Sussex XC Championship Report

The first Saturday in January sees cross country runners from across the country assemble for their County Championships with Sussex athletes no exception. They headed to Bexhill to do battle over a challenging, muddy and undulating course with Chichester athletes giving a good account of themselves across all twelve age groups. The highlights were a clutch of top three individual placings, plus a team first and second but every one of the nearly 50 strong squad ensured that Chichester emerged once again as one of the county’s top cross-country clubs.


Junior Races

As usual the championship race programme started with the U13 girls race and Chichester’s in-form trio this season were all in action and making a strong start up the initial hill. As the race unfolded it was Isobel Buckler who had the race of her life to finish in second place, her best ever finish in a county event and scoop individual silver. Twin sister Eva was also up with the leading pack to finish 7th with the final scoring runner, Cerys Dickinson, in 11th for a team total of 20 points for the runner-up slot behind a very strong Brighton trio. This was the best result of the season so far having eclipsed the 3rd place in the last league fixture before Christmas. Providing good back-up reserves Maisie and Skye Sadler finished 35th and 36th respectively.


The U13 boys knew that their team chances were weakened by the absence of Joe McLarnon but in his absence the rest of the team stepped up, no one more so than Fionn O’Murchu who has only just come up from the U11 ranks. Fionn decided to attack the race from the start and made sure he was in the leading bunch. What was truly impressive, however, was the way he gradually moved up from a top 10 placing to top 5 then had the fitness to move into third spot just before the finish for an amazing bronze medal. 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 U15 girls race with Olivia Toms becoming another Chichester athlete to have her best Sussex race. In the field was 2017 National U13 champion Bethany Cook who has been imperious at U15 level this season both un Sussex and the South of England. Sensibly Olivia allowed her competitor to break clear but was involved in a battle with the chasing pack for the other two individual medals. Coming into the finish it was Olivia who had shaken off the rest of the field including Maya Ramnarine from the host club Hastings, a previous winner of the event and in-form Rebecca Losh from Brighton. Next home for Chichester in a very 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 respectively.


Chichester’s sole outright win of the day came in the U15 boys race where Liam Dunne fulfilled his 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 previous league match at Lancing in December and subsequently put in a good run in the Inter-Counties at Oxford the following week, Liam’s confidence was high, but he knew he would have to be at his best to keep a strong Sussex field at bay. Whereas the Lancing win was thanks to a final sprint to the finish, this time Liam used his strength and fitness to pull away from his rivals so that 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 once again there was no third runner to complete the team scoring.


The day had started with the two U11 races with five Chichester athletes in action. Josh Dunne ran well for 6th place in the boys’ race while Florence Ingram had the same result in the girls’ race followed by Emily Carman 10th, Lillie Hellyer 14th and Laila Hellyer 17th. All five runners did themselves justice in the difficult underfoot conditions.


U17 Men and Women

Proudly standing at the top of the League table, Chichester’s U17 women knew they had a chance of team success but still had to produce the goods on the day. Ever consistent Imogen Matthews and Alice Cox-Rusbridge were soon settled into the top 10 from the start in a race where Brighton based Almi Nerurkar dominated proceedings. Imogen and Alice kept battling well over the 5k course and were delighted to finish 5th and 7th respectively. All eyes were on the third scorer with Florence Smith just getting the better of Beth Brown in 11th and 13th respectively. The team trophy was safe, and attention will be on the final league match in February to see if the team can do the Championship and League double.


The U17 men had high hopes of outright victory to match the girls’ success but knew their chances were severely weakened when Will Broom, a realistic individual medal chance, was forced to pull out through illness. In his absence Ned Potter had his best ever race in the age group to finish 9th with Leo Stallard battling bravely just behind in 11th in spite of not feeling totally well. Alfie Spurle was the third scorer home in 19th just in front of JJ Staples 22nd and Jack Dean in 26th. Agonisingly the team slipped just out of the medals to 5th.


Our sole U20 competitor was Ben Morton who at no fault of his own with other runners was left without a time. A great disappointment to Ben and the others involved  given their brilliant efforts over this gruelling course. Unfortunately the first three runners were instructed to take a further lap before the error was identified. The Race Referee decided to award medals to the three who were leading and to record their times only in the results thus cutting off the others from receiving theirs. Ben was officially placed in a superb seventh place.    

Senior Men and Women

From the point of view of the club’s seniors it was more a question of who was not able to compete with both men and women missing several key athletes. However those who lined up in the two races ensured that Chichester was well represented nevertheless. The outstanding run of the day came from Beth Garland in the women’s race who claimed an individual bronze medal, her best Sussex result. Behind Beth were Emma Hughes in 47th, Annabel Parker 52nd and Persphone Hagan just behind in 53rd for 8th team position with 155 points. The two capable reserves were sprightly vet 60 Helen Dean in 56th and Rebecca Brown in 70th.


Chichester’s senior men were even more depleted with their top six unavailable to run. The eight athletes in action stuck to their task and a team placing of 9th was a just reward. Mike Houston was first Chichester man to finish in 40th place in a very strong field. Next home was two veterans Simon Dunne in 65th and Jim Garland 70th, fine runs from both and incidentally capping a good day for the Dunne and Garland families having seen their sons and daughters successfully in action previously in the day.  Chichester’s remaining scorers were Graham Woodward 79th, Richard Miles 90th and Gary Williams 104th with reserves Tom Blaylock and John Betts, both nearer 70 than  60, manfully sticking to their guns in 113th and 115th respectively.