West Sussex pupils at excel at cross-country finals

Action from last year's Sussex schools championships - featuring Grace Wills (yellow T-shirt)
Action from last year's Sussex schools championships - featuring Grace Wills (yellow T-shirt)
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With more than 500 competitors from schools and colleges from across Sussex, there was fierce competition in all six races in the Sussex schools cross-country championships held at Waterhall, Brighton.

Local schools were very much in evidence and enormous credit must go to Bishop Luffa for what must be considered the best all-round showing by any local school in the history of these championships.

Credit must go to Bishop Luffa for what must be considered the best all-round showing by any local school in the history of these championships.

They were particularly strong in the intermediate age group with a team win in the girls’ race and an individual winner in the boys’ race, plus runners-up spot in the team competition. And there was a convincing win for sixth-former Grace Wills in the senior girls’ race.

Intermediate

Having been on good form for Chichester Runners at the county championships at Bexhill earlier in the month, Will Broom was full of confidence although he knew he would be in for a battle, especially against a pair of talented Brighton-based runners.

He went out strongly to be in the leading group from the gun and was just behind the leader, Tom Eames from Varndean GS, when the Brighton athlete took a wrong turn. Sportingly Broom called his rival back to minimise his detour but Broom was feeling strong by this stage.

He started to pull clear of the field to finish nearly 100m in front of Tarango from Brighton College and nearly 30 seconds clear of Eames at the finish to record his first major win.

Leo Stallard came home in seventh and with Ned Potter 29th and Adam Long 34th as Bishop Luffa closed in with 71 points and runners-up to a strong Brighton College quartet. JJ Staples was a good reserve in 36th closely followed by Alfie Spurle in 38th while there was an outstanding run from Alex Mani from St Philip Howard in tenth place.

In the girls’ race Olivia Macdonald from Seaford College was a fine runner-up behind Almi Nerurkar from Brighton. What caught the eye was the fine packing of the five athletes from Bishop Luffa.

Although they had only one runner in the top ten, the remaining four runners were spread over just ten places and interest centred on how much distance they could put between them and the final scorers of their two main rivals for the team competition, Steyning Grammar School and Brighton College.

With Alice Cox-Rusbridge finishing in seventh, Imogen Matthews in 14th was followed by Beth Brown 19th, Holly Heffron 21st and reserve Hannah Anwyl 25th for just 61 points from their top four - enough for a fine team win ahead of Steyning on 70 and Brighton College 78.

Seniors

In the senior girls’ race, Grace Wills made up for an absence of any team-mates with the most convincing win of the day.

The Bishop Luffa pupil finished more than a minute ahead of her nearest rival with a fine display of front-running.

Local runners were squeezed out of the top three in the senior boys’ race but there was a competitive showing from Luke Campbell from Bishop Luffa in fourth with Brodie Keates from Felpham CC hot on his heels in sixth.

Ben Morton, in his first competitive race of the season was an excellent 13th, just in front of Zac Hurst from Chichester College in 15th. Callum Easton from Seaford in 21st was followed by Jonny Ball from Bishop Luffa in 22nd.

Without a fourth scorer which would have given Luffa team silver medals, Chichester College took advantage with Jordan Scott in 30th, Jacob Hain 33rd and George Ansell 34th for 122 points and third place.

Junior races

With well over 300 runners in the two junior races for pupils up to school Year 9, competition was always going to be fierce. But Bishop Luffa made a competitive showing in the girls’ event with a fine fourth team spot with 143 points.

Maggie King led the squad home in 19th followed by Nina Moranne in 26th, Hannah Carmichael 47th and Rose Potter 51st with reserves Maya Solly 77th and Leila Karim 96th.

In the same race Nicole Boltwood from Felpham CC finished 28th while Jess Rayner from St Philip Howard in 97th led team-mates Chloe Edwards 99th, Eloise Longhurst 120th and Olivia Bird 123rd home for 21st team spot.

There were two fine individual runs from local students in the junior boys’ race with Ethan Ward from Felpham finishing seventh and James Gardam from Bishop Luffa ninth.

Max Cooke in 80th, Tom Davy 81st and Douglas Smith 83rd finished virtually together to give Luffa a team total of 253 points for 14th place while Seamus McCormack in 79th led St Philip Howard home followed by Ted Hancock 112th, Luke Daniels 113th and Finlay Ellis 141st for 24th team.

There will be another chance for those in the top 20 to impress the Sussex selectors at the south-east regional inter-counties in just over a week, while the top four in each age group will have already booked their places for the English Schools Championships which at Norwich in March.

Sussex Masters cross-county

The standard of veteran athletics is getting better year on year locally and nationally, and this was clearly in evidence at Lancing Manor in the Sussex Masters championships.

This was especially true of the veteran men’s over-40 race where newcomer to the age group James Baker had to settle for a silver medal behind England masters international Howard Bristow of Brighton & Hove.

Baker had beaten his rival in the open senior Sussex championships earlier this month but Bristow returned to form on Saturday to shake his Chichester rival off after battling shoulder to shoulder over the first of three laps on the hilly 8k course.

Indeed the top five home would find themselves high up in any senior race at county level.

Charles Rodmell had one of his best runs of the season in tenth and with Keith Akerman 37th and Justin Eggins 38th, the team total of 87 points was good enough for fifth spot.

In the same race Chichester reserves Gary Williams in 48th, Jason Boswell 49th and Mike Moorcroft in 53rd all ran well.

With the over-50 and over-60 men running in a separate race, all eyes were on Chichester’s over-60s to see if they could maintain their remarkable unbroken record of securing a team medal over a period of almost 20 years - and they could.

The trio of Rob Wiggins, Dave Worcester and Tom Blaylock finished fourth, 12th and 14th respectively for 30 points and the bronze medals, behind very strong Crawley and Brighton & Hove teams.

Wiggins was battling for third himself until the final lap but eventually had to give way to rivals up to four years his junior.

There was also a good showing from the over-60 B team with John Miles 16th, Martin Miller 20th and Jan Hill 22nd,with reserve Peter Shaw 30th.

Simon Ludlam led the over-50s home in 15th with Simon Castrey 25th and John Bullard 28th for a team sixth place, with reserves Dave Reading 43rd and Peter Anderson 47th.

In the women’s race, all three age groups ran together and an over-45, ex-international Caroline Hoyte of Arena 80, led all her younger rivals home.

Chichester’s first runner to cross the finishing line was in-form Helen Dean in 16th place overall but she was just pipped for an over-55 individual medal and had to settle for fourth place in her age group.

With over-45s and over-55s combining for the team totals, Kim Nelson was next home in 17th followed by Amanda Godfey 29th and 7th over-55 to give the team 62 points.

There was a strong showing from the B team with Nadia Anderson 34th, Sue Barty 38th and Sue Baker 46th with reserve Liz Wingham 49th and a team total of 118 points and a place in the top ten.

A number of long-standing Sussex officials believe Chichester mother and son Sue and James Baker created a first for Sussex athletics by being the first family pair from different generations to compete in the Masters championships.

PHIL BAKER

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