Mid-table finish leaves Chichester athletes plenty to ponder

Chichester Runners' SAL team pictured earlier in the season
Chichester Runners' SAL team pictured earlier in the season

A weakened Chichester squad found the going tough in their final Southern Athletics League match of the season at Portsmouth.

They had to battle against promotion certainties Bournemouth as well as top-five clubs Winchester and hosts Havant.

The result sees them just slip into the lower half of the table and the season as a whole was a question of what might have been.

Event for event, Chichester’s men and women have been more than a match for the other 15 clubs in the division, but the handicap of fielding an incomplete team, especially in the women’s match, left them too much to do.

The highlight of the season was in May at Poole where Chichester won the match by 100-plus points, followed by a runners-up spot at Winchester in June. But the last two matches in July and August have seen the club slip from being possible promotion candidates at one stage.

Team managers Phil Baker and Tim Brown are hopeful the promising signs from the 2017 squad will enable t a concerted challenge to rival the top clubs next season.

With promising teenagers and experienced seniors and veterans, Chichester have cause to be optimistic about the future of their senior track and field team.

At the end of the club’s 24th season in senior track and field leagues, they are saying farewell to an all-rounder who has become a mainstay of the team and the coaching structure, Chichester University lecturer Phil Kearney, who is returning to his native Ireland.

Injuries have prevented the former decathlete from showing all his talents but there were indications he may be on his way to recapturing his multi-event form with a pole vault win at Portsmouth coupled with second place in the high jump. He also helped form a fine men’s throwing trio with team-mates Tim Brown and Andy Hall.

The three did not have things all their own way in the final match – Bournemouth and Havant are recognised as two of the strongest throwing clubs in the south. Coming up against throws of 15m-plus in the shot and 40m in the discus was not easy but the combination of two evenly-matched Chichester athletes in each of the four throwing events meant a good points haul was achieved.

There was more success in the middle-distance races with Will Boutwood notching up a couple of A-string wins over 800m and 1500m.

In particular the men’s 800m was a fine sight for the club with three Chichester athletes leading the rest of the field down the home straight in splendid isolation.

Boutwood won with a new lifetime best of 2.00.4 followed by Ben Collins with a season’s best of 2.02.8, with new member Ethan Hartley just behind in 2.03.6 as a non-scorer.

Boutwood was joined by Ben Morton in the 1,500m in a tactical race with virtually the whole field staying together until the last lap, when Boutwood produced a fine turn of speed to win outright. Morton won the B string for another maximum-points tally for the club.

There was good sprinting from Brandon Bell and Dean Young over 100m and 200m.

Ethan Brown returned to action by equalling his best of 2.90m to win the B-string pole vault while Alfie Spurle picked up good points in long and triple jumps.

For the women’s team, sprint pair Holly Beaton and Renae Brown battled well to pick up good points including a couple of B-string wins, while new member Georgia Dorney had a good long jump in her first competition for the club as well as showing a nice turn of speed over 100m.

Throws pair Lucie Munday and Jean Tadd were in action in discus and javelin with Munday again close to 30m in the discus and Tadd bravely making a return to the sport 40 years after her last competition.

Mention must be also made of distance runner James Baker. He was a member of Chichester Runners’ first ever track and field athletics team who competed in the opening match of the season in May 1994 and has been ever-present over the 24 years.

From a very raw 16-year-old, Baker has gained a lot of success locally and farther afield in all aspects of the sport from athletics to road running, especially in tough off-road events, culminating in more than 600 victories in all competitions, a feat which is virtually unparalleled in British athletics.

Last Saturday the 40-year-old opted for just the 5,000m, where he allowed the Winchester A-string runner to take an early lead before reeling him in to win by more than half a lap in a time of 15.48 in blustery conditions on the exposed Portsmouth track.

What had Baker done in the morning to prepare? An easy parkrun in under 16 minutes!

League table

Match points League points

1 City of Plymouth 866 16

2 Bournemouth AC 920 15

3 City of Salisbury 869 13

4 Team Dorset 766 13

5 Winchester & District 777 12

6 Guildford & Godalming 692 10

7 Swindon Harriers 686 10

8 Chichester Runners & AC 679 10

9 Havant AC 647 10

10 Andover & Overton 516 9

11 Newquay & Par 508 9

12 Exeter Harriers 548 8

13 Worthing & District 535 8

14 Team Kennet 607 7

15 Poole Runners 197 5

16 Fleet & Crookham 112 4

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