Sussex schools championships beckon Chichester’s finest young athletes

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A total of 40 of Chichester’s high-flying juniors represented West Sussex West in the Sussex Schools Athletics Championships at the K2 Stadium in Crawley.

Among fierce competition from the best athletes in the county they emerged with 16 medals – of which seven were gold.

With championship medals up for grabs it was also a chance for athletes to impress the Sussex selectors and make the county team for the English schools event at Gateshead in July. Three athletes emerged with qualifying performances which should ensure selection.

Among the gold medallists, St Philip Howard student Thomas Ackerman caught the eye in the junior boys’ 400m with a convincing victory in 53.9sec, a new club record as well as a personal best and well inside the 54.5sec needed to qualify for Gateshead.

Also on the track was George Grainger in the 400m hurdles. He dipped under 56 seconds for a 55.9sec win.

Izzie Brown, despite losing out in a jump-off, cleared the mark of 1.65m needed for selection and has a clearance of 1.72 already under her belt this season.

Others who emerged as winners but are still short of qualifying performances included Katie Hardcastle and Katy Bird in the senior girls’ long jump and 800m respectively.

In the senior boys’ section consistent pole vaulter Jamie Moore struck gold with 3.80m but with a best of 4m, he is hoping that as top pole vaulter in the county, he will get the nod.

In the intermediate age group, there were wins for Nathalie Godden in the girls’ long jump and James McKenzie in the boys’ 1500m, although both athletes have another year in the age group.

McKenzie was just outside his best with a front-running 4.20.7 clocking while Godden smashed her previous mark with a jump of 5.15m, just 15cm outside the 5.30 needed for English schools selection.

Among those gaining minor medals, Ollie Smith is closest to selection, needing to shave half a second from his best to reach the 49.3sec needed in the senior boys’ 400m. At Crawley, he clocked 50.1sec in one of the best races of the day in second place, which was also achieved by Jack Holder in the 200m as well as pole vaulter Moore in the high jump.

Another athlete to win a second medal was Bird in the senior girls’ 400m to go with gold in the 800.

The other three medallists were all from track events, with Freddie Ranson winning bronze in the intermediate boys’ 400m with 53.9, Callum Adams silver in the 3,000m in the same age group with 10min 34.2sec and Harry Leleu gaining bronze in the junior boys’ 1,500m with a personal best of 4min 36.7sec, which also broke his own Seaford College school record.

There will be another chance for them to shine this Saturday with a southern area inter-counties event at Erith in Kent.

Meanwhile, the main junior section of the Chichester club travel to Watford on Sunday for the final National Young Athletes fixture of the season. We’ll have a report next week.

PHIL BAKER