VETERAN runners in Sussex were able to show their mettle in the Sussex Masters Championships over the demanding Lancing downland course.
Chichester knew that if their in-from runners repeated their recent form, they had chances of bringing home medals.
Happily they did not disappoint as two individual golds, one silver and two sets of team medals represented a fine haul.
In the women’s race, after her ninth place in the senior race at Bexhill in the county championships, Fay Cripps knew she had a chance of a medal in the over-35s masters, but after a heavy recent schedule she was not confident.
As reigning champion, Cripps was content to let others make the early pace around the first small lap led by a determined Hailsham runner.
When the course stretched out into the country on lap two, Cripps gradually stepped up the pace until a pack of six was whittled down to just two and she had clear daylight from the rest of the field.
The rest of the hilly four-mile, three-lap course saw the Chichester athlete pull away with every stride and finish half a minute ahead her nearest challenger and 90 seconds in front of third.
Close behind the top three was Helen Pattinson, another member of Chichester’s silver medal-winning senior team at Bexhill. Pattinson closed in in fifth place and was followed by Linda Roberts in an impressive 14th for a total of 20 points for second team place behind Hailsham Harriers and in front of Brighton & Hove.
Catherine Betts, in her first race in the age group, was a capable reserve in 26th.
The Chichester over-45s and over-55s, competing over the same course and in the absence of Sussex League champion Jane Harrop, were led home by a fine run from Helen Dean, whose 22nd in the combined age group for team scoring brought her a most unexpected individual silver medal in the over-55 age group.
Close behind were Tracy Lockyear in 27th, Sue Barty 30th and reserve Sandra Menorin-Noel in 36th for a team total of 79 points and eighth place in what is probably the most improving age group in Sussex.
In the men’s races, the day started with the combined over-50 and over-60 men’s race where the two age groups were running the same five-mile course but separately for scoring purposes.
Hot favourite was Chichester’s Rob Wiggins in the over-60 age group - he has already sewn up the league title with three straight wins.
Pulled on by the over-50s, Wiggins was first challenged by determined former champion Peter Witcomb from Brighton & Hove and Tony Lintern (Crawley).
After negotiating the first of the two tough laps, Wiggins had shaken off his nearest rivals and created clear daylight.
The same pattern followed on lap two with Wiggins claiming his first county individual gold medal a splendid 47 seconds ahead of the second runner.
Not far behind the top three was Dave Worcester, who’s more at home on the roads but battled throughout to finish a fine fifth.
All eyes were on Chichester’s third scorer to see if they were going to secure a team medal. With Crawley already assured of gold it was a battle between Chichester and the two Brighton clubs for the other medals.
John Betts had expected to be a reserve but found on the start line he was Chichester’s third scorer and he had probably one of the best races of his life to finish 17th for a team total of 23 points, a single point behind Brighton Phoenix for silver but in front of Brighton & Hove for bronze.
The over-50 men’s age group is flourishing in Sussex and Chichester’s squad did well to finish seventh with 64 points. An inspired run by Andy Maynard in tenth was followed by a return to form Chris Benham in 19th and Tom Blaylock in 35th, who just edged out Dave Reading in 39th for the last scoring place.
Racing was completed with the over-40s’ six-mile contest involving three ascents of the steepest part of the hill.
Steve Davy led the way for Chichester and can be well pleased with eighth place in his first season as a serious cross-country runner.
John Bullard in 28th just got the better of Lee Neumann in 32nd with Ashley Hiom bravely sticking at his task in 41st - giving a team total of 109 points for seventh team place.