Chichester runners help Sussex shine at Birmingham

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TEN local athletes joined the Sussex team for the UK inter-county cross-country championships at Birmingham – and helped their county record their best day in the history of the event.

With athletes from Wales and Scotland joining those from across England’s counties and regions, competition was the strongest it could be in each of the ten races.

Overall Sussex finished a superb sixth among 43 teams, their highest placing, with Observer-area local athletes playing an important part.

With each county fielding its top eight athletes, the 300 or so in each race were all of a high standard so finishing inside the top 100 was a feat.

The best placing from a Chichester runner was a fine 18th from Harry Leleu in the under-15 boys’ race as he led home the Sussex team in the absence of county champ Billy White (Phoenix).

Leleu has made such strides this winter that his time of 15.16 was just 30 seconds from an individual top-three placing. Josh James was 97th, a return to form after a below-par run in the English national championships.

Team-wise Sussex finished sixth on 156 points.

The most successful Sussex team were the under-17 women, with Chichester accounting for three of the eight-strong team. With three runners in the top 30 Lizzie Keep from Lewes AC and Chichester’s Beth Garland battled for the fourth scoring spot with Garland losing out by one place and one second. In the end Keep joined the other three scorers for a superb team silver, with Garland just missing out.

Close behind was Georgina Warner in 81st and with Lucy Thraves 187th. All three are members of Chichester’s county championship-winning team, who can be proud of their season.

For the under-15 girls Rose Ellis flew the flag for Chichester in 199th place in another Sussex squad to achieve a top-ten finish in eighth spot.

Saskia Gardam and Josh Eeles, making first appearances at the national event, acquitted themselves with credit, with Gardam fifth Sussex scorer in 169th and Eeles 240th in the under-13s.

The experience they gained from having to start at the back of a team pen and fight through the field will stand them in good stead.

Two Midhurst athletes were in action in the senior women’s race.

Sussex champion Emma Macready has surprised everyone over the winter with her fine performances and achieved her best-ever finish on the national stage with an inspired run in 14th place to lead the Sussex women home in seventh, their best placing for several years.

Emily Alden was fourth scorer in a strong Surrey team who finished fourth.

PHIL BAKER