Chichester started their 22nd season in senior league athletics with some very encouraging performances from the dozen athletes on view in the Southern League at Twickenham – but without sufficient numbers to challenge for team honours.
At St Mary’s College, a UK centre of excellence for middle-distance running, Chichester faced competition from a strong host club as well as National League club Kingston & Polytechnic – making a first appearance in the league – plus Team Kennet and Sutton.
Performance of the day came from Ollie Smith who started his year’s 400m campaign in fine style.
Against this opposition, A-string wins were hard to come by – but three of the Chichester squad secured individual victories.
Performance of the day came from Ollie Smith who started his year’s 400m campaign in fine style with fluent running to cross the line in 48.8sec, despite missing a few crucial weeks of preparation through injury.
With a long season ahead, Smith’s sights will first be on a sub-48-second clocking and then on progressing further than his breakthrough season in 2014, when his personal best of 47.98sec ranked him fourth in the south-east.
Marking his 22nd consecutive season in the club’s senior athletics team, James Baker ran a good tactical race in the 5,000m in the blustery conditions and was content to stay with a pack of half-a-dozen athletes for the first few laps and make his break for the tape with less than a mile remaining.
Nevertheless, the 38-year-old dipped under 16 minutes again to further increase his remarkable run of race victories over a variety of surfaces.
Jess Breach continued her good early-season form by notching up her second long-jump win in successive weeks with an improved mark of 5.18m to register Chichester’s third A-string win.
Two solid third places in the 100m and shot putt followed as well as a chance to set a mark in the javelin. Breach was supported well by Heather Jacobs in the shot in her first season in the senior team, with Jacobs picking up further points in both discus and hammer.
Holly Beaton made a welcome return to the track over 200m after joining up with Charlotte Reading in the 800m, with Reading completing a busy afternoon by tackling the 400m and 1,500m.
Elsewhere, Chichester had the services of three of their senior multi-events athletes plus three from their new under-17 squad, two of whom were making their first appearance for the seniors.
Decathlete Charlie Roe turned his hand to the 200m and set a new personal best of 22.7sec but such was the competition he was squeezed into third.
Likewise a good 1.93m clearance in the high jump made only runners-up spot but good marks in discus and pole vault followed for Roe.
Tim Brown joined Roe in the discus and had a consistent day in shot, hammer and javelin, having to battle against winning throws of more than 15m in the shot and 60m in the javelin, both distances propelling the athletes concerned high up into the UK rankings.
The three under-17s all performed with credit. Brandon Bell added a useful first race over 400m hurdles to his runs over 200m and 400m.
Sam Reading and Luke Campbell teamed up with for a speedy 800m, both athletes recording personal-best times, while Barnaby Hyde scored useful points in all three jumps.
There was a welcome return to track running from former decathlete Phil Kearney. One of the club’s senior coaches, Kearney has also been able to have a consistent winter’s training and lined up for both the 400m hurdles and 100m hurdles.
While not quite matching his best time of 15sec which ranks him in the all-time Irish top 50, Kearney was delighted to be back on the track after a number of injuries had forced a long break from competition.
Also offering good support to Brown in shot, javelin and hammer, Kearney capped a fine day with a 3.20m clearance in the pole vault, giving him second place in the A string.
The club have four weeks to prepare for their next match on Sunday, May 31, which is their home fixture at the Mountbatten Centre, Portsmouth, where a full team will give a truer account of their standing in the league.
It is the turn of the junior age groups from Chichester Runners & AC to test their early-season form this weekend (May 2) – they’re up against seven other clubs at the Sutton Arena in Surrey.
Spearheaded by Alyssa White for the girls and Ben Collins for the boys, the under-15s look to be at their strongest for a number of years, while it will be the first opportunity for many of the under-13s to have the taste of a club league fixture.