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Twenty Years of U13 Athletics Sussex Finals

1st September 2019 was a red-letter day for the Sussex U13 Grand Final marking the 20th Final in its present 10 club format with Chichester Runners & AC one of the half dozen clubs to have contested every final since. In fact, it was a fairly apprehensive squad of some 20 boys and girls who travelled to Horsham on 3rd September 2000 to do battle with the top clubs in Sussex. Having won the B Final the previous year, it was going to be an entirely different proposition to come up against well-established clubs such as Crawley and Brighton as Chichester had only formed their first junior athletics team the year before.  

Their nerves were soon settled, however, in the first track event of the day, the boys 75 metres, with a double win for Alistair Feasy and Daniel Rehill giving confidence to the rest of the squad. In one of the most surprising upsets in Sussex team athletics, Chichester went on to win that final by 15 points from red hot favourites, Crawley. In fact, so unprepared were the organisers for a Chichester win that they had to send the club the athletes’ certificates after the match.

One footnote to that first match still sticks in the mind of team manager for that final who knew that the boys’ team had a weakness in the field events and was only able to get the contact for a youngster called Darren Wedge the night before the match. After a hurried phone call to his parents, Darren accepted his invitation to compete and excelled himself with a 3rd place in the shot put, his main event, followed by a most unexpected win in the B string javelin for a total of 18 points out of a possible 20 and making what turned out to be a crucial points difference to lift the trophy.

Over the 19 years that followed, Chichester have won the Final a total of 4 times, finishing in the top 3 on a further 6 occasions and having the proud record of never having finished outside the top half of the 10 competing teams, making them the second best Sussex team over the past 20 years and one of 4 who have dominated the competition over that time.

Sussex U13 Final league table 2000 to 2019

                                    1. Crawley AC                                 165 League points

                                    2. Chichester Runners & AC           159

                                    3. Horsham Blue Star                      157

                                    4. Brighton & Hove                          155

                                    5. Lewes AC                                    103

                                    6. Worthing & District Harriers           79

                                    7. Eastbourne Rovers                       73

                                    8. Brighton Phoenix                          59

                                    9. East Grinstead                              57

                                    10. Haywards Heath Harriers           56

 Highlights of the 20 years

With over 500 young athletes representing Chichester since 2000, it is interesting to note who has passed through the club’s junior ranks and has gone to major honours, not only in athletics but in other sports as well. In the first few years two sets of twins lit up the boys events with firstly Sam and George Gillert unbeatable in the sprints while   few years later it was the turn of Sam and Charlie Roe to dominate the jumps with Sam’s high jump of 1 metre 52 still a club record and Charlie going on to be a nationally ranked decathlete.

In between in 2002, Anthony Shurmer was setting a league record in the 150 metres and developed into a fine multi-eventer while in that same team was a middle-distance runner and javelin thrower who was able to juggle the demands of athletics and football. He eventually opted for football and went on to play for Portsmouth and for several years has been an integral part of the Crystal Palace team in the Premiership, Joel Ward. A few years later, in 2007, it was Isobel Brown who was in action in the hurdles and long jump and went on to become club high jump record holder and gain an athletics scholarship into the American College system.

Following her in 2009 was a fairly promising distance runner but still only good enough to gain a place as a B string over 1000 metres. He then ran the 600 metres a year later and threw the discus in 2009 and Harry Leleu has gone on to gain international recognition in triathlon, having just come back from Lausanne, Switzerland, finishing 17th out of 60 competitors in the Elite U23 event. Harry’s running has continued to be an important part of his triathlon success and broke the club 10K record the Chichester Goodwood 10K in February this year.

One year later in 2010 Chichester finished a narrow runner-up to Crawley but happened to have two members of the team who have gone on to international honours. Jess Breach was both a sprinter and a pentathlete in her early athletics career and has used her speed and strength to good effect on the rugby pitch becoming one of the most prolific England women’s try scorers in the past few years.

 In that same team was Toby Harries who also had a good turn of speed but ironically was more interested in rugby in his early school years. Having moved to Brighton a year after representing Chichester in the 2010 final, Toby was lost to athletics for several years and had 18 months off all sport after a serious rugby injury. In the past couple of years, he has begun to realise his athletics potential and has just been named in the GB squad for the forthcoming World Athletics Championships in Doha as part of the 4 x 400 metres relay squad.

 

What should encourage the present crop of youngsters is that none of those who have gone on to make a name for themselves were winners at U13 level.

 

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