In a fixture rearranged at the last minute, Sussex cross-country runners returned to Stanmer Park, Brighton, for the second Sussex League fixture.
After recent heavy rain, the Lancing course was deemed unfit by the Worthing parks department and it was only the quick thinking of the Brighton and Worthing clubs which enabled the races to go ahead at a different location.
The day’s racing was equally as competitive as in the previous fixture with the added challenge of the runners having to negotiate heavier strength sapping ground.
However on a day of unrelenting rain, the Chichester squad of just under 50 fought well in all age groups and with one exception have consolidated their positions at the halfway stage of the programme.
With the return of Harvey McGuiness, on schools duty for the first fixture, Chichester fielded their strongest A team and were rewarded with third place, moving them up in the standings into bronze position at the halfway stage.
Hal Edgar brought the team home in ninth place with McGuiness in tenth and Fionn O’Murchu 15th to give the trio 4 points.
Reserves Josh Dunne and Samuel Tonks ran well for the B team in 32nd and 46th positions, impressive as both athletes have another year in the age group.
Just two of the club’s under-13s were in action with Isabel Isitt and Grace Eminson finishing 25th and 33rd, both good performances in their first season of competitive club running.
Chichester were back to full strength in the under-15 girls’ group with the Bishop Luffa School cup trio back in league action. In an age group with has been dominated by national champion Beth Cook for the past couple of seasons, the Bodyworks Eastbourne athlete was soon striding out in front but a large competitive chasing pack was occupying the next 15 or so places.
Always prominent in this pack, Olivia Toms showed good form in finishing fifth and was chased hard by Isobel Buckler in sixth.
Eva Buckler was 12th to make up a combined score of 23 points, lifting Chichester up the rankings into fourth place after two matches, close on the heels of third place.
Cerys Dickinson and Tamsin Anelay ran well for the B team in 22nd and 25th, showing good depth in this age group.
The under-15 boys’ age group is another where the standard in Sussex is particularly strong at present and Joe Mclarnon did well to finish 14th in a close-packed race with Gabe White 20th and Bradley Holder 43rd.
Even though a top-three placing is likely to be out of reach, a solid team eighth place was a good reward for their efforts.
In the absence of Liam Dunne, who was third in the first race, Ned Potter had the race of his season so far with an excellent fourth place. Potter was always up with the leading pack and was beaten only by an experienced Hastings pair and a Lewes athlete at the finish.
Alfie Spurle returned to the team for a good 21st with Harry Sage completing the scoring in 24th and reserve David Bisatt 27th. Team wise, Chichester still lie third although the gap to the chasers is now smaller.
As usual the league programme started with the under-11 races where Chichester’s girls were in especially fine form.
Carrie Anelay was first home for the club on this occasion in fifth place, closely followed by Florence Ingram in seventh with Millie Isitt 18th and Martha Eminson 25th.
For the boys, Sam Cato in 25th just beat Digby Fulford in 27th with Finlay Holder completing the squad in 37th.
Senior women’s race
A good field lined up for the senior women’s race which once again saw university student Alice Wright settle into the leading pack of half a dozen athletes early on over the tough, demanding 5k course.
There was good packing again from Alice Cox-Rusbridge in 23rd and Maggie King in 29th with King fifth in her under-17 age category. Sophie Wright battled hard to bring the A team quartet home in 52nd place for a total of 108 points to keep the team in a comfortable mid-table place of fourth in division one.
Under-20s Florence Smith and Rachel Laurie ran stride for stride for most of the race to finish 62nd and 64th while special mention goes Sarah Morris who completed the scoring for the B team in 75th.
Amazingly this was the second race of the day for Morris, who in the morning had lined up in the Worthing Sisters 10k. Not content to opt for the shorter 5k option and jog round the Worthing course, Morris won the 10k race then travelled to Brighton for the afternoon.
Chichester’s women’s B team at Stanmer Park finished a creditable eighth in division two and had reserve Nadia Anderson finishing in 77th place and Amanda Godfrey 93rd.
Senior men’s race
The one disappointment of the day for Chichester was a last place in division one for the senior men’s team. The result leaves them seventh overall out of the eight teams in the division – and with two relegation places, Chichester are in the drop zone at the halfway stage.
Already fielding a weakened team, the club’s fortunes were not helped by the withdrawals of Ben Collins and Simon Ludlam during the race with both in Chichester’s scoring six at the time.
Evergreen James Baker was again first home for the club, scything through the field to finish ninth, a fine achievement in a top-class field with many high-quality club athletes in his wake.
St Mary’s College student Ben Morton was a very good 28th with Chichester University’s Joe Godwood 31st.
It was left to three of the club’s veterans to salvage things and keep the club in with a chance of retaining their top-flight spot.
Steve Davy did well to finish 91st with over-50 duo of Paul Stallard and Tim Brown completing the scoring in 140th and 143rd.
Chichester did have the consolation of fielding a complete B team with Tom Blaylock in 165th followed by Richard Ayling in 168th, Wim Amir 185th and
John Betts bringing the squad home in 186th.
* Several of the club’s juniors will be in action this Satuday at Oxford for the first of the season’s representative competitions, the South of England Inter-Counties. After that, there is a four-week gap of competitive cross-country action before the Sussex Championships at Little Common, Bexhill, on Saturday, January 5.