Chichester’s under-20s too strong for Southampton and Brighton

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Chichester achieved their best ever result in the National Under-20 League at Portsmouth on Sunday with their first-ever win in the competition.

They achieved it fielding most of their English schools representatives as well as the majority of their successful under-17 team.

Against the top teams from the south, Chichester were trying to go one better than the previous match when they gained runners-up spot in front of joint league leaders Brighton but more than 100 points behind a strong Southampton squad.

The match followed the same pattern for much of the day, when there were many points at stake.

Once again the top three teams had pulled clear of the other five squads at halfway with Southampton holding a 15-point lead over Chichester and Brighton.

As the results of some of the field events came in, especially in the jumps where Chichester were dominant, the positions of the top two were reversed and when the relays were about to start at the end of the match Chichester’s lead had grown to 12 points.

Battling displays by all four relay squads kept the club in the hunt but the margin was a mere three points with the result of the women’s triple jump still to be announced.

After a nail-biting few minutes it came through and Chichester were the winners by nine points thanks to Tessa Shipton and Sophie Barrett having amassed 14 points to Southampton’s eight.

The foundation of Chichester victory lay in the teamwork spread across the 37 events.

A solid start is always essential and while new pairing of Curtis Poole and Jack Holder were picking up 14 points in the men’s hammer, Katy Bird and Sophie Atkinson were achieving similar success in the shot with Atkinson winning the B string with her final throw. Then Shipton and Barrett just pipped the men’s result in the hammer.

Charlie Roe was making his first appearance of the season for Chichester and in a top-class long jump competition, Roe improved his best-ever jump to 6.49m – good enough for third place with no fewer than seven out of the 12 competitors jumping in excess of 6.20.

The club’s quartet of 400m hurdlers were first in action on the track and showed commendable team spirit with both Jamie Moore and Evan Stanton for the men and Alex Fryday and Beth Garland for the women picking up top-three placings which were to prove crucial.

Luke Scott partnered Holder in the 100m with Ollie Smith, stepping down a distance in the A string 200m, rewarded with a new lifetime best of 22.3sec.

Roe stepped up to win the 400m in 52.2, just below his best but further proof of the advances he has made this year.

Poole was showing his all-round use to the team with second place in the B string. The middle-distance trio of Callum Adams, Greg Smith and Ollie Pickersgill bravely tackled high-quality fields in all their races with Adams and Smith rewarded with personal-best times.

Horsham-based decathlete Matt Baker was again in top form, winning the hurdles and partnering Roe in a strong high jump event and spearheading the throws.

Moore and Roe scored a double win in the pole vault with Moore for once turning the tables on his Southampton rival with a 3.90m clearance, just 10cm below his best.

For the women Fryday and Atkinson spearheaded the sprints while Bird was another athlete to drop down a distance with a good second place in the 400m.

Perhaps the surprise result of the day for Chichester’s women was the dominant win of Lucy Thraves in the 800m with Garland also winning the B string and then partnering Georgina Warner for another win in the 1,500m B string.

A more expected result was the double win in the long jump with Katie Hardcastle continuing her fine season with a 5.20m winning distance, with Isobel Brown winning the B string after dominating the high jump with 1.69cm.

To cap an excellent all-round performance the relays lived up to expectations with third places for the two 4x100m squads of Fryday, Atkinson, Shipton and Hardcastle for the women and Smith, Bradley Hellyer, Jean Luc Kondabeka and Connor Whitfield for the men.

The women’s 4x400m saw Chichester give the all-conquering Southampton quartet a run for their money with Bird, Brown, Garland and Warner just being overtaken near the end.

In the final event a new all-time Chichester club record was set with Smith, Baker, Moore and Roe chasing Southampton all the way to be rewarded with a time of 3min 29.5sec, knocking a tenth of a second from the club’s best.

PHIL BAKER