Sprint star Harries heads to Commonwealth and world games

Toby Harries, far right, in action at Bedford
Toby Harries, far right, in action at Bedford

TWO international call-ups for a teenage sprinting star and news of Chichester’s older juniors in league action headline this week’s local athletics round-up.

SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD Toby Harries has cause for a double celebration after hearing he has been selected for two prestigious global championships.

First the Chichester ace was told he was part of the team for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa in September. Then he received a call saying he would be on the plane to Cali, Columbia, as part of the 27-strong Great Britain squad for the IAAF World Youth Championships in just a couple of weeks’ time.

From his breakthrough as first year in the under-17 age group last season, Harries has already fulfilled some of his great potential at Brighton College and under the guidance of Jon Bigg, husband of ex-Olympic hurdler Sally Gunnell.

With a best time in the 200m of 21.01sec this season, comfortably inside the world youth qualifying time of 21.5, Harries not only is top of his own age group nationally but 19th among UK seniors, including all the Olympic hopefuls for Rio next year.

The ex-Westbourne House School pupil, who was part of the Chichester under-13 athletics team in 2010 and 2011, is reckoned to be the first athlete from the city to go to the World Youth Championships and all eyes will be on events in Cali from July 15 to 19.

Previous results at these championships, including the last one in Ukraine in 2013, suggest competition will be fierce, especially from the Americans and 2013 medal toppers Jamaica.

Under-17 and under-20 league at Winchester

Several of Chichester’s promising crop of older juniors travelled to Winchester for the latest fixture in the National Under-17 and Under-20 League and came away with a string of season’s best performances.

It was in the middle-distance races where the club had the most participation, especially in the 1,500m.

Harry Lyne led the club home in the under-20 men’s race in 4.34.8 followed by Will Kallaway in 4.39, both posting all-time fastest times.

In the under-17 race, Benedict Robinson and Sam Pink were given identical times of 4.41.7, which represented a best for Robinson and just outside his best for Pink.

Rose Ellis continued her recovery to full fitness with a season’s best of 5.01.4 to comfortably win the women’s under-20 race.

Grace Wills ran another fast time of 5.10.6 in the under-17 race with Amber Westron close behind in 5.24.4. Westron went on to run in the 3,000m recording a new best time of 12.03.3 with Rosie Riedel-O’Brien having an excellent run in her first attempt at the distance in 12.43.8.

Michael Thomas lined up for the men’s event and dipped under 11 minutes for the first time with 10.57.1.

There was a double win for Jess Breach in the 100m and long jump while Brandon Bell was again up against fast sprinting in the under-17 100m and 200m, especially from the athletes from London clubs Hillingdon and Ealing.

Chichester travel to Ealing at the end of the month to complete their National League season.

Preview of this weekend’s matches

After sending a weakened team to the previous fixture in Swindon, Chichester’s senior men’s and women’s team return to home territory this Saturday with a second visit of the season to the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth.

With a mixture of youth and experience in the team, the club will have a chance to show what can be achieved with a full squad.

One athlete who expects to be slightly less busy than usual will be James Baker, who may have the luxury of lining up for the 3,000m steeplechase when fresh instead of having already competed in a 5,000m and possibly a 1,500m just before the race over the barriers.

This is because a new combination of Jo Corbett and Peter Concannon will be showing their mettle in the 3,000m earlier in the day.

Rose Ellis and Sarah Fenmor Collins will spearhead the women’s middle-distance races. There will be a youthful look in the sprints with Sophie Anne Haigh having her last race before the English schools championships at Gateshead next weekend while veteran Tim Brown will once again be the mainstay of the throws.

Competition starts at midday and admission to the Mountbatten track is free.

James Baker 601 not out

Continuing a truly remarkable career, James Baker has just won his 601st race within a span of just over 20 years.

Not only has Baker managed to win races over a variety of terrains and distances but his powers of recovery in that time have been unsurpassed compared to any other athlete in the south and possibly in the UK.

From 800m runs and taking part in 4x400m relays in his earlier years, Baker these days concentrates more on longer events, mainly 10k through to ten miles, half marathons and the occasional 15 or 20 miles and a few marathons.

In all that time Baker has not neglected speed work and just a few days ago could be seen doing a 100m repetition session on the university track in Chichester.

Baker’s 601st win came in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park summer five-miler, an undulating off-road race on what he would probably class as his favourite terrain.

After resisting the early challenge of Denmead’s Julian Manning, the Chichester runner stamped his authority on the rest of the 250-strong field to cross the finishing line in a speedy 27min 59sec and win comfortably.

As well as the 601 race victories there have been 53 first places in various Parkruns across the south and there may be a chance of win number 602 at the club’s Southern Athletics League match this Saturday at the Mountbatten Centre in the 3,000m steeplechase.


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