Another year of Chichester Corporate Challenge road races ended with the 2,500-runner milestone being passed in this year’s series.
It’s a record number for the event in its 26th year and the 2017 action ended on another fine evening when almost everyone crossed the finishing line in daylight.
From modest beginnings in 1992 with a senior-only series for around 250 runners a night, the event has caught the imagination of schools, sports clubs and local businesses.
When juniors were introduced into the programme in the late 1990s, a single race was sufficient – this year there have been six separate races each night to accommodate around 500 young competitors.
Crowds saw the youngest-ever winner of the senior A race with 15-year-old Portsmouth-based Lachlan Wellington too strong for the rest of the field to cross the line in first place, only a year after breaking the record on the junior course.
Primary schools races
Once again it was the mass charge of the Year 6 boys who got the evening under way with the first three boys setting the three fastest times of the series.
It was win number three for Fionn O’Murchu from Bishop Tufnell ahead of Max Sydenham from Fishbourne and improving Harvey McGuiness in third, who sealed a series win for his Bosham team.
It was a similar story in the girls’ race with Camelsdale duo of Ailsa Newton and Evie Pickford sandwiching Ellie Jefkins from Downview, repeating the result of two weeks earlier – although all three girls set faster times. Camelsdale were convincing series winners.
The secondary girls’ race had a new winner: Nicole Ainsworth from Portsmouth, the 2016 national junior cross-country champion.
Having run previous winner Ellie Farrow from Ditcham Park very close in the opening Corporate race, Ainsworth had things her own way this time in the absence of her main rival.
In her Year 9 age group the next two places were taken by Maggie King from Bishop Luffa and Sophie Lambourne from Felpham CC.
Second home in the whole race was top Year 7 runner Olivia East, daughter of former men’s course record-holder Michael East. She set her fastest time for the series at 7.11 ahead of Cerys Dickinson from St Philip Howard.
Top Year 8 runner was Isabelle Brydon from Portsmouth Academy ahead of Nian Moranne from Bishop Luffa, while Rosie Sloane from Mayville High just beat Caitlin Brown from Felpham CC for top spot in the Year 10 race.
With the Year 9 and 10 boys running an extra lap, first to cross the line in the secondary boys’ race were talented Year 7 athletes Joe Mclarnon from Ditcham Park and Cameron Walker-Powell from Mayville High.
The pair have occupied the same top-two places all series and are the only two to have beaten the seven-minute barrier for the three-lap course during the series.
Adam Robinson from Bourne CC once again got the better of Josh Fawcett from PGS and Seamus McCormack from St Philip Howard in the Year 8 race.
There was another fine tussle between top Year 9 runner Liam Dunne from Bohunt and Year 10’s Alex Mani from St Philip Howard. But the overall winner was Ethan Fincham from Angmering School, who repeated his convincing outright four-lap win from the first race.
There was another new name on the winners’ roll of honour with 2016 junior winner Lachlan Wellington from Portsmouth stepping up to win the senior race after a blistering last lap.
The under-17 South of England champion and national runner-up has been in sparkling form all season and set a new course under-17 record to win by two seconds in 13min 27sec from Brighton Phoenix runner Max Pickard, with Ed Dodd from RGP in third.
Another new name from Portsmouth took the honours in the women’s race with Charlotte Bowsher having a 17-second margin over previous winner Rhiannon Dunlop.
Two more Hampshire-based athletes, Anya Pigden and Corin Bearpark, occupied the next two places and cemented their places.
Team-wise there was another win on the night for DSTL Portsdown while Chichester Youth were back to winning ways in the sports category. DSTL Ladies and Bishop Luffa girls came out on top in the female corporate and sports categories.
* Next week’s Observer will feature the series medallists, both individual and teams, as well have having a full report on the Sussex Road Relays last Saturday at Christ’s Hospital School, where Chichester athletes won a host of medals.
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