Chichester youngsters hold their own in National League

Xenia Truman (nearest camera) goes for broke in the under-13s 800m  Picture by Lee Hollyer
Xenia Truman (nearest camera) goes for broke in the under-13s 800m Picture by Lee Hollyer

Newly-promoted Chichester stepped up to the mark in their first National League match of the season at the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth.

A squad of more than 40 athletes from the under-13 and under-15s found themselves up against seven of the strongest clubs in the south of England.

After 50 events on track and field, Chichester just lost out in a mid-table battle with Aldershot & Farnham, who themselves are the top English club middle-distance events.

With eventual winners Guildford holding off a late challenge from City of Portsmouth, the next three clubs were closely grouped with a combined Bournemouth, Poole and New Forest team in third.

Aldershot and Chichester were not far behind and both were far too strong for the remaining teams with Horsham, Lewes and Havant occupying the final three places.

In the under-15s, on an afternoon where individual victories were hard to achieve, Chichester’s only double winner was James Gillett from Midhurst, part of the club’s successful under-13 squad last season and experiencing his first competition at this age group.

First he was too strong for the field in the hammer, all the more remarkable as this was his first attempt at the event. Then came a winning discus, just ahead of the Lewes athlete, and to round off a fine day he came third in the shot.

Equally valuable in these matches are B string athletes who score nearly as many points as their A string counterparts and Charlie Phillips, a newcomer to the team, notched second places in shot and discus with Ollie Pulleyblank showing the value of a B string with a win in the hammer, albeit with a modest throw.

On the track there was a fine piece of front running from Ben Collins in the 800m - he won by a clear margin in a new personal best of 2.18.06, supported well by Jack Blackman with second place in the B string.

Ben Morton and Leo Stallard combined well in the 1,500m while in the sprints Brandon Bell enjoyed second places in the 100m and 200m, followed by a fine runners-up place in the 300m.

B strings Alex Austin, Phillips and Kai Terry made valuable contributions, as did Morton in the hurdles, partnered by Nicholas Cornelius, another making his first appearance for the club.

Cornelius showed fighting spirit by picking himself up from a stumble after hitting a hurdle and going on to win the B string. He followed this with a new PB of 1.55m in the high jump with Harry Carter in good support and losing the B string long jump by one centimetre.

The standard of the girls’ under-15 section was evident from the speed of the sprinters. In-form Alyssa White started the match with a new personal in the 200m for a good fourth place while a 13.7sec 100m clocking, just a tenth slower than her best, put her seventh.

The rest of the Chichester squad managed a number of PBs.

Roberta Collyer and Rachel Laurie sprinted well while Eloise Lane and Anna Hains doubled up at both 300m and 800m, where there were no less than three grade-one performances from the Aldershot and Portsmouth athletes, including national schools champion Josie Czura.

Grace Wills and Florence Smith battled well in a competitive 1,500m while Amelia Freeman teamed up with Emogen Spreckly in the hurdles and with Smith in the high and long jump.

There was excellent throwing from Kerrie Pafford and Natalie Czik in shot, discus and hammer to round off a fine girls’ performance.

Virtually the whole under-13 section of Chichester’s team were experiencing their first taste of league competition.

Their highlight came when Sam Price scored an impressive and fluent win in the 75m hurdles in his first race over the barriers, with fellow newcomer Ryan Thorn backing up well in the B string to get the squad off to a flying start.

Cross-country pairing Jeremy Sharp and Harry Sage finished a metre apart in the 1,500m and tackled the sprints with Callum Pyman and Ethan Brown battling against some very quick athletes.

New pairing Ryan Darwen and Alfie McPhilemy ran well in the 800m with Tom Davy a good non-scorer while the field events were covered for valuable points.

Chichester’s best two events in the under-13 girls’ section were both on the track. Maya Shankar gained a good third place in the 75m A string while Maria Austin showed great spirit to snatch victory in the last strides of the B string race against older rivals.

Fleur Hollyer and Tilly Hogan showed promise for the future in the non-scoring 75m races. Xenia Truman and Imogen Laurence gained two third places in the 800m.

Truman showed great courage in taking the lead from the gun and was caught only in the last few strides but had the reward of a new personal best of 2.40.08.

Charlotte Bullard and Amber Dodd ran well over 1,200m while Sophie Wall and Caitlin Brown tackled the 150m, with Rosie Compton and Dodd safely negotiating the hurdles.

Connie Stockman spearheaded the throws with good performances in shot and discus while the rest of the squad made sure all events were covered.

Final team standings

1 Guildford and Godalming 670pts

2 City of Portsmouth 650

3 Bournemouth/Poole/New Forest 596

4 Aldershot, Farnham & District 572

5 Chichester 541

6 Horsham Blue Star Harriers 442

7 Lewes AC 426

8 Havant AC 204