Chichester - and Baker - complete 25 years in athletics league

James Baker has run for Chichester in each of their 25 years as a league club
James Baker has run for Chichester in each of their 25 years as a league club

Chichester’s senior athletics team travelled to Swindon to complete their 2018 campaign in the Southern Athletics League - and end their 25th year of senior track and field athletics.

Once again the squad was hampered by lack of numbers, but those competing produced a number of encouraging performances.

It was a red letter day for the longest-serving member of the team when James Baker stepped on to the track for the start of the 5000m. It has the 25th consecutive season that Baker has donned the Chichester vest in a senior Southern League match, having been one of the original handful of athletes which the club was able to call on in its first season in 1994.

Since then Baker has run every distance from 100m through to 5000m and the steeplechase as well as playing a vital part in the 4x400m relay teams in the early years.

More recently the 41-year-old has concentrated on the longer events, mostly 3000 and 5000m, and has been virtually unbeatable in this area.

Saturday was no exception and from the gun it was evident that Baker was too good for the opposition by racing clear of the rest of the field after just 400m.

After he crossed the line after 12½ laps in a time of 15min 51sec, there was a wait of over four minutes before the next runner completed the course, probably Baker’s largest winning margin in a track race.

It was certainly a day for Chichester’s veterans as Andy Hall and Tim Brown teamed up for all four throwing events.

Their best result was in the hammer, with Hall putting in a winning throw of 39.11 while Brown was on equally good form with 32.33 to win the B string for maximum points for the club.

This cements Hall’s position as UK No2 for his over-55 age group in the UK hammer rankings for 2018.

The pair picked up good points in the shot with two second places as well as being competitive in both discus and javelin. Hall rounded off his afternoon with a two-metre clearance in the pole vault, a great day’s work for the most senior member of the team.

At the other end of the age spectrum, under-17 Max Lambkin and under-20 Brandon Bell battled hard against some fast sprinters from home club Swindon Harriers and from Horsham Blue Star and Team Kennet.

Times were generally slower than usual with a headwind down the home straight making things more difficult for both the 100m and 200m runners.

Lambkin and Bell retained their form and were more than able to cope with the opposition.

Under-17 thrower Lucie Munday was rewarded with a new personal best in the shot and a 20m-plus effort in the javelin but was not quite able to reproduce her recent training distances of close to 30m in the discus.

A competition at Bournemouth in September will give her another opportunity for a new PB.

* Two of Chichester’s promising middle-distance runners travelled to Eltham in south-east London for one of the midweek British Milers Club evenings, this one devoted to the 800m and 5000m.

Both opted for the longer distance and one, Will Broom, produced a fine run to lower his own personal best for the event and equal the Chichester club record which has stood for 24 years.

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Broom’s time of 15min 09.98sec lifts him to 17 in the UK under-20 rankings and just fourth for 17-year-olds.

In first place in his year in Southampton’s Zak Mahamed, an ex-national cross country champion, who has run just six seconds faster than Broom so the Chichester athlete is in exalted company.

Broom’s time will be rounded up to 15.10 for the club’s record purposes, which puts him on a par with Joe Foreshew, who started his athletics career at the same time as James Baker.

Foreshew had already won the National Inter-Counties cross country championships the previous winter so Broom has exalted steps to follow in.

Also in action at Eltham was Ben Morton who produced another good run in a time of 16.35.78, again one of Chichester’s best in the under-20 age group, although Morton was faster earlier this season with an impressive 16.17.75. Both young athletes look to have a fine future.