Chichester’s young guns fire on all cylinders to lift cross-country title

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Chichester retained the Sussex junior team shield in fine style in the Sussex cross-country championships.

The event involved the top athletes in the county battling for medals in perfect conditions at Stanmer Park, Brighton.

The juniors occupied centre stage for most of the day. Chichester were trying to finish as top overall junior club and it was not until the final junior age group, the under-20 men, that they overhauled host club Brighton & Hove to retain their shield by a mere three points.

Chichester were given a great start in the two under-13 races with no fewer than three teams in each.

The girls were led home again by Rose Ellis in a fine sixth place with improving Charlotte Reading on her heels in seventh. A brave run from Holly Beaton in 13th gave the team 26 points behind winners Hastings and a single point behind Crawley in the battle for silver.

Abi Moss and Emily Morley led home the B team, both in the top 30, with Gabby Venebles Kyrk 32nd. Jade Bailey, Beth Rodgers and Zoe Nunn all finished well for the C team, adding another vital point in the chase for the shield.

There was another good display from the under-13 boys with top-ten finishes from Ed Gerwat in seventh and Harry Lyne in eighth and a surprise from Brodie Keates to snatch the final scoring spot.

With Brighton unassailable in the team event, there were four teams in with a chance of the other medals and when Keates hoved into view in the top 20, it was a question of whether he could beat the Phoenix athletes to the line.

Spurred on by spectators, Keates left his rival trailing for team silver medals by a single point.

Another promising youngster, Josh Eeles, led the B team home in 20th and with William Kallaway (24th) and Zac Hurst (27th), they finished seventh team. Good packing from Sam Pink, Oliver Poole and Sam Reading brought tenth place for the C team with Richard Venebles Kyrk in reserve.

The under-15s ran well although the girls produced the biggest surprise of the day. Georgina Warner had been showing excellent form before Christmas and continued her training through weeks of ice and snow, with the rest of the squad.

This paid off as she settled down in the top five from the start with only talented Grace Baker from Hastings able to establish a clear advantage from the rest of the field. Looking stronger as the race continued, Warner looked assured of a top-three place with half a mile to go and produced her best finish to snatch an individual silver.

With the team race looking like a fight between Chichester, Worthing and Brighton, Emma Maynard and Hannah Croad were also having their best-ever runs and were firmly established in the top ten to finish eighth and ninth for a team total of 19 points.

Worthing showed their mettle with two finishers in the top five and it was a nailbiting wait for their third scorer, who crossed the line in 13th to give Chichester an unexpected but well-deserved team gold.

In the same race, Lucy Ellis and Nicola Maynard had top 20 finishes and Alex Fryday brought the team home for eighth place with Georgia Osborn and Clare Fraser reserves.

The unluckiest team of the day were the under-15 boys, who had already lost league winner James McKenzie before the start through illness, then saw Josh James pull out after the first lap with a knee problem.

At the time he was running just behind Harry Leleu and with George Dempster, with all three in the top 15 and looking assured of a team bronze. Leleu continued in fine fashion to finish eighth with Dempster 13th and a good run from Jamie Woolnough in 25th left the team just five points off the medals in fifth place.

Tom Ackerman, star of the indoor team, finished 32nd.

Chichester’s under-17s were disappointing, especially in the boys where the club were without a single finisher for the first time in their junior history. Katy Bird and Lucy Thraves both ran well for seventh and 11th in the girls’ race but were deprived of certain bronze medals by the lack of a third scorer.

With just one junior race to go, there were five clubs vying for the overall shield with Brighton, Chichester, Hastings, Horsham and Phoenix all in contention.

Running over the same arduous course as the senior men, the under-20s had to tackle five miles of strength-sapping terrain. Undeterred by the challenge, Ed Porter, Nick Mahoney, Sam Bryan and Wilf Hill stuck to their task with Porter leading the way home in tenth place in just over 30 minutes. The other three finished well inside the 40-minute barrier to take bronze team medals and snatch the team shield away from Brighton, with Horsham in third.

n We’ll have news of the senior cross-country races next week.

PHIL BAKER