Chichester athletes battle to third place finish at Basingstoke

DJ Barth (vest CC) and Cellan Robinson (C) in action for Chi Runners at Basingstoke earlier in the season / Picture by Lee Hollyer
DJ Barth (vest CC) and Cellan Robinson (C) in action for Chi Runners at Basingstoke earlier in the season / Picture by Lee Hollyer

Chichester faced some stern opposition in their latest Southern Athletics League match – but again fiinished a creditable third out of six clubs, losing out only to two of the top three in the league, City of Portsmouth and City of Plymouth AC.

Missing key athletes as a result of the English schools championships in Birmingham and the Chichester triathlon the following day, the 17-strong squad were more than a match for Team Dorset, Team Kennet and a combined Andover & Overton squad.

Match score

1 City of Portsmouth AC 322pts

2 City of Plymouth 288

3 Chichester Runners & AC 189

4 Team Dorset 186

5 Team Kennet 174

6 Overton & Andover 139

Men’s events

Everyone played their part in the men’s events and virtually all of the 36 events were filled. Credit goes to the two new seniors making their first appearances of the season, Aaron Hancock and James Norris.

Hancock saved the day by completing a virtual decathlon in the space of five hours. Opting for the three difficult track events, the 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles and steeplechase, Hancock backed this up with solid performances in pole vault and triple jump as well as filling in for an absent Tim Brown, team manager for the Sussex schools team at Birmingham, in shot, hammer and javelin.

Norris managed four track events and a long jump, also a valuable contribution, while Hancock’s points tally was an incredible 30, one sixth of the squad’s total.

There were other heroics on the track with Chichester unusually stretched in the middle-distance events because of absentees.

Will Boutwood strode to victory in the 3000m with Ben Collins equally dominant in the B string for the club’s only maximum points of the day and the pair combined well over 1500m with a couple of well-deserved runners-up spots.

At the end of the match with three clubs fighting for third place, Collins stepped in to fill the vacant steeplechase B string and joined Hancock to get the crucial points needed.

Cellan Robinson and DJ Barth made a good sprinting combination while Alfie Spurle joined George Goldsmith over 400m, with Spurle and Barth on form in the high jump and Goldsmith showing potential over 400m hurdles.

Veteran Andy Hall shouldered responsibility in the throws, highlighted by a comfortable hammer win in 37.94, more than 10m ahead of his nearest rival.

There was a breakthrough for Robinson in the shot who, as an under-20, threw a lifetime best of 9.46 with the 7.26kg senior implement.

Women’s events

It was another very young women’s squad representing the club with five under-17s and three under-20s in action, Chichester did very well to remain in contention with the other more experienced clubs.

Rachel Laurie has moved up distances this season and is showing real promise as a 400m/800m runner. Over the 800 she led strongly from the gun and was unlucky to be caught by the Portsmouth athlete right on the line, with both athletes being awarded the same time.

Her 400m prowess was shown at the end of the match with a fast lap in the mixed 4x400m relay.

In the sprints Fleur Hollyer was joined by Emily Russell and Kaci Rowland over 100m with Hollyer’s 13.3sec clocking the fastest of the trio. Elsewhere

Phoebe Pontet ran a good 100m hurdles for second place while 800m runner Nicole Boltwood showed her versatility with good points in long jump and discus.

Brooklyn Santer-Smith, the only specialist thrower on duty, led the shot, hammer and javelin well with support from Florence Smith, who also combined well with Pontet in the triple jump. With Rowland and Laurie picking up valuable points in the high jump, the whole squad can be proud of their efforts.

With just one match to go in this league in the middle of August, Chichester are set to finish above mid-table against opposition from a number of higher-ranked teams.

* There were five local athletes with the honour of representing their county schools in the English schools championships at the weekend.

All five did themselves justice in the highest standard of competition of the annual schools calendar.

Of special interest to Chichester were two from Bishop Luffa School whose head of PE Tim Brown was one of the Sussex team managers. Both Luffa sixth-form pupils achieved fifth places.

Ellie Farrow looked impressive in the senior girls’ 800m heats with a 2min 10sec time, the fastest of the finalists, but she was just edged out of the medals in the final.

Leo Stallard went into a straight final in the senior boys’ 2000m steeplechase and ran a new personal best time of 6.13.11, again just out of medal contention but enough to give him a top-ten ranking in the UK for his age group.

While usually a Sussex athlete, Liam Dunne finds himself in the Hampshire team for the schools competition through being a Bohunt pupil, and was delighted to reach his first final at these championships with a sound fourth place in his heat in a relatively modest 4.10.

A tenth place in the final followed with Dunne leaving many higher-ranked runners in his wake.

Seaford College sixth-former Olivia Macdonald used her cross country background to good effect with an excellent fourth place in the senior girls’ 1500m steeplechase with a fast time of just over 5.8 seconds. This a new lifetime best that cements her place as one of only four athletes to run under 5.10 in the UK this year in the under-20 age group.

Jess Hall, a pupil at Midhust Rother College, was in action in the senior girls’ pole vault and was very near her best ever with a 3.20 clearance in the final for a top-ten finish.