THE organisers of the Sussex schools cross-country championships reverting to a midweek date after disappointing numbers in recent years on Saturdays - and were rewarded with a record number of 500-plus finishers.
Local schools were well represented in all six age groups in the event at Waterhall, Brighton, and provided two race winners for the first time.
Both athletes had been forced to settle for runners-up positions in the recent Sussex clubs championships at Bexhill at the beginning of the month but made no mistake here.
Chichester High School’s Rosie Ellis was first to strike gold in the intermediate girls’ race run over about 4,000m.
After a fast charge from the line, Ellis had Brighton’s Martha Coyle and Sophie Markwick from Hastings hot on her heels. The determined Chichester athlete created a gap - knowing that in the county championships at Bexhill, Coyle had snatched victory yards from the line.
This time Ellis broke the tape for a clear 11-second win, just reward for an excellent season.
Team-mate Charlotte Reading was a fine 11th with Amber Westram from Bishop Luffa just pipping Tara Bage from Seaford College, the pair 16th and 17th.
Luffa runners Sophie Shergold and Hannah Crossley were 36th and 41st while Holly Olding in 49th and Rosie Grant in 56th gave Chichester High School 117 points for fourth place - just 15 points behind winners Brighton College.
In the junior girls’ race, Grace Wills was in fine form in 11th place out of a large field of more than 150 finishers while team-mates Katie and Anna Hains were 28th and 43rd, with fourth scorer Catherine Scott 74th for a total of 156 points, only four points from bronze.
In a smaller senior field, Hannah Croad and Lucy Ellis from Chichester College finished fourth and eighth respectively.
The second individual victory came in the senior boys’ race over a demanding distance of nearly 7,000m.
Harry Leleu from Seaford College repeated the fine form he has been showing all season, again beating Brighton athlete Spencer Thomas, this time by nine seconds.
Third-placed James McKenzie was more than a minute adrift but the Felpham pupil ran well to snatch bronze from an Eastbourne runner to make it two out of three medals for local athletes.
In the team standings, there was a great showing from the eight athletes from Chichester College who earned team bronze, led home by Leo Krewit. Top boys’ placing elsewhere was from Felpham’s Casey Keates in the intermediate race, with the Bishop Luffa trio led home by Ed Gerwat in
45th followed by Harry Gallimore in 49th and Tom Grace in 55th.
There were three fine runs from local athletes in the junior boys’ race which had the highest number of finishers of the day - 159.
Leo Stallard from Bishop Luffa was first home in ninth place, all the more praiseworthy as he has another year in the age group. Not far behind were Brodie Keates in 13th and another Luffa pupil Ben Morton in 19th.
With fellow Luffa student Luke Campbell finishing 52nd, the school were deprived of a team medal and possible gold only by the lack of a fourth scorer.
This, however, did not dampen what was a fine all-round performance from West Sussex west-area athletes.