Youngsters lead Chichester’s cross-country charge

Some of Chichester's junior medal winners at Bexhill
Some of Chichester's junior medal winners at Bexhill

Cross-country runners assembled for the county championships at Bexhill, doing battle over a challenging, muddy and undulating course – and Chichester athletes gave a good account of themselves across all 12 age groups.

The highlights were a clutch of top three individual placings plus a team first and second – but everyone of the near-50 strong squad ensured Chichester emerged once again as one of the county’s top cross-country clubs.

Junior races

The programme started with the under-13 girls and Chichester’s in-form trio were all in action, making a strong start up the initial hill.

Isobel Buckler had the race of her life to finish second, her best finish in a county event for individual silver. Twin sister Eva was also up with the leading pack to finish seventh with the final scoring runner Cerys Dickinson in 11th for a team total of 20 points and the runners-up slot behind Brighton.

This was their best result of the season so far having eclipsed the third place in the last league fixture before Christmas. Providing good back-up, reserves Maisie and Skye Sadler finished 35th and 36th.

Proudly standing at the top of the league table, Chichester’s under-17 women knew they had a chance of team success but still had to produce the goods on the day.

The under-13 boys knew their team chances were weakened by the absence of No1 Joe McLarnon but the rest of the team stepped up, none more so than Fionn O’Murchu, who has only just come up from the under-11s.

O’Murchu attacked the race from the start and made sure he was in the leading bunch. What was truly impressive was the way he gradually moved up from a top-ten place to top five then had the fitness to move into third just before the finish.

Behind were Oliver Fuller in 17th and Gabryel White to complete the scoring, with reserve James Bullard 49th.

There was another great performance in the under-15 girls’ race with Olivia Toms another Chichester athlete to have her best Sussex race, up against 2017 national under-13 champion Bethany Cook.

Toms allowed Cook to break clear but was involved in a battle with the chasing pack for the other two individual medals. Toms shook off the rest of the field. Next home for Chichester in a competitive field was Maggie King in 21st followed by third scorer Nina Moranne in 29th for a total of 52 points, just outside the team medal placings.

Reserves Nicole Boltwood and Rose Potter were 32nd and 34th.

Chichester’s sole outright win of the day came in the under-15 boys’ race, where Liam Dunne fulfilled early-season promise by striding to a convincing victory by a clear margin of 16 seconds.

Having had his first Sussex win of his career in the league match at Lancing in December and put in a good run in the Inter-Counties at Oxford the following week, Dunne’s confidence was high.

Dunne used his strength and fitness to pull away from his rivals so he came home down the punishing finishing straight in glorious isolation to receive his first county gold medal. Archie Sadler had a brave run in 31st but there was no third runner to complete the team scoring.

The day started with the two under-11 races with five Chichester athletes in action. Josh Dunne ran well for sixth place in the boys’ race while Florence Ingram had the same result in the girls’ race followed by Emily Carman tenth, Lillie Hellyer 14th and Laila Hellyer 17th, all five doing themselves justice in the difficult conditions.

Under-17 men and women

Proudly standing at the top of the league table, Chichester’s under-17 women knew they had a chance of team success but still had to produce the goods on the day.

Consistent Imogen Matthews and Alice Cox-Rusbridge soon settled into the top ten in a race where Brighton-based Almi Nerurkar dominated.

Matthews and Cox-Rusbridge kept battling well over the 5,000m course and were delighted to finish fifth and seventh. All eyes were on the third scorer with Florence Smith just getting the better of Beth Brown, 11th and 13th respectively.

The team trophy was safe and at the final league match in February the team will aim to complete the championship/league double.

The under-17 men had high hopes of outright victory to match the girls’ success but knew their chances were severely weakened when Will Broom was forced to pull out through illness.

Ned Potter had his best-ever race in the age group to finish ninth with Leo Stallard battling bravely just behind in 11th in spite of being unwell.

Alfie Spurle was the third scorer home in 19th just in front of JJ Staples in 22nd and Jack Dean 26th. The team slipped just out of the medals to fifth.

Senior men and women

Chichester’s men and women’s teams were each missing several key athletes. However those who lined up in the two races ensured the club were well represented.

Outstanding run of the day came from Beth Garland in the women’s race – she claimed individual bronze, her best-ever Sussex result.

Behind Garland were Emma Hughes in 47th, Annabel Parker 52nd and Persphone Hagan 53rd for eighth team position with 155 points. The two capable reserves were vet-60 Helen Dean in 56th and Rebecca Brown in 70th.

Chichester’s senior men were even more depleted with their top six unavailable. The eight athletes in action stuck to their task and a team placing of ninth was just reward.

Mike Houston was first Chichester man to finish, in 40th place in a very strong field. Next home were two veterans Simon Dunne in 65th and Jim Garland 70th, fine runs from both which capped a good day for the Dunne and Garland families, who had juniors doing well earlier in the day.

Chichester’s remaining scorers were Graham Woodward in 79th, Richard Miles 90th and Gary Williams 104th with reserves Tom Blaylock and John Betts, both over 60s, sticking to their guns in 113th and 115th respectively.