Sussex XC Championships 2020

A squad of over 40 runners put in a fine overall performance for Chichester at the Sussex Cross Country Championships at Bexhill on Saturday 4th January 2020.

In near perfect conditions they came away with a couple of gold team medals as well as individual honours and a number of automatic qualifications to represent Sussex in the National Inter-Counties Championships in Nottingham in March.

Under 20’s

Having gained team bronze last year, Chichester’s under 20 men were out to improve on their placing and did not disappoint. With both Will Broom and Leo Stallard having recovered from injury and together with in-form Ned Potter, Chichester were able to field their strongest team and felt confident in mounting a decent challenge to Brighton and Horsham, the top two clubs in 2019.

Running together with the seniors, albeit competing over a shorter 8K course, the Sussex under 20’s were soon making their mark occupying half of the top 10 places with Brighton’s Tomer Tarragano, the Horsham number one and Ned Potter all up in the leading bunch. As the race unfolded Will Broom was improving steadily with Leo Stallard doing remarkably well in his first race for several months. Coming into the finish, Ned was bravely hanging on to the bronze medal place with Will not far behind in 5th and all depended on which club was the first to close in its third scorer. Finishing strongly, it was Leo who got the better of his rivals to finish 11th, one place in front of the Horsham runner to give Chichester team gold by 2 points from Horsham with Brighton back in 3rd a further 6 points further back. Also showing good form to the end was reserve Harry Sage in 17th.

Chichester’s under 20 women were running together with the under 17’s for the first time due to the extra distance of the senior women’s race this year. In the end this played to Chichester’s advantage with Alice Cox-Rusbridge gaining a well-deserved individual silver medal with the top three under 20’s not separated by more than a few seconds throughout the 5K race. Following not far behind were Rachel Laurie and Beth Brown who ran together for most of the race to finish 7th and 8th and give Chichester a total of 17 points to become the inaugural winners of the team race. What was most gratifying to Chichester Runners is that all seven under 20’s are a product of their junior section with no less than five having started with the club when still at Primary School.

Under 17’s

It was in the under 17 men’s race where spectators witnessed the most thrilling finish of the entire day involving Chichester’s Liam Dunne. As the 5K race unfolded, a group of three detached themselves from the rest of the leading pack on the final lap of three and with just under half a mile to go the leading pair pulled clear with Liam chasing Adam Dray from Lewes as hard as he could.

On the long, straight finishing section with the waiting crowds in sight, Liam pulled level with his rivals and both headed for the line neck and neck and from somewhere the Lewes man drew into reserves of energy to win the title by the thickness of a vest with both athletes given the same time. In the same race Archie Sadler was pleased to finish 19th in his first year in the age group but the absence of a third runner meant that Chichester were not able to contest the team race.

Nicole Boltwood led the under 17 women home in 18th supported well by Amelia Bromell in 23rd and Rose Potter 25th for a total of 66 points and 6th team.

Under 13’s and under 15’s

In the junior races at the start of the programme, Chichester were unlucky not to win team medals in both the under 13 races. The girls leading trio of Lillie Hellyer 11th, twin sister Laila 12th and Florence Ingram 15th were separated by less than half a minute and posted a team total of 38th points, agonisingly a single point off the bronze medal placings. Reserves Ela Pemberton and Millie Isitt both ran well in 24th and 30th places respectively.

For the boys, Chichester’s leading trio were in a safe medal position for most of the race, but Josh Dunne was unlucky to twist his knee on one of the uneven parts of the course and had to walk back to the finish. This left Alessandro Schmitt as the club’s leading runner in 8th with Noah Collins overtaking Will Bailley near the finish for 22nd and 26th places respectively with reserve Digby Fulford close behind in 38th. Even without Josh, the team score of 56 points was good enough for 5th.

There was a 6th place for the under 15 girls with Gemma Appleton leading the team home in 17th followed by Issy Isitt 23rd and Amelia McGurk 27th. Even though the under 15 boys were only 10th team, such was the closeness of the competition that just 3 points less would have brought them home in 7th. Added to which, both the club’s top two, Joe McLarnon and Finlay Roberson were unable to compete it was Hal Edgar who led the club home in a fine18th place followed by Gabryel White in 25th and James Davies 38th for a team total of 81 points.

Senior men and women

It was a question of what might have been for Chichester’s senior men’s and women’s teams with each finishing in a highly respectable 5th place in spite of missing a number of key athletes. As with the under 20’s, both of Chichester’s first runners’ home were a product of the club’s thriving junior section with both Harry Leleu and Charlotte Reading joining the club in school year 6 as 10 year olds.

Harry has made his mark on the international triathlon circuit during the past year and ran a great race on Saturday in a high-class field and gain automatic selection for the Inter Counties. Always with the front pack over the testing 10.3K course, Harry even had a chance of his first ever Sussex individual medal on the final lap. However, he could not quite close enough on the final hill and had to settle for 5th.

Also clawing his way through the field in his customary fashion was evergreen James Baker who achieved a fine 10th place at 42 years of age against his younger rivals. Two places further back was Will Boutwood, now back in Chichester after three years at St Mary’s College making it the first time in the club’s 35-year history that they have scored three runners in the top dozen in this competition. It was good to see Chris West back in action as a senior, nearly 20 years after being one of the top juniors in the UK as an under 13. His 41st place was followed by 73rd from Steve Davey and 86th from Mike Moorcroft with reserve Paul Stallard in 90th.

In the women’s race at the end of the 10-race programme, competitors had to tackle the 10K distance for the first time. The fact that the course was over distance and the terrain had already been trodden by hundreds of pairs of runners beforehand made conditions challenging for all concerned. In spite of these difficulties, Chichester’s team of six all performed with credit.

Charlotte Reading was especially pleased with her 17th place in 46 minutes, a time that would have beaten a number of men over the same course. Aleksandra Vargin was next home in 26th with the remaining four athletes well into their veteran categories. One of the country’s top over 60 runners, Helen Dean, was 34th followed by Amanda Godfrey 39th, Sue Baker 42nd and the club’s amazing over 70 runner Wendy Whelan in 52nd.