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Southern XC Championships

Best day in club’s history at a major Championships.

 

Along with nearly 2500 of the top cross-country runners from all over the South of England, the Chichester Runners & AC squad of over 50 athletes descended on Stanmer Park, Falmer, Brighton on Saturday 27th January 2018 for the Southern Cross-Country Championships, one of the highlights of the season. The event is forced to move every third year from its traditional home, Parliament Hill Fields in North London because the venue hosts the National Championships a month later.

 

Heavy rains had made the Brighton course more testing than usual, but Chichester’s contingent came away with a host of great individual and team performances.

 

U17 Men & Women.

Following their fine league form during the season culminating in medal winning team performances at the Sussex Championships at the beginning of 2018, Chichester’s U17s’ were full of confidence before the event. For the first time this season, both the men and women’s squads were at full strength and it was Will Broom who led the Chichester charge, closely followed by Leo Stallard with Ned Potter not far adrift.

 

Meanwhile at the front of the race, Corporate Challenge junior record holder Lachlan Wellington from Portsmouth was just pipped by his Cambridge rival on the line with Southampton’s Zach Mohammed in 3rd. With runners finishing thick and fast Will Broom crossed the line in 29th with Leo Stallard just 14 seconds further back in 37th. At this point the team was in a tight battle for a place in the top 10 with Brighton & Hove, City of Norwich and Invicta East Kent, three of the best middle-distance clubs in the South.

 

All eyes were on the 4th scorer for these 4 teams and it was Ben Collins who strode into view with a fine 72nd, only recently coming back to cross country. Brighton’s 4th runner in 87th was enough to give them 4th place, the best by any Sussex club on the day but Ben’s run put Chichester into 5th ahead of Norwich and Invicta with three more well established clubs just squeezing into the top 10, Bedford, Blackheath and Windsor & Eton. Chichester 5th place equals the highest ever team finish previously set by the U17 women a few years ago. Showing the club’s strength in depth at this age group, Alfie Spurle led home a complete “B” team in 96th followed by JJ Staples 123rd, Harry Sage 144th and David Bisatt 162nd.

 

The U17 women’s quartet were the same as the winning team from the Sussex Championships and it was another fine run from Imogen Matthews who led the team home in 27th followed by Alice Cox-Rusbridge in 49th, Florence Smith 88th and Beth Brown 99th. Their points total of 263 was just one more than Norwich resulting in 8th team place, one of the very few top 10 placings that Chichester have achieved over the 30 years of competing in these championships.

 

There was local interest in the winning team as well as the runners-up with Olivia Macdonald from Seaford College 11th for her winning Guildford and Godalming club while second claim Chichester member Olivia Wiseman was 16th for runners-up Portsmouth.

 

U13 & U15 Groups

In probably two of the most competitive junior age groups of the day, Chichester’s U13 teams fared well in both the boys and girls’ races. Such is the closeness of the finishers that Eva Buckler, Chichester’s first runner home in the girls race in 58th, was less than 30 seconds behind a place in the top 20. Twin sister Isobel was 6 seconds further back in 70th with Cerys Dickinson 107th and a battle for the 4th scoring place won by Maddie Byers in 205th just pipping team mates Amelie McGurk and Tamsin Aneley. The team total of 440 points was just good enough to slip into the top 20 in 19th and third Sussex club to finish behind Crawley and Brighton & Hove.

 

Chichester’s U13 boys were delighted to be able to put out their strongest team for the first time this season with all the top five available to run. Joe McLarnon was back in action, having been missing from the County Championship squad earlier in the month and he was joined by fast improving Fionn O’Murchu, winner of the Year 7 West Sussex West Schools race 10 days earlier. The pair battled right to the line with both being given the same time of 11.08, just over a minute behind the winner in 52nd and 53rd respectively. In fact, out of the 63 Sussex athletes in the field, the Chichester pair were 3rd and 4th, increasing a chance for both to the represent Sussex in the National Inter-County Championships in March. With runners finishing at over 100 per minute in the boys U13 race, Oli Fuller and Harvey McGuiness soon came into view in 136th and 145th with reserve Gabryel White 20 seconds further back in 182nd.

 

For the U15’s there was an outstanding individual effort although neither the girls or boys’ squads were able to field a full scoring team. Sussex County champion Liam Dunne continued his fine form of the winter and was not afraid to go with the early pace. Showing greater confidence with every race, Liam continued to stay with the leaders and it was only the top three who managed to gain a slight advantage at the end with Liam a magnificent fifth place and the first Sussex athlete to finish by over half a minute. There were good runs in the same race from Archie Sadler in 202nd and Tom Hartley in 226th.

 

In the girls’ race there was disappointment for Chichester’s Olivia Toms who had to withdraw through illness just before the event. Who knows what Olivia could have achieved as the girl who beat her in the Sussex Schools race a week earlier, Bethany Cook from Hastings, was the winner at Brighton as well, beating the rest of the field by 45 seconds, the biggest margin of the day. Maggie King led the club home in 73rd place, a very good run in a competitive field and just a minute outside the top 20. Further down the field, Nicole Boltwood finished 179th with Rose Potter 195th.

 

U20’s & Seniors

With very few clubs able to field complete teams at U20 level, it was good to see Chichester have two athletes in each race with Rose Ellis having the best position in the women’s race with 28th followed by Charlotte Reading in 51st while for the boys Ben Morton in 43rd led home Brodie Keates in 61st.

 

The senior man’s race is always one of the spectacles of the athletics calendar with nearly 800 runners charging round the first corner to tackle the first of the hills in this iconic event. The Southern Men’s race is the only remaining race over 9 miles on the national fixture list. Chichester were able to field their best ever team in numbers with no less than 18 lining up for the start. It was university student Harry Leleu who decided to attack the race from the off and was rewarded with fine 61st place, one of only a handful of occasions that the club has had a senior man in the top 100. Showing the quality of the field, just behind Harry were Matt Sharp, recent winner of the Victory 5 and England International and previous winner of the race, Jon Pepper. James Baker decided to make a more cautious start and was scything his way through fellow runners for virtually the whole race to finish in 101st. Will Boutwood did well to finish 209th in his first race back after illness and here were also solid runs from Charles Rodmell and Tom Pritchard in 285th and 295th respectively.

 

There was a battle for the sixth scoring place with Richard Miles just getting the better of John Bullard in 555th and 556th respectively giving the team 24th place overall, its best for some time and third Sussex team to finish. Mindful that there is also a competition for clubs to finish 12 runners, Jason Boswell followed next in 565th, followed by Richard Pullen 581st, Gary Williams 615th, Mike Ridley 682nd and Mike Moorcroft 683rd. There were even a full set of six reserves with Tom Blaylock 693rd, Mark Jennings 699th, Tim Brown 707th, Jon McElhill 719th, John Betts 736th with last man Peter Anderson bravely bringing the club home inside 750 after a total of over 5 hours competition races.

 

Missing several of their top runners, Chichester’s senior women stuck to their task and were rewarded with a 35th place in the team rankings. Ex University student Emma Hughes led the seven Chichester runners home in a good 150th place followed by Kim Nelson in 231st, Nadia Anderson 270th and Rebecca Brown 291st with reserves Karen Miles 296th, Sandra Nemorin-Noel 329th and Sue Baker 330th, making a grand total of 58 club members who completed the event that sets a new club record at a major championship.

 

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