VIDEO: Chichester pick up Sussex cross-country medals

In perfect racing conditions, the best cross-country runners from Sussex and Hampshire battled for medals at Goodwood at the county cross-country relay championships.

The opening cross-country fixture of the season always provides exciting racing and this year was no exception with Chichester coming away with two team golds and one silver plus a new lap record in one of the veteran age groups.

The under-13 race at Goodwood / Picture by Kate Shemilt

The under-13 race at Goodwood / Picture by Kate Shemilt

Now in its 14th year, the event has seen many promising athletes on the undulating Goodwood course, including two of the Great Britain team at this year’s world championships in Beijing, Charlie Grice and Steff Twell.

Junior races

This year’s junior races were the best in quality and depth since the event started in 2002 with nearly 250 of the top juniors on the south coast in action in the under-13s and under-15s.

In the under-15 boys’ race, Chichester had the best hopes of a medal following a fine performance the previous week at the South of England road relays at Aldershot.

Now in its 14th year, the event has seen many promising athletes on the undulating Goodwood course, including two of the Great Britain team at this year’s world championships in Beijing, Charlie Grice and Steff Twell.

Strengthened at Goodwood by the return of Will Broom after injury, Broom was given the all-important first leg of 2,800m. Easing clear of the pack on the opening downhill stretch with just one other athlete for company, Broom continued to pile on the pressure and just pipped his Hastings rival at the finish to give Harry Sage a narrow lead.

Such was the quality of the two first-lap runners that their times of 9.00min and 9.01 were at the time second and fourth on the all-time list.

Sage kept pace with the rest of the Sussex runners on leg two but all of them had to give way to an inspired run from Lachlan Wellington, running for guest club Portsmouth, who obliterated the course record by 12 seconds with a time of 8.32.

On the final leg at Goodwood, Ben Collins set off in pursuit of Portsmouth nearly a minute ahead and with nearest Sussex challengers just a single second back.

Sensibly not trying to go too fast over the first half of his lap, Collins had distanced himself from the other Sussex athletes with 1,000m left and was gradually eating into the Portsmouth lead.

Finishing strongly he swept past his rival with 600m to run and broke the tape withmore than ten seconds in hand in a time of 8.46 to put him third on the all-time list.

Chichester now have four athletes on the all-time list with Broom equal fourth, Harry Leleu eighth with 9.03 and James McKenzie tenth with 9.10.

Chichester’s strength in depth in this age group was shown by Jeremy Sharp, Ned Potter and Luke Kearns combining well in the B team and JJ Staples and David Bissatt setting good times for the C team.

There was another great run from local athlete Olivia Wiseman, running for Portsmouth, in the under-15 girls’ race with a 9.56 clocking putting her equal fourth on the all-time list.

Chloe Croad and Caitlin Brown ran well for Chichester and will be pleased to have Wiseman in Chichester colours for the Sussex League fixture at Goodwood in a couple of weeks.

As usual the meeting started with the under-13s, with Maggie King, Nina Moranne and Nicole Boltwood finishing tenth in a very competitive girls’ race with the B team of Gracie Bradley-Roberts, Amelia Bromell and Rose Potter in 17th.

The boys were led off by James Gardam, Owen Thomas and Douglas Smith for the A team, finishing tenth, but such was the quality of the field that in most other years their time would have earned them a top-five finish. The B team of Tom Hartley, Leo Stirzaker and Archie Farquhar were in 16th with Jake Farquhar and Max Jeffkins posting good times for the C team.

Under-17s

Keeping up Chichester’s fine tradition in the under-17 age group of recent years, the club added another team gold to their impressive collection over recent years.

Having already shown promise at the Aldershot relays, the team welcomed back Amber Westron who joined Grace Wills and Saskia Gardam in the A team.

Setting off with the seniors, Wills was given the first leg and excelled herself to finish third overall and lead the rest of the under-17 teams and post the equal best Sussex time of the day with 15.19 for the tough 4,000m senior lap.

Gardam kept up the pace and increased Chichester’s lead over pre-race favourites Hastings to nearly one minute, a gap which Westron maintained to the finish to give Chichester their second team gold of the day.

Karina Bennett and Katie Hains showed good form for the B team. Adam Croad and Sam Reading ran well in the under-17 men’s race but injuries and illness meant the club were not able to field a complete team.

Seniors and veterans

With seniors and veterans running at the same time, team managers were presented with a dilemma as to which combination of athletes would bring the most success.

Chichester’s decision to bring veteran Jane Harrop into the A team paid off as she, Rose Ellis and Charlotte Reading gained a well-deserved silver medal in the senior race.

With Ellis in her first year in the under-20 age group she returned to form with probably her best race since last year’s cross-country season. She led the opening lap with authority and handed over in first place with a time of 14.32 which proved to be the third fastest of the day.

Harrop maintained Chichester’s lead with a new lap record for the over-55 age group in 15.36 but ominously holders Worthing & District Harriers were moving through the field and had county cross-country champion and course record-holder Emma Macready on the final leg. Charlotte Reading ran to form for Chichester behind Worthing and held on to gain runners-up spot for the club with a clear 30-second margin over Lewes in third.

The B team comprised under-20s Holly Beaton, Nicola Mead and Sophie Wright and finished 13th, while reserves Maria Wright and Ally Gorton ran for an incomplete C team.

In the absence of James Baker, who was saving himself for a win in the Barns Green Half Marathon the following day, Peter Concannon was given the opening leg for the men’s A team and kept pace with the leading pack and was rewarded with the fifth fastest time of the day, 12.33 in his first race over the course.

Mikey Neville kept Chichester in touch on leg two with two under-20s Casey Keates and Will Kallaway bringing the club home in fifth, less than a minute outside the medals.

There was a mixture of senior and veteran runners in the senior B team with seniors Dave Thistleton and Nick Palmer joined by veterans Colin Harley and Justin Eggins for 12th place.

In the veteran over-40 race Chichester’s quartet finished again just outside the medals in fifth place with consistent runs from Andy Nicholson, Steve Hasler, Steve Davy and John Bullard.

To complete the club’s turnout of more than 50 athletes, the over-60 veterans finished third with Tony Cooley, Martin Miller and Tom Blaylock all breaking the 18-minute barrier.

Cross-country league action starts in just over a week’s time with the first Hampshire League fixture at the picturesque Farley Mount course just west of Winchester on Saturday, October 10. A week later, the second round of action takeas place at Goodwood with hosts Chichester expecting bumper fields in all age groups.

PHIL BAKER

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