chichester’s under-17 winning winter cross-country squad gave the best results with a near-perfect score in the 1,500m with Rose Ellis just pipped into second in the 1,500m A string with Hannah Croad winning the B string with a new personal best - after the pair had scored well in the 800m.

Multi-eventers Nathalie Godden and Renae Brown had a busy day. Godden showed a welcome return to form after nearly two years of injuries and notched close second places in high jump and long jump as well as showing good form in the 200m and javelin. Brown provided good back-up on the track and in the jumps.

Lastly, one of the club’s coaches, Jenny Nunn, and fellow veteran Sue Baker answered the call to bolster the squad and the 17 points they gathered between them were the difference between Chichester finishing third and not fourth.

Baker bravely tackled the 3,000m on the track and was not put off by the winner, one of Bracknell’s nationally-ranked youngsters, setting a new division record.

Nunn and Baker then made sure the shot, discus and hammer were well covered, which netted 14 of their points.

PHIL BAKER

Team results

Men’s match

1 Chichester 154

2 Winchester 150

3 Bracknell 142

4 Aldershot 90

5 Sutton 83

6 Poole 28

Women’s match

1 Winchester 137

2 Bracknell 126

3 Aldershot 124

4 Chichester 72

5 Sutton 65

6 Poole 32

Combined total

1 Winchester 287

2 Bracknell 268

3 Chichester 226

4 Aldershot 214

5 Sutton 148

6 Poole 60