Bishop Luffa celebrate a cross-country clean sweep

The Bishop Luffa team at Roedean in Brighton
The Bishop Luffa team at Roedean in Brighton

STUDENTS from Bishop Luffa School had a superb day of action in the first round of the National Schools Cross Country Cup at Roedean College in Brighton.

Entries this year have gone through the roof and the south-east has had to host five first rounds instead of the usual three.

Bishop Luffa will be the only state or independent school present with all four teams having qualified.

Traditionally this region has dominated the national standings with a number of schools winning national titles in the four age group categories.

Bishop Luffa has had at least one team through to the regional final in each of the last five years and their strength in depth showed last year when they were one of only three schools across the region to have three teams qualify.

In glorious weather, the first race up was the junior girls (Year 7 and 8). Six runners compete for each team with the first four scoring.

Led by Maggie King, the Bishop Luffa runners packed well to take 11th, 13th, 14th and 16th. Debutants Nina Moranne and Grace Bradley Roberts did well to be second and fourth home with Rebecca Mann the third scorer.

Good support from Leila Karim in 33rd and Annie Shergold in 40th meant all the school’s competitors had finished before two third of the field had crossed the line. A total of 54 points was outstanding and saw the girls finish in second position behind Roedean and automatically qualify for south of England finals.

The junior boys started well with lead runner James Gardam heading out with the leading pack closely followed by Tom Davy.

Joe Careswell and Seth Burgess provided great support with Year 7 runners Douglas Smith and James Smith working their way through the field.

Gardam became isolated from the leading pack but finished ninth. Davy produced a quick finish to claim tenth with Careswell 11th.

Burgess was 16th for a team total of 46 points. Douglas Smith and James Smith finished21st and 23rd – before the first runner from Chichester High School for Boys had finished.

Bishop Luffa finished second behind Surrey’s Rodborough Technology College to claim the Sussex title and qualify for the regional finals.

Last-minute withdrawals meant both intermediate teams (Year 9 and 10) were reduced to four runners.

Olivia Wiseman took the lead early on closely followed by Brighton’s Almi Nureka and Steyning’s Niamh Halloren.

Millie Rodwell provided great support with Alice Cox Rusbridge and Amber Dodd packing well behind.

Wiseman and Nureka broke clear while Dodd and Cox Rusbridge started to look stronger.

Wiseman had to concede to her older rival but takes heart from the fact that she got with two metres of beating a nationally-renowned athlete.

Rodwell finished seventh with Cox Rusbridge tenth and Dodd 11th. The team score of 30 points took the team title on countback from Steyning Grammar – meaning Bishop Luffa now had three teams through.

Last up were the intermediate boys. Bishop Luffa knew this would be very close with CHSB bringing a very strong team led by Ben Collins, and last year’s national champion Luke van Oudtshoorm from St Edmunds School, Surrey, also present.

Collins took an early lead and showed his class out on the course.

Will Broom was leading the Bishop Luffa effort, battling it out with van Oudtshoorm for second position. A great last hill climb from Broom saw him break well clear from Oudtshoorm to claim it.

CHSB’s Alex Halfacree finished sixth and Luffa’s Leo Stallard seventh, just two points separating the Chichester schools. A superb second lap from Bishop Luffa Year 9 runner Ned Potter in tenth place surpassed Hayden Overington’s 13th for the high school and meant Luffa had a one-point advantage over their great rivals with a runner each to come in.

James Young battled hard to finish 19th, leaving Bishop Luffa in second place, just two points off winners Patching, meaning all four teams had qualified for the south of England finals on November 14 at Beth’s Grammar School in Bexley.

Bishop Luffa will be the only state or independent school present with all four teams having qualified.

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