Slightly later in the season than usual, Sussex Cross Country League action got under way at Stanmer Park, Brighton.
The wait was worth it as record fields in many age groups did battle for team and individual honours – with Chichester prominent in many age groups despite a number of absentees.
For the first time in several seasons the club had teams in division one in both men’s and women’s competition and were able to field strong enough teams to give a good account of themselves.
Even though there were no individual winners for Chichester at Brighton, several runners caught the eye of the Sussex selectors for the two inter-county matches to be held later on in the season.
Senior and veteran Men
Returning to division one for the first time in several years, Chichester’s senior men gave a good account of themselves in sixth place thanks to a combination of seniors, veterans and under-20s comprising their A team.
An indication of the strength of the record field of 230 finishers can be seen by the finishing position of club No1 James Baker, who was delighted with his tenth place, beating many county runners.
Just inside the top 20 at the halfway mark, Baker steadily made his way through the field to finish within a minute of all bar the winner, Tom Evans from Lewes, after 8.5k of tough undulating terrain.
Such also is the strength of veteran running these days that Baker was fourth over-40 home. He was followed by fellow veteran Charles Rodmell, who had probably his best cross country run to date for the club in 37th, eighth veteran home.
Under-20 Ben Collins was 39th followed by university student Joe Godwood in 53rd with under-20 Leo Stallard 66th and another veteran Simon Dunne completing the scoring for the six-man A team in 88th, 19th veteran, putting the over-40s in third spot in their age group.
The B team finished in 13th spot in division two thanks to under-20s Brodie Keates and Ollie Shergold in 107th and 119th, followed by Jon Edgar in 121st, just outside the top ten for the over-50s, and over-40 Steve Davy in 129th.
Jason Snow led the C team home in 137th followed by close packing from Om Phulpham in 172nd and over- 50s Paul Stallard 175th and Tim Brown 176th.
The D team ran well with Richard Holder 186th, Marcus Hammerton 192nd, Mike Moorcroft 196th and Tom Blaylock 216th with reserve Peter Anderson 229th.
Senior and veteran Women
The standard of the senior women’s field was no less impressive, with another record field of more than 150 finishers for the first time.
Chichester have had a fine record in recent years, gaining team medals and featuring a combination of under-17s under-20s, seniors and veterans. This mixture was again in evidence with the A team quartet represented by four different age groups.
Continuing her fine form from the Goodwood relays, student Alice Wright ran a brave race to finish 11th, less than a minute behind the third-placed runner after just over 5k.
The rest of the team were separated by a mere ten seconds with Fay Cripps moving well through the field on the second lap to finish 24th, sixth veteran, with Alice Cox-Rusbridge in 25th overall, fourth under-20. There was an outstanding run from Jane Harrop in 27th, leading runner in the over-55 age group to finish.
Although Chichester were squeezed out to sixth in the team standings, they were just two points off fourth.
In terms of finishers, Chichester’s women set a new club record with five full teams, with a number of under-20s helping swell the ranks.
Under-17 Maggie King led the B team home in 48th followed by Emma Hughes in 51st and Sophie Wright 59th. Jenny Jakeman led the C team in 66th with Sophie Morris 76th and over-55 Helen Dean 81st, third in her age group and helping the veterans’ team to a creditable fourth place out of 38.
Nadia Anderson in 89th was joined by two under-20s in the D team, Florence Smith in 92nd and Beth Brown 102nd. Another under-20, Rachel Laurie, led the E team home in 112th, followed by Emily Williams in 119th and Sue Baker 136th.
Things could not be more tightly bunched at the top of the under-17 men’s team standings with Chichester in third on 35 points from their three scorers, a point behind Hastings and five behind leaders Crawley.
Liam Dunne was back to form as he came through to finish third, a few seconds behind the top two. Ned Potter was equally as impressive in sixth, just 17 seconds back, with third scorer Harry Sage 26th and reserve David Bisatt 32nd.
This was a good result for the new-look team with last year’s trio of Will Broom, Leo Stallard and Ben Collins having moved into the under-20 ranks to run with the seniors.
Chichester had several talented athletes in action in Kent in the regional level of the English cross-country schools cup. However, those present provided a great platform for the rest of the season.
There was another record field of nearly 80 runners in the under-13 boys’ race where Fionn O’Murchu and Hal Edgar were on fine form to finish ninth and tenth.
Josh Dunne filled the last scoring place in 27th with reserve Alessandro Schmitt in 32nd, these two in their first year in the age group. Their team score of 46 points was good enough for fourth place, well in touch with the top three.
There was good packing in the under-15 boys’ race with improving Gabryel White finishing 22nd, just in front of Joe McLarnon in 26th, Archie Sadler 30th and reserve Toby Payne 41st. They lie ninth but a number of clubs are only just ahead.
With Chichester’s top three under-15 girls all in action elsewhere, it was up to the B team to step up and they did not let the club down.
The three finished within five places of each other with Cerys Dickinson 20th, Nicole Boltwood 23rd and Tamsin Anelay 24th.
Six teams are separated by ten points so Chichester in seventh are in the thick of the action.
In the under-13 race, Isabel Isitt did well on her first appearce for the club to finish 29th with team-mate Grace Emison just three seconds behind in 31st.
The under-11s started the programme and it was the girls who caught the eye with three Chi runners in the top 11 – Laila Hellyer fifth, Carrie Anelay seventh and Lillie Hellyer 11th, with Martha Emison 34th.
Another record number of runners was seen in the boys’ race with 62 finishers. Chichester duo Stanley Wilkes and Digby Fulford were 22nd and 34th.