Chichester Runners members have been at the forefront in a couple of major road races in the south.
The best team result the club have experienced for many years – and one of the best in the club’s 31-year history – came at the Victory 5 in Portsmouth, where a quality field lined up for a fast, flat five-mile course around the harbour, finishing at the Mountbatten athletics track.
Moving back to its traditional pre-Christmas date, the race attracted a top-quality field including Olympic marathon runner Scott Overall (Blackheath and Bromley), who dipped under the magic 24-minute barrier to win with a time of 23min 59sec.
In a magnificent third was Chichester’s Chris Zablocki, having recovered from his exertions in the Valencia Marathon a couple of weeks earlier.
Running a well-controlled race, the American crossed the line in 24.27, breaking the club record in the process.
Just outside the top 10, regular Chichester duo of Peter Concannon and James Baker were battling it out – with Baker on this occasion getting the better of his clubmate with a 26.05 clocking in 13th followed home by Concannon in 26.11.
Their total of 30 points would have been good enough for a team victory on most occasions but Southampton City AC decided to put out one of their strongest teams and finished with three runners in the top ten and 26 points to relegate Chichester into a well-deserved runners-up spot.
One Southampton runner beaten by all three of the Chichester trio was Richard Waldron, who two weeks earlier had prevailed in the Hayling ten-mile road race.
The race was held in some of the windiest conditions seen on the south coast with runners using all their strength just to keep going into the headwind on exposed parts of the course.
Waldron and Concannon soon put distance between themselves and the rest of the field which included previous multiple winner Baker.
Opening up a ten-metre gap Waldron just managed to pip Concannon in a dash for the finish in a time of 54.55 with the Chichester man a couple of seconds adrift.
Baker led the remainder of the field home in third place in 56.54 having eased up in his chase for the top two. The times of all three were at least a couple of minutes down on what they would have expected, such were the conditions.
Team-wise and needing three to score, there was a good run from improving Ivan Prince to finish 34th out of the 425 runners in 68.11 and help Chichester to third team prize.
Inter-County Cross Country at Biggleswade, Bedfordshire
Chichester had a fine turnout in the first of the season’s inter-county competitions.
Twelve runners represented Sussex in the south of England inter-counties cross-country championships at Biggleswade, Bedfordshire.
Top Sussex team on the day were the under-20 women, who snatched silver medals behind Surrey and just a single point in front of Essex.
A fine sixth place from Worthing’s Leah Harris was followed by 11th from Brighton & Hove athlete Martha Coyle, with Chichester duo of Rose Ellis and Charlotte Reading completing the scoring quartet in 21st and 28th.
Running in league races with their older club-mates, Chichester’s under-17s have been on fine form this season and occupied three of the top five Sussex places in their race.
Repeating her win in the league race at Lancing a week before, Grace Wills led the county team home in 24th place, her best-ever run at this level. Amber Westron just snatched the final scoring spot in a fine 54th with Karina Bennett excelling herself one place behind in her first-ever experience at running in this standard.
Elsewhere in the girls’ races there was a good run from Olivia Wiseman in 13th, just two places behind first Sussex athlete home Poppy Mercer of the Bodyworks Tri Club in Eastbourne. Charlotte Bullard finished 39th in the under-13 race where Sussex set a high standard with six athletes in the top 40.
The boys’ events saw Chichester’s best finishing position of the day with Sussex League champion Ben Collins in eighth place and another who saw a breakthrough performance at this level.
Portsmouth’s Lachlan Wellington won the race and Corporate Challenge junior record-holder Jacob O’Hara from the same club finished tenth just behind Collins.
Will Broom was 33rd and just failed to make the Sussex scoring team who had four finishers in the top 30.
In the same race Callum Crook, who has run for Chichester in the Sussex League, was in 57th place for Hampshire. Finally Brodie Keates was 74th in the under-17 race and was pleased to compete after a lengthy lay-off through injury.
Chichester’s attention will turn to the Sussex club championships in the New Year. On Saturday, January 9, runners from across the county will be lining up on the Little Common course at Bexhill for individual and team honours.
The first five across the line will gain automatic selection for the national inter-counties in Birmingham later in the season and teamwise, Chichester will be attempting to retain their overall Sussex team shield as well as challenging for a top-three placing in a majority of the nine races to be held.
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