Chichester athletes in line for cross-country prizes

The under-15 boys' race at Lancing - led by Ben Collins / Picture by Guy Ellis
The under-15 boys' race at Lancing - led by Ben Collins / Picture by Guy Ellis
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A repeat of the blustery conditions seen at Bexhill two weeks earlier greeted Chichester athletes in the third round of the Sussex Cross Country League.

Held over the testing Lancing Manor course, for some it was a final chance to impress Sussex selectors before the Southern Inter-Counties this Saturday.

Both Ben Collins in the under-15 boys’ age group and Jane Harrop in the women’s over-55 veterans’ category have a perfect record of three straight wins this season and cannot be caught by any rivals.

But the main focus was for individuals and teams to consolidate places in the leagues.

With just the final fixture to come at Hickstead in February, some individual placings have been decided, including two Chichester athletes.

Both Ben Collins in the under-15 boys’ age group and Jane Harrop in the women’s over-55 veterans’ category have a perfect record of three straight wins this season and cannot be caught by any rivals.

Teamwise, the under-15 boys still have a sizeable lead but cannot afford a slip-up in the final fixture whereas the under-17 women look to be virtually unassailable having convincingly won each of the first three fixtures. As for the seniors, the women are chasing the current champions for top spot in division one for the second year in a row but the men are again scrapping for survival to retain their top-division status.

Juniors (under 15/under 13/under 11)

Once again Chichester’s under-15 boys’ squad caught the eye, with Ben Collins leading from the gun. He extended his advantage to finish nearly 100m ahead of his nearest rival and ensure a first overall league title.

With athletes able to discard their worst result from the four fixtures, Collins record of three straight wins this season guarantees him an unbeatable score of just three points.

Second home for Chichester was Leo Stallard with a season’s best in seventh with Harry Sage filling the third spot in 19th for 27 points, just five behind Brighton on the day but still with a 14-point margin to take into the final fixture. Jeremy Sharp in 27th led home Ned Potter in 31st and David Bissat 36th for a B team placing of tenth.

For the under-15 girls there were good runs from Caitlin Brown in 18th and Florence Smith in 21st.

With Olivia Wiseman and a number of others to be added in time for the Sussex championships in the new year, the squad are heading in the right direction.

In the under-13 age group, Nina Moranne led the team home in 22nd with Gracie Bradley-Roberts 33rd, Nicole Boltwood 45th and Rose Potter 48th while Will Wells was a solid 30th in the boys’ race. The club’s three runners in the under-11 race were Sam Corbett (22nd), Logan Cooper (26th) and Max Sydenham (29th).

Under-17s

Both the men’s and women’s under-17 teams are in medal contention but the women hold the biggest winning margin of any age group at this stage of the season.

Running with the senior women, Grace Wills was not only Chichester’s first home overall but won the under-17 race in front of talented Elishka Coupar from Brighton Phoenix.

Close behind was Karina Bennett in third while Amber Westron completed the scoring in ninth for another low total of just 13 points.

The team margin is now more than 40 points which looks virtually unassailable with just one match remaining. Both Wills and Bennett are guaranteed s individual medals with Wills assured of at least a tie for first place.

In the men’s race there was good packing from Brodie Keates in ninth, Luke Campbell 11th and Sam Reading 16th to keep the team in a comfortable third.

With Hastings leading on 80 points and Brighton Phoenix on 96, Chichester’s total of 103 after three matches is within sight of the leading two and a massive 56 points ahead of Worthing in fourth.

Senior and veteran women

Bolstered by their high-flying under-17s, Chichester’s seniors produced another good team effort but lost some ground to the league champions at the top of division one.

They remain in second place and will be looking to retain a top-two finish for the second year in a row, the first time such a double will have been achieved in the club’s 31-year history.

One remarkable thing about the top four was the age range of the quartet – 16-year-old Grace Wills brought the team home in ninth overall with over-40 Ann Sydenham having her best run in this league in 18th, closely followed by top over-55 Jane Harrop in 20th and 17-year-old Rose Ellis in 21st.

Ellis bravely finished despite being in pain over the last section of the course.

A team total of 72 points on the day puts Chichester on 182 overall, behind Lewes on 141 but crucially in front of Arena on 217 and Worthing on 230.

There was more good news from the B team with Karina Bennett 23rd followed by Charlotte Reading in 25th and Emma Hughes 35th for second place in division two. That leaves them on 253 points, behind Brighton Phoenix on 211 but clear of Horsham Blue Star on 372.

It looks increasingly likely Chichester’s women will have two teams in division one next season for the first time.

There was a good showing from the club’s C team with Jade Elphick in 39th, Amber Westron 44th and Nicky Hill 64th – with reserves Helen Dean 79th and Nadia Anderson 100th.

Senior men

Chichester’s men produced a good turnout at Lancing with three full teams comprising 16 athletes. But with two of their top runners resting before the Victory 5 road race the following day and a couple more unavailable, club stalwart James Baker was flying the flag.

Baker used all his experience to finish in the top five and keep enough in reserve for the fast five-mile race a day later.

There was a fine run from Andy Nicholson in 77th – sixth over-50 – with Harry Lyne 85th and well up the under-20 ranks.

The final three first-team places saw excellent packing from Lee Sydenham in 100th, a place in front of Derry Lozano-Hoyland, with over-60 Rob Wiggins 105th, just beaten to the top over-60 spot by Sussex champion Paul Whelpton.

Teamwise, Chichester have slipped into one of the relegation spots in division one and need a good showing from their top runners at Hickstead.

Chichester’s B and C teams produced solid performances with Gary Williams leading the squad home in 122nd followed by Tom Blaylock in 125th, Jason Boswell 135th and Dave Reading in 147th for the B team.

Tony Cooley in 148th led home Andrew Wingham 153rd, Paddy Clark 171st and Peter Anderson 176th for the C team.

See next week’s (Dec 17) Observer for news of a great couple of weeks in road races for Chichester’s men. There’s been major success in the Hayling 10 and Portsmouth’s Victory 5.

PHIL BAKER

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