Sussex’s top cross-country runners battle for Goodwood honours

The under 13s' race in full swing at Goodwood Photo by Louise Adams
The under 13s' race in full swing at Goodwood Photo by Louise Adams
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The best cross country runners from across Sussex gathered at Goodwood for the county relay championships - a decade after the event was first held there.

Fielding more than 60 athletes, host club Chichester Runners & AC picked up an array of Sussex medals but had to wait until the final two events to snatch gold in the senior veterans’ category.

In the junior under-15 race, Chichester showed great strength in depth filling no fewer than five of the top 16 places in the combined boys’ and girls’ race, which promises much for the coming season.

Saskia Gardam led off the girls’ A team with the third-fastest time of the day, a 10.31 clocking for the hilly 2,800m course.

Midway through the second leg, Rose Ellis strode into the lead with last year’s champions Hastings in hot pursuit.

Saving their best athlete until last, the Hastings runner just got the better of Tara Bage on the anchor leg to leave Chichester with silver - with their B team of Charlotte Reading, Holly Beaton and Sophie Shergold just 14 seconds from snatching bronze and reserve Amber Westron also putting in a solid individual leg.

With all last year’s winning under-15 boys’ team having moved up to the under-17s, the new crop had a chance to give a good account of themselves.

They managed to fill three of the top eight places with all nine athletes finishing within 45 seconds of each other.

Casey Keates led the A team with 9.51 - Chichester’s fastest time, in second place.

Ed Gerwat maintained his position until the end of the lap with Brighton the leaders, Jake Pillans setting off with Brighton Phoenix and Lewes in pursuit with their fastest runners on the final lap.

Chichester had to settle for fifth, less than 30 seconds behind the silver medallists, but they were encouraged by the B team of Sam Pillans, Harry Lyne and Sam Pink being just 20 seconds behind in sixth and the C team of Adam Croad, Zac Hurst and Harry Pink a minute back in eighth.

For the under-13s, all but two of the 16 athletes in action were new to the team and it was a case of an introduction to top-quality county standard athletics for them all.

The girls finished eighth and tenth with Maddie Smith, Chloe Croad and Alyssa White in action for the A team while Megan Courtman, Caitlin Brown and Caitlyn Baird finished less than a minute further back for the B team.

Brodie Keates led the boys’ A team with a good 10.39 opening lap with newcomers Leo Stallard and Lewis Hall finishing well to put Chichester 11th.

Just behind was an excellent scrap between the club’s B and C teams with Ned Potter just failing to catch Olly Baird by a second with Chichester’s equal second fastest time of 11.29.

Harry Smith and Toby Wright had earlier led off for the B team with Kai Terry and Harry Carter in the C team with Huw Wiseman running a good leg as reserve for a non-scoring team.

Chichester’s two oldest veteran categories provided the team golds, but the two under-17 teams gave much to cheer by both winning silver medals over the longer 4,000m loop run in conjunction with the senior race.

James McKenzie provided the under-17 men with a perfect start with a sparkling 12.45 lap, the second fastest of the day in his age group.

Pre-race favourites Brighton Phoenix were less than 30 seconds adrift and a battling run by Josh James kept Chichester in the hunt for gold on leg two.

It was down to Harry Leleu to try to hang on to last year’s county champion Billy White which he did for more than half the lap before having to concede in the final mile to settle for silver.

Consistent performances in the under-17 women’s race enabled Emma Maynard, Hannah Croad and Nicola Mead to battle with county champions Worthing & District Harriers, losing out only on the last 800m.

There was nearly a team medal for the senior team of Beth Garland, Gemma Corbett and Katy Bird who finished fourth, with Lucy Ellis and Debbie Haden running well for the B team.

Veterans Tracy Jayant, Jill Renson and Rachel Austin finished seventh in the over-35 race while Sue Barty, Jane Leonard and Sue Baker brought home gold in the over-45 event.

In the men’s race, Jo Corbett blasted off for a fine 12.12 lap, the fourth fastest of the day and just two seconds off the lead.

But with James Baker concentrating on his preparation for the Barns Green half marathon the following day, Chichester knew they would slip down the field and despite the best efforts from Sam Beale, Justin Eggins and Alan Rowley with Chris Tucker reserve they finished 12th.

The veterans had another great start with Chris Jack setting the equal fastest time of the day on the opening lap for the over-40s.

Terry Slade, Andy Maynard and Tom Blaylock were giving too much away in ages to stay in front with Slade 30 years older than some of his rivals and the team settled for third.

This was the final championship race for Chichester’s super 50s, who have dominated the Sussex scene for the past decade as three of the mainstays are heading to the over-60s age group.

But the quartet gave a fine account of themselves with a second place with Rob Wiggins, Colin Harley, Dave Dorning and Dave Worcester within a minute of each other.

With one prize to be handed out at the end of the day Chichester’s over-60 trio of Jan Hill, John Betts and Peter Shaw deservedly savoured the moment.

PHIL BAKER