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Southern Athetics League

Just seven days after their winter programme had finished, Chichester’s senior squad were in action in the opening fixture of the Southern Athletics League at Basingstoke on Saturday 13th April 2019.

 

In spite of this early start to their campaign, the club was able to field a squad of 24 athletes, equally divided between the men and women’s section of the team, enabling them to contest the majority of the events for the first time in what is a virtual Olympic programme over the space of just five hours. One of the main factors in this new strength of the club has been the transition of athletes from the successful junior ranks over the past 3 to 4 years. In fact, 17 of the 24 in action at Basingstoke were U20 years of age with seven coming straight from last season’s medal winning U15 squad.

 

There was in addition one link to the past in that middle-distance athlete James Baker was in the squad, exactly 25 years after the club took its first tentative steps into track and field league action. In the club’s first ever athletics league match in 1994, James was in action in the 100m and in the intervening period has competed in every track distance up to 5000m including relays and the steeplechase. These days the 42-year old confines himself to non-barrier races and still is able to compete with the best, testified by yet another win on Saturday to add to his considerable tally of victories over various distances and terrains. James has featured in each of the 25 seasons since as has team manager Phil Baker, who, to clarify for readers, are not related.

 

The result of the efforts of all 24 Chichester athletes enabled the club to record its best-ever start to a League campaign by finishing runners-up to a strong City of Portsmouth squad but in front of arch rivals Havant AC who finished in a higher league position last year.

 

Overall match result:

1. City of Portsmouth 251 points; 2. Chichester 189 points; 3. Havant AC 174 points

 

Men’s Match

With a biting wind and temperatures more suited to the XC season, it was the hurdlers and sprinters who got things under way for the men’s squad. Jack Dean joined Oscar Hares for a new combination in the 400m hurdles with the pair starting the ball rolling in the best possible manner gaining 7 points out of a maximum 8 with both athletes recording personal best times, a fine achievement at this early stage in the season. Then in the 100m last year’s U15 DJ Barth joined Cellan Robinson with both Chichester sprinters crucially keeping rivals Havant at bay,but having to give way to a talented City of Portsmouth duo. Two more of last year’s U15 also contributed to the track action over the shorter distance with Jack Wadman joining Cellan in the 200m and Ollie Beach pairing up with Ben Collins over 400m. Ben, the hero of the Sussex road relays the previous weekend, had already been in action in the 800m where he was just pipped by his rivals over the last 50 metres having bravely led the opening lap to ensure a fast pace. Ben gained his revenge later in the 1500m and rounded off a busy and productive afternoon with the long jump and a relay leg in the 4 x 400m.

 

Another newcomer to the team Archie Sadler put in a steady performance in the pole vault before setting a new mark in the 1500m. The final pairing on the track saw another newcomer to the team, Marcus Hammerton, join James Baker in the 5000m with James pleased with his 15.58.5 winning time in far from ideal conditions while Marcus made the transition well from a parkrun regular to competing on the track and was delighted with a 2nd place in the “B” string to add another crucial three points to Chichester’s tally. The 400m hurdles duo of Jack Dean and Oscar Hares showed their versatility with another seven points near maximum haul in the triple jump while the men’s squad was completed by throwing pairing of Tim Brown and Jonathan Russell with the pair picking up 14 points out of a maximum 32 from the shot, discus, hammer and javelin with Tim’s narrow hammer victory with 34.63 the pick of the day.

Women’s Match

The women’s 12 athlete squad was Chichester’s largest ever in the competition meaning that they were able to contest all but a couple of the 36 events on the programme. As with the men’s match, it was the 400m hurdlers who got the track events underway with Alice Cox-Rusbridge and Jenny Jakeman proving a useful partnership and match the men’s score of 7 out of 8 points. Then onto the sprints, in-form Fleur Hollyer, another athlete coming up from the U15’s, joined Rachel Laurie in both the 100m and 200m with the pair ending up with identical times of 13.6 and 27.2 respectively. Emily Russell and Ella Cleasby ran good times in the non-scoring races giving the cub strength in depth at these events. Rachel Laurie then went on to use her winter’s endurance fitness to produce a good 400m in a personal best of 62 seconds with newcomer to the team Kayla Fisher a useful “B” string. In the middle-distance races first year U17 Nicole Boltwood joined student Sophie Wright in both 800m and 1500m notching up no fewer three personal best times in the process. Sophie then joined Jenny Jakeman in the 3000m while Alice Cox-Rusbridge and Jenny saved enough for the steeplechase at the end of the match when Havant had closed to just a handful of points enabling Chichester to maintain their advantage.

 

In the field events, Florence Smith was joined by Fleur Hollyer, Rachel Laurie and Alice Cox-Rusbridge in the three jumps while Millie Grant acquitted herself well in the throws with personal bests in both shot and hammer while Lucie Munday was on equally good form with a best all-time throw in the javelin and a near best in the discus. Completing the picture, good baton changing enabled the 4 x 100m relay team to record a creditable 53.8 clocking, a good early season mark while the 4 x 400m quartet set a new club record for this league of 4 minutes 33 seconds.

 

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