League opener is source of national pride for young Chichester athletes

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A fine performance from a squad of 55 gave Chichester an impressive start in their National Young Athletes’ League campaign at Winchester.

Chichester won the division-one title in 2010, but it was very much a remodelled team which lined up on Sunday.

In particular the under-17s had a new line-up with four of their English schools athletes from 2010 now in the under-20 age group. They were also missing national indoor high jump champion Isobel Brown, who is concentrating on exam studies, but the replacements capably filled the gaps.

Nathalie Godden led from the front with one of two triple wins for the club in the hurdles, long jump and 200 metres. Middle-distance duo Georgina Warner and Lucy Thraves scored a one-two in the 1,500m while Polly Houndscombe bravely tackled the 3,000m.

All-rounder Abi Humphrey ran well on the track and supported first-string Nicola Partridge well in the throws with the squad completed by Sophie Barrett’s triple-jump victory and high-jump best.

There was good early-season sprinting from Davi Guimeres and Curtis Poole while good displays were recorded by the middle-distance quartet of James McKenzie, Callum Adams, Ollie Pickersgill and Jordan Adams.

Riordan Hannan and Jean Luc Kondabeka spearheaded the jumps while the all-round strength of the team was enhanced by Lee Whiston, Anthony Jim and Michael Nunn in the throws.

The under-15s were strengthened by many of last season’s strong under-13s.

Charlotte Reading and Hannah Croad did battle in the 800m while Rose Ellis and Holly Beaton tackled the 1,500m. All four set useful times.

Jess Breach, Kezzie Turner, Zoe Nunn and Eleanor Overton scored good points in the sprints while Lucy Ellis and Jade Bailey recorded personal bests in high and long jumps. Demelza Peake started her throwing season in style and was supported by the rest of the squad.

Collins Alfred notched the club’s second triple maximum with wins in 100m and 200m as well as going over 5m in the long jump for the first time. In all three, James Amos was a capable deputy.

It was a similar story for Ed Gerwat and Harry Lyne in the 800m and Peter Thomas in the throws and Dan Patterson in the javelin.

These six were joined by the four more experienced under-15s with Dan Eeles notching a 15-second improvement on his personal best in the 1,500m with Josh James in support after he had won the javelin. All-rounders George Humphrey and Toby Hindmarsh both produced personal-best performances.

The under-13s deserve great credit as none had previously appeared in a National League match.

Middle-distance runners Saskia Gardam and Emily Morley were joined by sprinter Mia Selman and all-rounders Abbie Moss and Molly Whatmore.

Good sprinting from Joe Jones and James Austin caught the eye, as did impressive middle-distance performances from Zac Hurst, Brodie Keates, Sam Reading and Oliver Poole, while new member Tom Dawtrey tackled hurdles, high jump and shot in his first athletics competition.

Chichester could not match the outstanding strength of hosts Winchester, but they were second ahead of well-established clubs such as Aldershot and Portsmouth.

This weekend sees Sussex track and field county championships at Crawley, where Chichester’s top performers will aim to come away with county medals.

PHIL BAKER