Chichester athletes help Sussex to inter-counties success

Beth Garland has been in sparkling cross-country form for Chichester and Sussex
Beth Garland has been in sparkling cross-country form for Chichester and Sussex

The best UK runners turned out for their counties in the National Inter-Counties championship at Loughborough – and Chichester athletes did their bit for Sussex.

Runners from across England’s 40 counties and Scotland and Wales fight it out in some of the strongest races of the year.

In one of the most successful years for Sussex in recent years, a total of 15 members of Chichester’s strong cross-country squad were selected, with a dozen in action on the day.

In the senior age groups, Harry Leleu and James Baker were unavailable for the Sussex men’s team, who nevertheless did well to finish in seventh place with all their six scorers inside the top 100, no mean feat for the county.

In the women’s race Nicole Taylor, who is Tonbridge based but runs for Sussex, finished a fine 14th but just behind was Chichester’s Beth Garland, who had already made a career breakthrough by finishing 33rd at the English National at Parliament Hill in February.

In arguably a stronger field at Loughborough, Garland stormed home in 23rd place, once again her best-ever placing in a major senior event, leaving many established national runners in her wake.

Under-17s and under-20s

The two most successful Sussex teams were the under-17 men and women, who both achieved a fine fifth place out of the 42 county teams taking part.

Will Broom continued his fine form of two weeks earlier and had probably his best result of his career to date in leading the Sussex team home in 23rd place.

With his three scoring team-mates from Brighton and Hastings all making the top 50, their aggregate score of 137 points was only beaten by the North East, Yorkshire, Hampshire and Kent with powerful counties such as Surrey in seventh and Essex 13th trailing in their wake.

In the under-17 women’s race, Brighton’s Almi Nerurkar led the county home in 18th place followed a few seconds later by Chichester’s Olivia Wiseman having probably her best run of the year in 21st.

The other two scoring finishers for Sussex finished in 38th and 63rd respectively for a total of 140 points, well clear in fifth place but agonisingly just nine points behind runners-up Surrey on 131 with third-placed Cheshire on 133 and fourth-placed Merseyside on 137.

Chichester’s Imogen Mathews ran magnificently to finish 90th in her first race back after a lay-off through injury and had the race come even a week later, she would have been in line for a top-50 place.

For the under-20s Chichester’s Ben Morton and Brodie led Sussex home in 109th and 131st to confirm their fine season’s league form.

Under-13s and under-15s

Even though they could not match the finishing positons of the under-17s, the four youngest age groups for Sussex all made the top 20 with the under-15 girls best place in ninth.

In this age group, Sussex had its only individual win with Bethany Cook from the Eastbourne Bodyworks club maintaining her unbeaten record with another emphatic victory by nearly 20 seconds.

Next home for the county – somewhat surprisingly – was Chichester’s Maggie King, having the run of her life to finish 50th, beating two former county champions and finishing 22 places ahead of Hampshire’s Holly Wilkinson, who had got the better of King in the Corporate Challenge a few days earlier.

Olivia Toms, another strong Chichester runner in the age group, had to miss the event through injury but Sussex had 73rd and 82nd places for their last two scorers to ensure the top-ten team placing.

The under-15 boys did well to finish 15th overall and were led home by county champion Liam Dunne in 57th place. So tight are the placings, he was just over a minute outside the top ten. Surrey’s Samuel Martin, in third, had been beaten by Dunne in the South of England championships in January.

Chichester’s three representatives in the under-13 races all ran well and even though none made the coveted top 100, such was the packing of their races that runners were finishing at 140 per minute at one point.

Fionn O’Murchu was best placed in 166th, less than two minutes behind the winner, with the Chichester athlete eligible for the same age group next year.

For the under-13 girls Isobel Buckler finished 205th and sister Eva 286th, close to the top runners despite the underfoot conditions, reckoned to be the muddiest in living memory, did not help their lighter running style.

* The final Chichester Corporate Challenge races of 2018 took place last night (Wednesday). See next week’s paper for full coverage.

PHIL BAKER