Chichester’s team of young athletes are champions for the third time in five years after producing a thrilling display to overturn a big points deficit in their final match.
They clinched their National Young Athletes League title at the Mountbatten Centre, Portsmouth, despite going into the match trailing league leaders Camberley by 82 points and a strong Bournemouth team by more than 70.
Chichester knew only a season’s best showing would secure the title – and that’s exactly what they delivered.
After a quarter of the 80 events across six age groups, the gap had shrunk to 40 points with Chichester leading, Camberley and Bournemouth neck and neck for second and Portsmouth fourth.
It looked for a time as if Chichester would win the match but not by enough to take the title.
But in the final 20 events a Chichester surge, capped by fine relays, saw them win by more than 120 points on the day and top the final table by more than 40 points.
With 54 athletes in the squad, outstanding teamwork was matched by fine individual performances.
In the under-17 women, 12 Chichester athletes amassed 211 points, a club record and, it is believed, a record for any club in the country.
Alex Fryday set the standard with two good second places in the sprints before a triple-jump win.
Hurdles pair Kezzia Turner and Clare Fraser scored maximum points in the 80m and 300m while middle-distance pair Nicola Mead and Lucy Ellis repeated the success in the 3,000m with Mead notching a double in the 1,500m supporting Emma Maynard, winner of the A string, while Molly Peel completed the track events with Maynard in the 300m.
Rea Briggs and Sophie Barrett were in action in the jumps and Alice James, Ma’ime Bradbury and Portia Wilson-Smith added valuable points in the throws.
Just as impressive were the under-15 girls, for whom another 12 athletes impressed.
Sprinters Sophie-Anne Haigh, Zoe Nunn and Abbie Moss set the scene with a string of second places.
Middle-distance quartet Tara Bage, Holly Beaton, Charlotte Reading and Molly Whatmore kept up the standard, Reading’s A string 1,500m victory the highlight.
Jess Breach and Jade Bailey gained near-maximum points in the hurdles while Rhiannan Phelps and Alex Jarrold scored a shot putt double with Sophie Shergold on form in the javelin.
Jarrold teamed up with Amy Brown for two personal bests in the high jump before Brown capped a good team performance with a pole vault win.
The under-13 girls picked up useful points with Maddie Smith a fine second in the 800m and Alyssa White setting two PBs in the 75m and 150m supported well by Megan McCullogh and Emily Guiry.
Katie Haynes and Anna Haynes proved a good 1,200m pairing with Abbie Pillans and Amelia Freeman completing the squad in the 800m, hurdles and high jump.
Strongest boys’ age group were the under-15s, who dropped just 28 points out of 210 from 15 events.
Collins Alfred set the ball rolling with wins in the 100m and 200m, with James Amos and Max Newton ensuring maximium points in the B strings.
Another double was gained by Sam Pillans and Casey Keates in the 800m while Ed Gerwat and Zac Hurst were just edged out in the 1,500m.
New member Andrew Bysouth kept up the standard with a high-jump win with Pillans completing a double while Amos and Keates had a near-perfect record in the long jump.
Part of the secret of the club’s success this season has been in the all-round standard of the athletes across track and field and this was epitomised in the prformances of Peter Thomas in shot putt, discus and hammer to produce Chichester’s only maximum 27-point haul of the day.
Jake Pillans and Ollie Poole showed great team spirit with 17 points added as B strings.
There were good performances from the under-17 men but with only six athletes able to compete there were several events not covered.
James McKenzie’s solo 800m in just outside two minutes stood out but there were fine performances from Josh James and Jaiden Jackson over 3,000m, 1,500m and steeplechase while Danny Graham supported McKenzie in the 800m with Henry Matthews-Smith and Tom Ackerman on good form in the 100m, 200m and 400m.
There was a weakened under-13 boys’ team but their 43 points were crucial in the final reckoning.
Middle-distance specialists Brodie Keates and Ben Collins were joined by all-rounders Elliott Eade and Archie Ayling with youngest member Ethan Brown proving his worth in the 75m and relay.
Match result: 1 Chichester 788; 2 Bournemouth 662; 3 Camberley 657; 4 Portsmouth 583; 5 New Forest 402; 6 Havant 301.