Damp conditions including a heavy downpour did not deter a record number of runners from turning out for the first in this year’s Corporate Challenge road races.
As usual the streets of Chichester were filled with spectators who witnessed fine competitive running over eight races in less than two hours.
After nearly 500 runners had taken part in the schools races, just over 400 finished in the senior event – making a new record of 900-plus finishers as the event celebrates its 25th anniversary.
There were half a dozen runners from the first race in 1992 involved last Wednesday, two running and the other four officiating.
In runners-up spot behind Keith Toop in 1992 was Paul Froud in a speedy 13min 29sec and just behind in fifth was Dave Reynolds in 13.44, still a veterans’ record to this day.
Now in the over-50 and over-60 categories, Froud and Reynolds were in action last Wednesday, although not quite as fast as 25 years ago.
This year’s opening A race provided the most competitive finish ever with a single second separating winner Jack Woods (Worthing) in 13.48 and Ed Dodd and Jacob O’Hara, both timed at 13.49.
First local athlete was Will Broom, one of Chichester all-conquering under-17s, in his first go in the senior event, just beating James Baker, who was first over-40.
There was a Hampshire one-two-three in the women’s race with last year’s series winner Emma Montiel (Portsmouth) just getting the better of Rhiannon Dunlop from Havant and another Portsmouth ace, Anya Pigden, just ahead of local runner Grace Wills for third.
Teamwise, the Russell Giles Partnership just got the better of previous winners DSTL Portsdown with an aggregate time of 63min 48sec, just five seconds better than their rivals.
In the two sports sections, Havant Hares were just in front of Portscity and Luffa under-17s in the women’s section and Chichester Youth just beat Portsmouth AC, under the Oddbins name, in the men’s.
Such were the numbers entering the Pprimary-school races, organisers were forced to split the girls into separate Year 5 and 6 races, as they have with the primary boys for the past few years.
In the boys’ races Fionn O’Murchu from Bishop Tufnell repeated his success in the Sussex primary cross-country championships with another win and led his Bishop Tufnell squad to team victory. Chasing well were Max Sydenham from Fishbourne and Conor McCormack from St Richards.
For the girls Ellie Jeffkins led home Evie Pickford from Camelsdale and Amelia McGurk from Jessie Younghusband – leading Downview to a team victory in the process.
In the secondary girls’ race, Portsmouth athlete Ellie Farrow fell short of the course record by a single second in a time of 6.47.
Just behind Farrow was another Portsmouth star, Nicole Ainsworth, last year’s national under-13 cross country champion, winning the Year 9 race.
Olivia East, daughter of international Mike East, won the Year 7 race and Isabelle Brydon took the Year 8 honours with strong packing from Midhurst Rother College ensuring team victories in both.
The pace at the start of the secondary boys’ race was not been far short of the speed of the seniors with Worthing-based Ethan Fincham blasting away for an opening 700m lap under two minutes.
Alex Mani from St Philip Howard and Liam Dunne from Bohunt School were not far behind, followed by the best-represented field ever in the event with strong teams from Bishop Luffa, Midhurst Rother, St Philip Howard, Chichester High School, Portsmouth Grammar and Churchers.
Fincham finished too strongly for the rest to win the Year 10 race in front of Mani. Dunne was comfortably too good for the rest of the Year 9s while Josh Fawcett led the Year 8s home and took his Portsmouth Grammar team to victory, in front of Adam Robinson from Bourne and Seamus McCormack from St Philip Howard.
Joe McLarnon from Ditcham Park had a good win in the Year 7 age group with runner-up Thomas Briggs leading Churchers to team victory.
The second races in the series take place next Wednesday. Organisers can’t accept any more entries for the primary school races but there are a few spaces left among the secondary-school and senior fields.
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