Turnout shows cross-country is going strong in West Sussex

Olivia Macdonald on her way to an intermediate-senior race win / Picture by Emma Schute
Olivia Macdonald on her way to an intermediate-senior race win / Picture by Emma Schute

The West Sussex West cross country championships at Bishop Luffa School, Chichester, produced some of the best races seen in recent years across junior, intermediate and senior age groups.

With nearly 200 athletes from eight secondary schools competing in four races, this was a first chance for pupils to show their form in preparation for the main Sussex Schools event at Waterhall, Brighton, in January.

Things were more clear-cut for the juniors with Olivia Toms from Bishop Luffa and Ethan Ward from Felpham clear winners.

While the host school were the biggest winners of both team and individual titles, there were individual wins for Seaford College and Felpham CC while Midhurst Rother, Seaford and St Philip Howard also vied for team honours.

Intermediate and senior races

With intermediates and seniors running in the same race, the potential range of four school years produced the best competition, nowhere more so evident than in the boys’ race.

After the first of the three laps of the senior course there were six athletes locked together having opened up a gap over the rest of the 50-strong field.

Three senior Bishop Luffa runners were forcing the pace – Will Broom, Leo Stallard and Ben Morton – with intermediates Ned Potter and James Gardham from the same school joined by Alex Mani from St Philip Howard.

The group more or less stayed together until the halfway point when Broom and Stallard made a decisive break before Broom used his finishing speed to pull clear over the final 400m and win a well-contested race.

Morton was third senior to finish just behind Potter who won the intermediate race from Mani with Alfie Spurle picking up third place in the Year 11 age group.

Gardham used his brave tactics to convincingly win the Year 10 age group in front of Leon Heard from Chichester High School and Alfie Wakefield from Seaford College and helped Bishop Luffa to win the team race.

In the girls’ race there was a quick break from the leading two runners with Olivia Macdonald from Seaford College forcing the pace from Olivia Wiseman from Bishop Luffa.

Wiseman was forced to pull out halfway leaving Macdonald on her own at the front. The Seaford pupil did not let the pace drop to win by half a minute although great credit goes to Bishop Luffa pair Maggie King and Imogen Matthews for giving chase and keeping the margin to nationally-ranked Macdonald to just over half a minute at the finish. King just got the better of Matthews by a single second.

After Macdonald, Holly Heffron and Alex Ward were next Year 11 runners to finish while King was followed home by Charlotte Bullard from Chichester High School and Flora McKenzie from Seaford in the Year 10 age group, with both years counting to the intermediate team title which saw Bishop Luffa repeat their team win of the boys’ race.

Team-mates Matthews, Beth Brown and Cat Scott produced a clean sweep with a one-two-four in the senior race.

Junior races

Things were more clear-cut for the juniors with Olivia Toms from Bishop Luffa and Ethan Ward from Felpham clear winners. Toms usually starts her races at a fast pace and this was no exception, opening up a clear lead after the first small lap.

Behind and pulling clear in second was Jesse Schute from Seaford College followed by Isobel and Eva Buckler who have been showing such good form all season and were leading the way in the lower of the two school year competing, although both Year 8 and 9 were counting towards the team scores.

These four runners maintained their positions until the end followed in fifth place by Nicole Boltwood from Felpham CC, third in the Year 9 age group and Cerys Dickinson from St Philip Howard in sixth and third Year 8 across the line.

With a very low team score of just eight points from their three runners, Bishop Luffa won the team race from Seaford and St Philip Howard respectively.

Ward, another of the good Felpham athletes in action, dominated the junior boys’ race. Another athlete who has shown good form this season in club competitions, Ward kept up his pace until the end to win by half a minute. Douglas Smith from Bishop Luffa was second and a fast finishing Oliver Beach from Seaford third.

Ollie Fuller had a fine run to be the first Year 8 boy home and was chased in by team-mate Tom Hartley to help Smith win the team title for Bishop Luffa.

The closest battle of the day was for second team spot with Midhust Rother coming out on top by a single point from Seaford College.

Although not having an finisher in the top three, there was good packing from Tom Dunsford in fourth, Archie Sadler fifth and crucially Sam Rump in 11th to give Midhust 20 points, just one less than Seaford, on 21 from their three scorers.

Preview of Sussex League this Saturday at Lancing Manor

Having had a long trip to Bexhill for the previous fixture, Chichester’s cross-country squad will be nearer home this Saturday when the best Sussex runners will be in action at Lancing Manor.

There will be much to play for in all the age groups, especially for Chichester in the senior races with the men’s team heading division two and not wanting to slip up in their quest for promotion to division one after a three-year absence.

James Baker will look for another high finish having missed the previous fixture, while the strong under-20s will be sure to feature in the scoring team.

Chichester’s women are lying a close second in division one and will be hoping to keep their challenge alive for a first women’s senior title for the club.

Both men’s and women’s under-17s are well-placed as are the under-13s and while not challenging for team honours, the under-15s will be out to show what they can do before the county championships in January. The action starts with the two under-11 races at midday.

Chichester parkrun

In what may be unprecedented among the many parkrun events held around the UK on a Saturday morning, the Chichester run at Oaklands Park witnessed two under-15 athletes, both members of Chichester Runners, leave the rest of the runners trailing. In each case they were followed by Chichester University students, part of the club’s seniors teams.

Liam Dunne made an occasional visit to the Oaklands Park venue and after his usual conservative start, gradually pulled away from Joe Godwood, who himself has been showing fine form this season.

One year younger than Dunne is 13-year-old Olivia Toms, who strode away from the field on Saturday to be followed home by university student Alice Wright, a vital part of the title-chasing Chichester senior women’s cross-country team.

This Saturday Dunne and Toms will be in action at Lancing Manor in the Sussex League.

Indoor Sportshall athletics

Chichester Runners are holding the third of their autumn indoor Sportshall invitation afternoons this Sunday r from 2pm to 3.30pm at Bishop Luffa School. Members and non-members of the club are invited from school Year 5 up to Year 10. Doors open at 1.45 pm and there is a charge of £1 on the door.

Those wanting to have a go at indoor athletics can either just turn up or contact club coach Phil Baker for more information – email philbaker5@btinternet.com