THE ICE and snow of the previous two days had cleared from the streets of Chichester in time to allow more than 650 runners to race round the city centre on the second night of the Corporate Challenge series.
It was a tribute to the perseverance and dedication of runners of all ages that so many should turn out on another bitterly-cold evening.
Once again praise must also go to the marshals, timekeepers and recorders who managed to produce accurate results in finger-numbing conditions.
With the streets packed with spectators the primary boys again got proceedings under way with no fewer than seven athletes under the five-minute barrier - headed on this occasion by Luke Kearns from Downview, who just edged previous winner Ned Potter into second place with Freddie Hayes in third.
Potter still led his Jessie Younghusband team to first place with a mere five-second margin over Rose Green, with Downview in third.
Madeleine Wilton was again on form to win the primary girls’ race with Cheyenne James just getting the better of Olivia
Wiseman, who nevertheless led her Jessie Younghusband team to another clear win over Bishop Tufnell and Plaistow & Kirdford.
With all junior awards being judged over the best two races, there is still all to play for in the final event next Wednesday, when team and individual medals will be decided.
There was a sense of déjà vu in the secondary girls’ race with Hampshire sensation Josie Czura winning the race
as a Year 7 pupil, just getting away from Rose Ellis, who held off Evie Grice to win the Year 10 race.
Close behind was Petersfield’s Elizabeth Hedley in fourth, winning the Year 8 age group, while Saskia Gardam from Bishop Luffa was the first Year 9 over the line.
Team-wise there was a good spread of winners with Midhurst Rother winning the Year 7 race, Bishop Luffa top in Year 8 and a strong Chichester High School team holding off Lavant House in Year 10.
In-form Casey Keates from Felpham CC repeated his dominant display in the secondary boys’ race and, as was the case with most of the leading secondary runners, shook off the effects of competing for Sussex in the inter-counties cross-country event at Birmingham the previous weekend.
In knocking off 20 seconds from his time at the first Corporate Challenge two weeks earlier, Keates crossed the line in 8.58 for the four-lap junior course - becoming one of only a select band to break the nine-minute barrier.
Not far behind, Ed Gerwat from Bishop Luffa and Jake Pillans from Petersfield made a competitive race in a strong year group. Bishop Luffa showed their prowess in the team standings, winning three of the four age groups with Prebendal and Midhurst Rother also featuring.
By the time the seniors raced, the temperature had fallen to near freezing but that did not stop exactly 100 runners from breaking the 18-minute barrier.
The winner of the first A race, James Baker, was content to stay in the leading pack for the first lap but gradually increased the pace until a group of four remained - and all went on to break 14 minutes.
Nothing could stop Baker over the final two laps as he finished clear in 13.31, a second faster than in the first race despite having tackled seven-and-a-half miles of Birmingham mud for Sussex four days before.
For second spot, John Morrey of Worthing Hares just got the better of Lewis Chalk from Absolute Running.
In the women’s race there was the closest finish possible with Havant’s Amy Bream just edging out Lauren McCarthy of Portsmouth, with both athletes given the same time of 16.19 and Fay Cripps from Midhurst Rother Staff in third.
Teamwise, the Jessie Joggers still had the edge over Midhurst Rother Men’s team with holders DSTL in third in the corporate section and Worthing Hares once again well under the hour mark to lead the sports team rankings.
Portsmouth City Council lead Crawley Crawlers in the women’s standings while the Chichester under-20 trio of Beth Garland, Emma Maynard and Nicola Mead were all under 18 minutes and much too good for the rest of the sports teams.
The final round of races take place next Wednesday - March 27.